Viewing cable 07ANKARA2973
Title: TURKEY: CURRENT THINKING ON THE IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT

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07ANKARA29732007-12-16 01:13:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 002973 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2017 
TAGS: PREL KNUC OREP TU IR
SUBJECT: TURKEY: CURRENT THINKING ON THE IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT 
 
REF: A. STATE 160872 
     ¶B. ANKARA 2907 
 
Classified By: DCM Nancy McEldowney, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 
 
¶1.  (C) Summary: Conversations with Turkish officials, 
parliamentarians, academics, and opinion-makers following 
publication of the latest National Intelligence Estimate 
(NIE) on Iran, reveal the following: 
 
--  While the GOT remains opposed to and very concerned about 
a nuclear-armed Iran, it focuses on the growing regional 
influence Iran would have rather than Iran becoming an 
existential threat to Turkey. 
 
--  Many Turks perceive a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran, and 
the potential instability that such an attack would portend, 
as more dangerous for Turkey than a nuclear-armed Iran. 
 
--  Turkey's fear of further instability on its borders, and 
need for energy and access to Central Asia, limit the 
government's willingness to take a tougher stance against 
Iran. 
 
--  Most opinion-makers see Turkish pursuit of its own 
nuclear weapon as extremely unlikely, but that view could 
change if Turkey becomes completely disillusioned with its EU 
prospects and its strategic relationship with the U.S. 
 
--  The broad Turkish public views the new NIE as weakening 
the case for sanctions against Iran. 
 
End Summary. 
 
Turkey's Assessment of the Iranian Threat 
----------------------------------------- 
 
¶2. (C) Our contacts agree that civilian and military leaders 
are suspicious of Iranian intentions.  Araman Kuloglu, a 
retired major general and analyst at the Global Strategic 
Institute said the suspicion results from the historic 
rivalry between the Persian and Ottoman empires, as well as 
more recent Iranian efforts to export the Islamic revolution 
to Turkey and Iran's earlier support for the PKK terrorist 
organization.  There is general agreement among our 
interlocutors that a nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically 
alter the balance of power that has existed between Iran and 
Turkey since the seventeenth century.  Ahmet Celik, Iran 
expert at the Prime Ministry, said such a paradigm shift in 
regional geopolitics would lead to an even more assertive and 
emboldened Iran, extending its influence through militant 
Shi'a populations to form a "Shi'a Crescent" from Central 
Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea, 
dominating energy corridors. 
 
¶3.  (C) Despite concerns about a nuclear Iran taking a more 
aggressive posture in the region, there is wide agreement 
that Turkey would not be a primary target for an Iranian 
nuclear weapon, and that concerns about Iran's nuclear 
program should be addressed diplomatically, not militarily. 
Mustafa Kibaroglu, an expert on the Iran nuclear issue at 
Bilkent University, noted Turkey's preference for a 
diplomatic solution is in part due to the GOT's assessment 
that Iran is still "many years" away from developing a 
nuclear weapons capability -- a view that he believes is 
supported by the NIE on Iran.  More importantly, according to 
Ibrahim Kalin, director of an Ankara-based think tank 
considered close to the ruling Justice and Development Party 
(AKP), Turkey fears that a military strike against Iran could 
trigger greater instability in its neighborhood and lead to 
consequences even more dangerous for Turkey than a nuclear 
Iran. 
 
What Would Turkey Do If Iran Goes Nuclear? 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶4. (C) If Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it is 
extremely unlikely that Turkey would follow suit, according 
to most of our interlocutors.  Even with increasingly 
negative public attitudes toward the U.S., EU, and NATO, most 
analysts and officials with whom we've spoken, including 
MFA's Deputy Director General for Non-Proliferation and 
 
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Disarmament Ahmet Gun, consider it unimaginable for Turkey to 
develop its own nuclear weapons program since Turkey will 
have much more to lose than to gain.  Pursuit of a nuclear 
weapons program would not only be inconsistent with Turkey's 
approach in international affairs, but would jeopardize 
Turkey's bid for EU membership and its relationship with the 
U.S., according to Sadi Cayci, a retired military judge and 
expert on international law at the Center for Eurasian 
Strategic Studies (ASAM).  Furthermore, Turkey's leadership 
does not question the reliability of the NATO nuclear 
umbrella, according to Ali Sarikaya, an advisor to the Prime 
Minister.  However, Kursat Atilgan, a retired general and 
current MP in the NATO Affairs Committee, notes that NATO 
credibility has been tarnished in Turkey because most Turks 
believe many NATO Allies, including the U.S., have not helped 
Turkey sufficiently in its struggle against PKK terrorism. 
Atilgan and others also recall NATO's hesitation in 
responding to Turkey,s February 2003 request for missile 
defense assets in anticipation of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 
 
¶5. (C) Turkey might pursue a nuclear weapons program, 
according to parliament's NATO Affairs Committee Chair Vahit 
Erdem, but only if the U.S. actively encourages Turkey to do 
so in response to an Iranian nuclear weapon.  Others, such as 
ASAM's Bahadir Koc (a researcher on Turkey's relations with 
Europe and the U.S.) and retired general Atilgan, warn that 
if Turkey,s prospect for EU membership diminishes further, 
and Turkey's strategic relationship with the U.S. is damaged 
by bilateral irritants and regional developments (PKK 
violence, Kurdish independence, and House passage of an 
Armenia genocide resolution), Turkey might consider an 
indigenous nuclear weapons program in response to Iran's. 
 
Iran is Tomorrow's Problem, the PKK is Today's 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶6. (C) Iraq, and the PKK's presence there, remains Turkey's 
highest diplomatic and military priority.  Civilian and 
military leaders in their public statements have indicated 
that the PKK, combined with the prospect of an independent 
Iraqi Kurdistan, as the preeminent threats to Turkey's 
security.  This view has led the Turkish military to engage 
in tactical cooperation with the Iranian military against 
PKK/PJAK forces in northern Iraq, according to Ali Nihat 
Ozcan, an instructor for the Turkish jandarma and an analyst 
on Middle East terrorism and at TEPEV, a thinktank connected 
with TOBB University in Ankara.  Turkey's growing energy 
needs, increasing investments in Iran's energy sector, as 
well as Iran's ability to restrict Turkey's access to its 
Central Asian trading partners, are also reasons for Turkey's 
reluctance to take a tougher line against Iran, according to 
Faruk Demir, an advisor to Energy Minister Guler. 
 
¶7. (C) Several contacts, including Sedat Laciner, head of 
another Ankara-based thinktank, stressed that the GOT sees 
U.S. support for Iraqi Kurds, including the Kurdish Regional 
Government (KRG), as a serious impediment to closer 
U.S.-Turkish cooperation on Iran.  Many believe this 
collaboration comes at Turkey,s expense.  In this context, 
how oil-rich Kirkuk,s status is resolved is widely seen as a 
litmus test of USG intentions.  If Kirkuk comes under KRG 
control despite Turkish objections, Turkey will consider this 
a signal that the USG favors an independent Kurdistan over 
Turkey, according to both Laciner and Bilkent's Kibaroglu. 
 
NIE Reaction 
------------ 
 
¶8. (C) Many of our interlocutors are puzzled by the timing of 
the NIE on Iran (ref b).  They believe the NIE undercuts the 
case for any military action or a third round of UNSC 
sanctions.  They assume Beijing and Moscow will use the NIE 
to argue against further sanctions.  They also speculate that 
the NIE may be a signal of the U.S. backing away from 
promoting regime change in Iran, and possibly seeking a 
"grand bargain" with Iran -- with the U.S. normalizing ties 
with Iran in exchange for Tehran providing assurances on its 
nuclear program and ending support for terrorist groups. 
ASAM's Iran analyst Arif Keskin, an Iranian-born Azeri who 
visits Iran regularly, said Iranian politicians across the 
ideological spectrum are trying to take credit for the NIE. 
He assessed that the NIE will likely benefit President 
 
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Ahmedinejad the most.  While agreeing that the NIE might 
create an opening for the U.S. to engage Iran, he predicted 
such talks may be more difficult since Tehran now believes it 
has the upper hand against the U.S. 
 
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/ 
 
WILSON