The lower ranks of the Turkish military share the same virulent hostility toward the United States and the conspiratorial anti-Semitism of men like President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan. I sat through the Turkish General Staff’s (TGS) academic conference a couple years ago and heard lecturer after lecturer — each chosen by the TGS’s think tank — accusing the United States and Israel of the most base conspiracies. While traditional to fly the flag of every country whose diplomats were attending the conference, the TGS decided that Israel’s flag alone would not be flown.
If we go back further in time, one can even question more what kind of Western ally was Turkey ever, besides a fair weather one.
July 30, 2006 In the following exclusive interview, Balkanalysis.com Director Christopher Deliso speaks with Philip Giraldi, a former CIA deputy chief of base in Turkey. ...
Christopher Deliso: First of all, please share some background information about your mission. What exactly was your position in Turkey? For how long were you stationed there?
Philip Giraldi: I served as deputy chief of base of Istanbul from 1986 to 1989. In the CIA, a station is in the capital city, Ankara, in this case, and is subordinate to the Embassy. All other field elements in any given country are called bases.
CD: Why? Was spying on the Turks out of the question, or too difficult or what?PG: The CIA did not make much of an effort to develop good sources among Turks because it was extremely perilous to do so, both in terms of US broader equities and because the Turks were very aggressive in a counter-intelligence sense....
CD: So there was no formal or tacit agreement between the two governments to not spy on one another, being NATO allies and so on?
PG: There was no agreement between the US and Turkey that we would not spy on each other- I believe that only Britain enjoys that status. Indeed, the Turks did spy very actively on our diplomatic missions, mostly through co-opting the local employees who worked there.
Life under Surveillance
CD: So combining this with your statement that “the Turks were very aggressive in a counter-intelligence sense”- how did this affect you and your colleagues?
PG: Embassy officers who were known or suspected to be CIA were surveilled whenever they went out, had their phones tapped, and their apartments were bugged.My apartment had microphones in the table lamps, for example, and everything I said on the phone was taped and analyzed. I was routinely surveilled when I went out to lunch, sometimes by teams of as many as one dozen survellants using cars and radios.
CD: That sounds stressful. How did you handle yourself, under the circumstances?
PG: When your apartment is bugged as mine was, you just talk normally and never ever talk about work.
CD: Would it have been foolhardy to remove those devices?
PG: If you remove the microphones, they would just put more in- in the end, it’s better to know where they are than to have to guess.
CD: Did you ever try to deceive them by speaking nonsense, or code, or things that would send them on a wild goose chase?
PG: No- you don’t play games with them, because then they really get mad and come after you with everything. And you don’t want that.
The Future of US-Turkey Covert Relations
CD: Many observers, and most pointedly the neocons, have declared that there has been a breakdown in relations with Turkey since the invasion of Iraq and the Turkish refusal of a northern attack route for the US. How bad are things really?
PG: I certainly know that the relationship is regarded as cool and that the Turks are extremely mistrustful of the United States, primarily due to our failure to suppress PKK activity in northern Iraq. The neocons, of course, would like to see Turkey join in a new crusade against Syria and Iran, but that is not about to happen.
CD: So has the CIA’s intelligence-sharing cooperation with Turkey also suffered because of this chill?
PG: Intelligence cooperation with Turkey has always been so-so. They share information only when it is completely in their interest to do so, not otherwise.
CD: So is Turkey now being categorized at the policy-making level as more of a hostile power than a friend? If so, Will the US be able to win back Turkish trust?
PG: Turks really dislike the US because of the mess in Iraq and the impending mess that our unquestioning support of Israel means for the region. And the Turkish government has reflected that antipathy. If you want to change the perception, you have to change the policy. Not likely to happen, is it?
CD: What can you say about how the current Israeli war in Lebanon will affect the traditional Israeli-Turkish alliance?
PG: Well, concerning the impact of [what is happening now in] Lebanon, you must be aware of the fact that the so-called “friendly” relationship between the two countries is very narrowly focused. It is largely the Turkish Army’s General Staff that keeps the relationship going, because it provides access to US military assistance and weapons that would otherwise be embargoed.
The Turkish public and the government, on the other hand, are rather ambivalent, if not hostile, to the relationship. And they are now very angry about the attacks on fellow Muslims in Lebanon.