Indiana Daily Student

Professors question Turkey's future role

Academics say country losing importance to US

Now that the United States has gained control over Iraq, neighboring countries such as Turkey are nervously awaiting the outcome of Iraqi governmental talks, and students and professors are starting to question Turkey's future role in the Middle East.\nTurkey has been the only major U.S. ally, besides Israel, in a region filled with anti-U.S. sentiment. Now that the U.S. has a large presence in Iraq, some professors believe Turkey will not be nearly as important.\n"It looks increasingly like Turkey is going to be marginalized in the region," said Christine Ogan, journalism professor and associate dean for the IU School of Informatics graduate studies. \nOgan said she travels to Turkey almost yearly and spent her sabbatical there in 1997. She will be traveling there again in a few days.\n"If the United States establishes bases in Iraq, which it looks like they're doing, they won't have a need for Turkey anymore," she said.\nA main concern for the country is the Kurds, a minority group who live mainly in the south-eastern region of the country. Turkey has dealt with Kurdish uprisings in the past, but those are now considered to be under control. Some fear the Iraqi rebuilding process could undermine that.\nDuring the war, the U.S. supported Kurdish militias in northern Iraq. Now that the rebuilding process has begun, many Kurds would like to form an independent country. Ogan said they are the largest minority group in the world to have never had their own state. \nTalks have recently begun regarding the formation of the future Iraqi government in Ankara, Turkey. Turkey has threatened to send troops into Iraq if there is consideration of an independent Kurdish state.\n"Kurdish leadership has been quite reasonable in not making demands for an independent state, but having autonomy within a federal Iraqi state," said Nazir Shahrani, chair of the department of near eastern studies.\nU.S. sources say Turkey has already been smuggling arms to Turks in northern Iraq. Those weapons, and the weapons of the Kurdish militias, are being collected by the United States to avert a conflict. \nProfessor Shahrani said the best solution for all would be to continue to have an autonomous Kurdish government within northern Iraq. He also said a good way for Turkey to solve its own conflicts with Kurdish resistance movements would to create a similar form of self-government within itself.\n"Turkey has to convince its own Kurdish citizens that they will not be treated as second-class citizens," Shahrani said.\nTurkish student Emir Kaya said he doesn't think the formation of an independent Kurdish state will happen, but he thinks there will probably be a federal system in Iraq. \n"The thing that should happen is democracy and freedom for the people in the region," Kaya said.

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