Door to Dreamland (See Cover)
As the late afternoon sun fell gleaming on the domes and minarets of İstanbul one day this week, a bird of ill omen winged in from the west. It hovered above the city for a moment, then settled down at the airport. From the plane stepped dapper old Franz von Papen German Ambassador to Turkey and the man whom Adolf Hitler expects to open for him the door to the rich Middle East, Germany's dreamland for half a century.
Franz von Papen did not tarry in İstanbul, but took off forty minutes later for Ankara, where Turkey's President İsmet İnönü awaited him anxiously. Turkey is the door that the old conspirator must open, and Turkey was about to learn whether he meant to burst it, pry it, or slip in the back way and unlock it.
Throughout the Middle East, where other Moslems awaited a hint of Hitler's intentions as anxiously, rumor flew, conspiracy grew.
- The British were beating the Iraqi. With reinforcements newly arrived at Basra they were breaking up troop concentrations, destroying the Iraq Air Force. But the British had not yet pacified the country—and Iraq's Defense Minister Naci Cevket was in Ankara, waiting to have a word with Franz von Papen.
- In Trans-Jordan pro-British Emir Abdullah was reported shot and badly wounded by his son just as he was about to march into Iraq to help the British.
- In Syria pro-Vichy and pro-De Gaulle forces jockeyed for position in the face of repeated reports that Germany had demanded the right to land troops for pas-sage to Iraq.
- Iran expected to see the Red Army be-fore the German Army could march that far.
- In Saudi Arabia that wily chieftain, Ibn Saud, lay low, waiting to see which way the cat jumped.
Sooner or later Germany would try to consummate the Drang neck Osten begun by the Balkan campaign. Turkey stands in the way. If Germany could get around to the back door via Syria or Iraq, Turkey, encircled, would have to talk turkey. But if Hitler's Moslem friends could not do any better than Iraq's Rashid All El Gailani was doing last week, if the British Navy kept Nazi troops from reaching Syria, if the drive on Egypt stayed stalled, then Ambassador von Papen would have to try to get the Turkish front door open. Whether to burst or to pry would be decided by his boss, and would depend on Hitler's timetable.
Blitz Without Roads?
If the decision is to burst, Russia must be reckoned with, and Russia has promised Turkey not to join in any attack on her. Against Ger-many alone Turkey could put up a respectable, though probably not a winning, fight. Chief of Staff Marshal Fevzi Cakmak (pronounced Chockmock) says that Turkey is an infantryman's paradise, with hills, valleys and passes that crack riflemen and machine-gunners could hold. Infantry is the Army's pride, as it has been since the days of the Janizaries. The infantry is rendered stronger by the fact that the great Kama.] Atatürk modernized his country with a railway program and built scarcely a single good road.
Russian promises, of course, are often superseded by subsequent arrangements, and in Moscow last week another German Ambassador, Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, may have been dis-cussing an arrangement about Turkey with Russia's new Premier. Access to the Mediterranean Sea is still a preoccupation with all Russian statesmen, and an offer of joint control of the Dardanelles might cause Premier Stalin to forget his promise to Turkey. In the meantime, in Ankara, Franz von Papen already had a jimmy in the doorjamb.
Before he left for his holiday in Germany, Ambassador von Papen laid plans for the "commercial encirclement" of Turkey, persuading such satrap States as Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria to make economic agreements with Turkey. Cut off from her best markets for tobacco and grains, Turkey had to accept the best arrangements she could get, and for the past month negotiations have been proceeding for a barter agreement with Ger-many. Such Nazi agreements have a way of corrupting by persuasion and bribery a nation's business element: they preceded German occupation of most of the Balkan countries. But in Ankara Franz von Papen is dealing with a tougher character than any other statesman in the Balkans. Fur-thermore, he is dealing with one who has his country solidly behind him.
Inonü of Inönü.
Turks have recently added still another prayer to their long nightly list: a prayer for the health of President Inonü. Ismet Inönü is highly susceptible to attacks of malaria, which he first contracted when he was eight years old and which began his deafness. Cholera, which he caught during the 1912 uprising in Yemen, made him deafer, but that deafness has often been, and is today, his greatest asset as a statesman. He hears what he wants to hear. After failing to hear something he does not want to hear he has been known to remark: "Allah be praised, I am deaf."
If he is not in perfect health otherwise, there is no sign of it in his daily routine. Each morning at S he leaves his house in Çankaya, an Ankara suburb, after being blessed by his wife and mother, and walks two miles to his office, striding so fast that his aide-de-camp has to scamper to keep up. Before lunch the President goes for an hour's gallop through Kamal Ata-türk's farm zoo at Çiftlik. He loves horse racing as well as riding, becomes boyishly animated at meetings. In the evening his recreation is quieter: he likes to have three musicians come to his house and play quartets with him, taking the cello himself. In spite of such relaxation, his countrymen are afraid he will die of overwork, as Kamal Atatürk died of overindulgence. This fear is a tribute, a sign of Turkey's trust in him.
Although he lacks the fire of his predecessor Kamal Atatürk, he has captured the loyalty and devotion of all Turks. They know him, first, as a great soldier who fought in the Balkan and First World Wars, then helped Kamal Atatürk to drive the Greeks out of Turkey in 1922. At the village of Inonü, near Eskisehir, Ismet Pasha broke the Greeks' resistance. When Kamal Ataturk ordered all Turks to take family names he asked his great friend to call himself Inönü. Ismet means Chastity.
The Turks know Ismet Inonü, secondly, as the man who was Kamal. Atatürk's trusted lieutenant in civil life. Kama! Atatürk was a man of great ideas, but of little method. Inonü
was his administrator. Whether it was separating Church and State, freeing women from the veil. changing the alphabet from Arabic to Latin, building a railroad system without foreign capital, deodorizing all public buildings, or raising a new capital at Ankara, Inönü set up the machinery to do it.
Yet Inonü was an independent thinker, did not hesitate to break with Kama] Atatürk in 1937 over some question of policy which remains obscure to this day. Inönü resigned as Premier and the two men did not speak again until Kamal Atatürk lay on his deathbed. Nevertheless, Kamal Atatürk's will provided for the education of Inonü's two sons and daughter and the Grand National Assembly believed it was carrying out Kamal Atatürk's desire when it chose Inönü as his successor.
Turks know their President, thirdly, as a tough, able statesman who once out-maneuvered Lord Curzon at Lausanne in 1923 and who (they hope) may yet out-maneuver Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin is reported to have said: "The only man outside Russia whose advice I respect is Inanii." With the arrival of Franz von Papen this week Inonü comes up against the toughest assignment of his career. Turkey almost vanished from history after World War I. Kamal Ataturk saved her. In the 2ist month of World War II she is threatened with that fate again. This time Kamal's successor must save her or go down with her.
Osman's Legacy. Turkey's amazing history began in 1227, when a tribe which had been driven out of Central Asia by the Mongols settled in Asia Minor near Angora (Ankara). Osman, the son of the tribal leader, organized scattered groups in Asia Minor into a fighting unit, laid the foundations of the Empire which was called Ottoman after him. The hoofs of the fast-moving Osmanli cavalry first sounded on the European shores of the Dardanelles in 1354. In 1453, under Mohammed the Conqueror, the Osmanlis took Constantinople and overran the Balkans. Selim the Grim (1512-20) took Syria and Egypt. Suleiman the Magnifi-cent (1520-66) conquered Persia and Hungary, got as far as the gates of Vienna before retiring to consolidate his conquests.
Suleiman was not unlike Adolf Hitler in some ways. He made his Janizaries (storm troopers) the best infantry in Europe. He liquidated the native aristocracy in countries he conquered. But he granted religious liberty, even to the Jews..
Like the Nazis, the Turks bred hatred and fear far & wide. As the Empire sank into political corruption, economic desuetude and cultural desolation, its enemies leaped upon it. After the 16th Century the Turks were under repeated attacks; parts of the Empire were chopped off after nearly every war, until, with the end of World War I, it seemed that the time had come to dismember the nation itself. The Greeks were hell-bent on doing just that when Mustafa Kamal and his Young Turks saved it.
Man of Seven Names. This blond, blue-eyed, Bacchic roughneck had seven names before he died as Kamal Atatürk. In the four years 1919-23 he accomplished seven tasks that were far harder than changing names: 1 ) he drove out the Sultan and 2) ended the power of the Caliphate; 3) fought and won a war with the Greeks; 4) bluffed Great Britain to a standstill when a British Army tried to keep him from crossing the Dardanelles after the Greek collapse; 5) wrote a republican constitution and created a parliament; then 6) became Turkey's dictator; 7) ended foreign judicial rights and established frontiers that gave Turkey control of the Dardanelles.
These accomplishments were sealed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, when Ismet Inonü made his name as a states-man.
The little Turkish general in the black lamb's fur cap of the Kamalists went to Lausanne to discuss permanent peace terms with the Allies. The British condescendingly had the conference postponed for ten days because of a general election at home, and Ismet used this time to visit Raymond Poincare and sow a little discord between the Allies.
When the conference opened, Britain's Foreign Secretary, towering Lord Curzon. tried by browbeating and flattery to persuade Inonü to accept something less than full sovereign rights for his country. The issue was foreign judicial rights in Turkey, which had existed since the Sultanate.
Ismet would wait until Curzon had exhausted himself in an eloquent tirade, then apologize for his deafness and ask Lord Curzon to repeat the argument.
After nearly three months of this Curzon lost his patience and delivered an ultimatum. Ismet refused to be bluffed and left for Ankara. A few months later the British re-considered and the conference was resumed. Ismet got nearly everything he wanted. He returned to Ankara in triumph, but with his hair turned grey and his face deeply lined. He was then only 38.
"We fought too long. . . ." At 56, Ismet Inönu still looks old for his age. It is a Turkish saying that Turks age quickly. But in the two and a half years that he has been President he has had problems to solve that would have given Kamal. Atatiirk pause.
Kamal Atatürk's great accomplishment, like Peter the Great's, was in breaking with his country's past. Inonü, coming from truly Oriental forebears, is satisfied to let the Westernization jell. He will never be dignified by such a statue as the one of Kamal. Atatürk which dominates the Golden Horn, showing the great Kamal in a dinner jacket with cuffs on the trousers. Yet when İnönü , soon after taking office, had to decide whether to ally Turkey with Britain and France or whether to attempt Oriental isolation, he chose the European alliance.
As a Moslem Asiatic, he has a deep interest in Pan-Arabia, would prefer tranquillity there and non-interference by the British. This was behind Turkey’s offer last fortnight to mediate the Iraq Affair. But if forced to choose between the British and the Germans in the Middle East, there is little doubt which İnönü will choose—if there is any chance of Britain's winning through. For the Middle East under Germany would be like Eastern Europe under the Ottoman Empire.
Waiting to learn what demands Papen would bring, President İnönü knew they would be unpleasant, feared they would include even the demand for passage of troops through Turkey. To such a demand Turkish officials were satisfied he would answer with a flat No. Said one:
"We fought too hard and long to gain our liberty to give it up lightly by the so-called innocent passage of troops…
You must realize that the same men who actually fought Turkey's independence wars are now running the country. They know what the country suffered then. So we are making all preparations for war. But preparations for war do not mean wanting war."