Feb 25 2006
Turkey's Initiative Brings HAMAS Crack in Washington to Light
By Ali H. Aslan, Washington
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2006
HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) political leader Khaled
Mashaal's visit and contacts in Turkey opened the way for different
reactions in the United States.
Different voices rising from the US capital reflect the disagreement
on the issue.
Though the Bush administration is following a policy of isolation
towards HAMAS, a consensus has yet to be found in the American
The disagreements are also manifesting themselves in the attitudes
taken towards Ankara's initiative in the Middle East.
Former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told Zaman he
finds Turkey's move "excellent".
Several representatives of the Realist and Arabist school would agree
as well. However, pro-Israelis, the Jewish community and most
Neo-cons are offended and angered by the Justice and Development
Party (AKP) government in Turkey.
The US administration is also discontented, but they are careful not
to openly broadcast it to the Turks. No tension is felt within
official relations, as was the case with the March 1 deployment
Brzezinski, speaking on a panel at the CSIS think tank, said Israel's
Likud Party and the Palestine Liberation Organization has a past full
of violence, but have evolved in time. He added that while making
judgments about HAMAS, one should look at its actions and attitudes.
"I hope HAMAS will change, too."
When reminded that Turkey hosted a HAMAS delegation in Ankara last
week, Brzezinski said "Very good."
To the next question, "Do you think this was a good move?' he replied
that it was an excellent move, consistent with what was said, "We
have to move them (HAMAS) in the right direction."
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) Director
Shoshana Bryen said: `It was a terrible thing to do. It was an awful
thing to do. It was providing political comfort to a terrorist
organization." Bryen termed Turkey's statement of "we gave the right
messages" as "ridiculous;" and said, "There are a variety of ways to
say the right things to HAMAS."
Graham Fuller, a prominent Islamic World expert in the United States,
is quite happy with the development: "This is a foresighted, brave
and pioneering move at a time when Washington and some parts of
Europe are paralyzed about what to do. This is exactly the valuable
role Turkey can and will play in bridging the Arab world and the
But if you ask Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute
(AEI), the tower of Neo-Cons, `Turkey is no moderator,' between
Israel and Palestine. `Mediators work quietly and responsibly. They
do not perform for the press. Nor do they act unilaterally,' Mr.
Shoshana Bryen also emphasizes that it is "impossible" for Turkey to
act as a mediator since it lost its "credibility".
Barry Jacobs from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) thinks the
Turkish government, which met with a force who considers the state of
Israel non-existent, has deviated from its traditional policy,
"Turkey has always supported a two state solution. HAMAS does not
support a two state solution.'
According to Clayton E. Swisher, Director of Programs at the Middle
East Institute in Washington DC and author of `The Truth About Camp
David', Arabs rely more and more on Turkey's ability for diplomacy
with Israel, and that it will use this ability for the benefit of all
Muslims; especially the Palestinians, more than traditional mediators
such as the US.
Kamal Beyoghlow, a Middle East expert from the National War College
(NWC) attached to the Pentagon, is one of those who think that the US
administration should create an opportunity similar to the one Russia
made with HAMAS. Beyoghlow thinks that one may even meet with the
"devil" with the aim of changing him.
Retired ambassador Philip Wilcox, a former counter-terrorism officer
at the US State Department, is not against meeting with terrorist
groups. `It is useful not to accept HAMAS's policies, but to engage
them, to challenge them and engage in a dialogue with them" he says,
`And then we will see if they are capable of changing.' Now president
of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, ambassador Wilcox sees it
one of the goals of dialogue to "reach moderate and pragmatic
elements" in the organization as he points out the pragmatic elements
in HAMAS. According to Wilcox, the `virtue' of Turkey's early meeting
with HAMAS is `to help shake their own thinking at a time when they
are experiencing a very deep internal debate about policy.'
Jacobs likens the meeting with the terrorist organization to if PKK's
leader Abdullah Ocalan was welcomed by the White House. "HAMAS is
worse than the PKK. Because the PKK wanted part of Turkey, but never
said we need to destroy Turkish state.' he said. To Jacobs, the
Jewish congregation was provoked and "Actions have consequences."
A source from the US Congress comments that," Armenians were given a
present two months before April 24. " Bryen notes that the issue of
Armenian genocide is extremely important for Turkey, just as HAMAS is
extremely important for Jews, and Turkey has made a hash of this
issue. `Much of the willingness of the American Jewish community to
help on this issue was because we thought of Turkey, and still think
of Turkey, as a country who was basically on our side of the
civilizational divide,' he adds.
Rubin describes that not only Congress, but also relations between
Turkish and US administrations have been "negatively" affected. Rubin
claims that Turkish officials "lied outright" to Washington, adding,
`I cannot imagine that the White House will ever again trust Prime
Minister Erdogan or Foreign Minister Gul.'
According to Swisher, `There are far more important issues for
Washington to follow Turkey's behavior on than a delegational visit
by HAMAS (especially given that Egypt has followed suit and others
like Russia are not far behind)." Swisher says that the US cannot
bring HAMAS to "the negotiation table" out of political
considerations, but there may be a "silent assent" in Washington if
Turkey manages this. Swisher finds it "doubtful" that Turkey would
take such a step without in some way consulting the US
Sources from the US administration confirm that a preliminary
consultative meeting was held with Ankara, yet they complain about
the ambiguity, timing and the members of HAMAS delegate. They even
received an explanation from the Turkish government following the
meeting. "For us, only the messages given by Turkey are important,"
they say. Yet, they do not mean only things said in the "messages
given". It is "how and at what level the HAMAS delegate was
welcomed". For example, the fact that HAMAS was welcomed cordially by
the foreign ministry and Mashaal was in the HAMAS delegate disturbed
the Americans. But this dissatisfaction they prefer to express behind
Some in Congress, the Jewish congregation, pro-Israeli influential
think-tank institutions and others from the Pentagon find the
statements made in the name of US government "soft"; while officials
from the state department are not "eager to quarrel before the
Officials in the administration avoided saying that Turkish-US
relations are "damaged"; however, they are concerned about a possible
failure in Israeli-Turkish relations. "Israel would not be so foolish
as to risk that relationship. Israeli meddling on the Kurd issue is
far more a liability to the relationship with Ankara than a mere
visit by Mashaal," Swisher thinks.
Fuller voices the opinion that "The West and Israel will have to deal
with the reality of a popularly elected Palestinian party, they must
not prejudge it, and must give it a chance to succeed, or fail."
Brzezinski: Ankara's attempt was an excellent move. I hope that HAMAS
will change when it forms the government.
Bryen: Turkey has done an awful thing. There are many other ways to
deliver messages to a terrorist organization.
Jacobs: HAMAS is worse than the PKK. It is as if Ocalan was welcomed
at the White House. There will be consequences to this.
Beyoghlow: One can even meet with the devil in the hopes of changing
him. The US should attempt a similar opening.
Fuller: This is a brave and pioneering move at a time when the
international community is paralyzed.
Wilcox: Dialogue with HAMAS is a good method to reach out and
moderate pragmatic elements within the organization.
Swisher: Israel's involvement in the Kurdish issue is a bigger
problem than HAMAS' visit.
Rubin: Those who work as mediators must work responsibly; they should
not act unilaterally nor perform to the press.