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WikiLeak Documents Question Turkey's Relationship with US

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

U.S. diplomats have cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists.

Washington describes Ankara as a trusted ally publicly. But hundreds of thousands of State Department documents leaked Sunday paint a different picture.

U.S. Embassy officials in Ankara describe the Islamist tendencies in the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and say it is unlikely to become a member of the 27-bloc European Union in the future.

But of particular concern is Turkey's deepening relations with its neighbor, Iran. Last July, Ankara voted against new U.N. security council sanctions on Iran for its suspected nuclear-weapons program.

In addition, the leaked documents reveal a tense conversation between a senior U.S. envoy and Turkish officials about supporting a U.S.-led action to convince the Iranian government that it is on the wrong course. The Turks insist their mediation efforts are the best way forward, but are forced to concede that most countries in the region see Iran as a threat.

Turkish diplomatic correspondent Semih Idiz says the leaks also reveal how diplomatically vulnerable Turkey is. The leaked cables indicated several Middle Eastern leaders were in favor of Iran being attacked to stop is nuclear program.

"It does emerge very clearly how isolated Turkey is on the issue on Iran," Idiz said. "You have the Gulf states that are opposed vehemently to Iran. You have a country that Turkey is very close to at the moment: Jordan, which also has suspicions about Iran. So this flies in the face of this assumption that some how Turkey is very important and effective in the region. In fact it looks more isolated."

Erdogan, who spoke before flying to Libya for an E.U.-African summit, tried to play down the leaks' damage.

The Internet site WikiLeaks' credibility was doubtful, he said. "Everyone should wait for what WikiLeaks has to publish. Once WikiLeaks publishes documents it has," he said, "we can then evaluate the seriousness of such documents."

But analysts say such a stance will be difficult to sustain as the contents of the leaks are dominating Turkish media. Every hour seems to bring yet another new revelation about Turkish-American relations.

Diplomatic correspondent Idiz says with U.S.-Turkey relations already at a low ebb, the revelations are not that surprising. He says, ironically, they could help to improve those ties.

"Now that the cat is out of the bag, it may even prompt an effort to try and improve the relations, rather than driving it further into the grave so to speak," Idiz said.

But observers say possibly more embarrassing and potentially more damaging documents will be released against individual government ministers.

One minister is accused of having a liking for teenage girls and links to drug smuggling, while the prime minister is accused of having a number of Swiss bank accounts, and being only able to explain his massive wealth through wedding gifts.

With an election due in June and the leader of the opposition set to make corruption a key issue, the accusations could haunt the current government.