In the tumultuous Turkish domestic environment, the truth about politics and policy is often very difficult to discern. Rumor can very quickly turn into conspiracy theory and then into believed fact in the minds of many Turks, thus distorting truth beyond all recognition. Nowhere is this truer than regarding Turkey’s relations with its most important ally, the United States. Since the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine in 1947, the two countries have been closely tied together militarily and politically. Turkey provided troops during the Korean War, joined NATO as the alliance’s eastern bulwark against Communism, and subsequently cooperated with the United States to ensure safe and secure access to Caspian energy supplies to world markets. It has also contributed troops to operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this key relationship has been weakening in recent years.
Among many Turks, there is growing suspicion regarding American intentions in Turkey. It is revealing that one of the best-selling novels written in Turkey in recent years, Metal Storm, concerns a war launched by the United States against Turkey. These fictional American invaders use an incursion by the Turkish military into Northern Iraq to justify their attack on Turkey. They seek to “liberate Istanbul from 500 years of occupation by the Turks” and reestablish the city as a Christian capital; in addition, they want to take control of Turkey’s strategic mineral wealth. Although these objectives would appear sensational and unrealistic to Americans, there is very real fear among some Turks that the United States and the EU are in fact actively plotting such campaigns. Indeed, the overwhelming success of this book—which was followed by an equally popular movie, Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, which portrays the Americans in a similarly negative light—testifies to the popular credibility of these conspiracy theories. Not surprisingly, a BBC poll at the end of 2006 revealed that a mere 7 percent of Turks hold a positive view of the United States, down from 52 percent in 2000. This rating places Turkey dead last out of the 25 countries included in the survey.