Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004 and 2008, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the U.S.
What is your approach to the flotilla incident between Turkey and Israel, and how do you think the U.S. should react?
I immediately contacted the White House and communicated to them my concern that a belligerant action had taken place in international waters and a violation of international law had occurred. It is very important that there be an international inquiry to be able to determine the extent of the violations, the responsibility and compensation for the victims and their families.
In general, the blockade is a collective punishment, which is forbidden by international law. Israel has a right to defend itself and to secure its borders, but the blockade is an attempt to punish the people of Gaza for having elected Hamas. Each constituency has a right for self-determination and the people of Gaza chose Hamas to be their representatives. Israel responded by imposing a punishment. This is anti-democratic. It is also not humane. The people of Gaza are paying a horrible price and the circumstances created are really intolerable. So the blockade in the first case should not have occurred and in the second case, humanitarian ships, if there cargo is in fact humanitarian, should have access to Gaza.
Especially regarding Iran, there has been much tension in recent weeks between Ankara and Washington. This escalation peaked with the Turkish vote in the UNSC against sanctions to Iran. How do you think this divergence can be resolved?
First of all, I oppose any nuclear proliferation for military purposes regardless of the country. And at the same time, I’ve led opposition in Congress to sanctions on Iran.
Now why do I oppose these sanctions? Because it is economic warfare against the Iranian people. And it moves us toward a confrontation, not away from a confrontation with Iran. Turkey has a vital role to play here. Turkey can help to resolve the difficulties we are having with Iran because Turkey has moved to build a relationship of trust with Iran. The nuclear fuel swap deal that was brokered by Turkey and Brazil should not have been dismissed by United States and our allies. Turkey and Brazil accomplished something the U.S. was unable to. Turkey which has been a very valued ally of the United States, can play a positive role with the United States in resolving the escalating tensions with respect to Iran.
Is Turkey indispensable for the U.S. in the Middle East?
The whole idea of international relations is that countries have no permanent friends and no permanent foes. But nations have permanent interests. And it is in the interest of the U.S. to have a strong relationship with Turkey. Turkey is in a unique position as a secular Muslim majority country. Turkey has joined the U.S. as a member of NATO. Turkey has supported U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
I think that Turkey’s role in the world right now can help the U.S. achieve more security for our nation and help other nations to be secure around the world, that’s why I have taken steps to speak out on the issue regarding the Mavi Marmara so that Turks understand that there are Members of Congress who acknowledge the pain the Turkish people feel following the loss of nine citizens on the board of Mavi Marmara.
People in Turkey should know that there are some Members of Congress who are very concerned about the incident. And I met with the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.; Ambassador Tan and organized the meeting with fifteen of my colleagues to hear the concerns of the Turkish governent and met in a follow-up meeting with members of your parliament in solidarity for international security. We need to find ways to work together. We can not push Turkey away. We can not yield to those who want to isolate Turkey because the fact of the matter is, Turkey is a power in its own right. Turkey has a fast growing economy. We need to pay attention to Turkey, we need to have strong relations with Turkey. And we need to play a role in helping Turkey to resolve the fallout from the Mavi Marmara incident involving Israel. That’s something that the U.S. is in a position to do, and we should do it..
To my Muslim brothers and sisters in Turkey I say Selamunaleykum. We should be extending peace to each other. Turkey is an open, democratic, pluralistic democracy and the U.S. should promote respect for Islam.