The bomb party (revisited)
Nearly three years ago, I wrote here, “Dr. Davutoğlu of Turkey or the (atomic) bomb party” (June 21, 2011), with the title an explicit reference to Graham Greene’s novel “Dr. Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party.” Once again, the Crescent and Star seems to be taking this column’s jokes of no importance too seriously. I hope I am wrong.
Here are some excerpts from June 2011: “…with the utmost fear of potentially inspiring our leaders, I guess the next in line could be the first Turkish-made nuclear bomb…
“Since it will be practically impossible to strip Israel of its nuclear capabilities – and Iran soon joining the club – the new Middle East order will give perfect legitimacy for a Turkish bomb… keep in mind that Foreign Minister Ahmet Zero-Problems Davutoğlu’s vision is either no nuke in our region (Israel) or… after all, regional leaders should possess leading, game-changer military capabilities.
“And mark the news that quoted Energy Minister Taner Yıldız as saying that Turkey will soon send 300 Turkish students to Russia to study nuclear engineering ‘to run Turkey’s future nuclear power stations…’ Then we’ll knock on Dr. Fischer’s door for a fascinating bomb party.”
Earlier in April, Mr. Davutoğlu was among the eight guests of honor in Japan. The guests were the foreign ministers of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament initiative (NPDI). They urged world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to learn about the “catastrophic effects” of nuclear weapons. Showing off their sorrowful faces to the public was so nice of the foreign ministers.
But somewhere on the Ankara-Tokyo axis, things do not quite match. Turkey has been insisting that it should earn the capabilities for uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction as part of a $22 billion deal with a Japanese company for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. The Japanese have been smiling at the Turkish request, probably not knowing what to do and perhaps seeking comfort in the fact that Turkey is a signatory to both of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime. But apparently it’s an increasingly grudging signatory.
Regionally speaking, all this is happening at a time when there are increasing signs that – forget Iran, for a moment - Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq may be tempted, and not in the distant future, to join Dr. Fischer’s party in what may look like a local contagion. This confirms Mr. Davutoğlu’s earlier warnings that ended with the word “or”: “For peace in the Middle East, Israel should be stripped of its [neither confirmed nor denied] nuclear weapons, or…” Israel remains in the neither confirmed, nor denied status. So are we going for the “or” option?
Around the same dates that Mr. Davutoğlu was observing the “catastrophic effects” of nuclear weapons in Japan, his fellow Cabinet member, Industry, Technology and Science Minister Fikri Işık said that Turkey would launch a new factory this year to produce warheads and airplane bombs. Since Turkey already produces warheads and airplane bombs, the new factory should be producing different kinds of warheads and airplane bombs.
Probably without fully understanding what he said could mean, Mr. Işık explained that the new state-controlled producer would help Turkey bypass the MTCR because “Turkey failed to obtain certain production equipment used in the production cycle.”
It is not always a good omen when a minister of a country trying to revive its imperial past talks about a need to circumvent the MTCR – especially when the same country is privately seeking uranium enrichment capabilities. Most recently Mr. Yıldız, energy minister, said the nuclear power plant contract with Japan allows Turkey to make modifications, including for uranium enrichment.
Meanwhile, Turkey has two more military ambitions that will one day raise eyebrows in many capitals. One of them is about building a missile with an eventual range of 2,500 km; and the other is about constructing a “national” satellite launching center – which can be used to “launch other things too.”
It looks like “the party” is in the making. Guests are silently shopping for the ingredients. Costume selection won’t be problematic – at least for Turkey. May I suggest the Ottoman janissary outfit for Dr. Davutoğlu?