Sure it's fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel.
| ISTANBUL, TURKEY
The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.
This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest- selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey's public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality.
"The Foreign Ministry and General Staff are reading it keenly," Murat Yetkin, a columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, recently wrote. "All cabinet members also have it."
Several other columnists have also written about the book, suggesting its depiction of a clash between the two NATO allies could become a reality. Serdar Turgut, the editor of Aksam, one of Turkey's largest newspapers, penned a recent column that took one of Metal Storm's premises - that members of Skull and Bones, the secret society that President Bush joined as a student at Yale, has taken control of US foreign policy - and presented it as fact.
"Powerful people, nearly all of whom are members of a secret 'sect,' are aiming to bring a radical change to the order of the world," Turgut wrote.
He further suggested that the US military is developing technology that would allow it to trigger earthquakes, something that will eventually be used against Turkey.
The book has arrived at a time when anti-American sentiments are running high in Turkey. A BBC poll taken last month found that 82 percent of Turks believe Bush's reelection made the world a more dangerous place, the highest figure in any country surveyed. During her recent visit, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern about the issue to Turkish officials.
Meanwhile, there is increasing tension between Ankara and Washington. Turkey is frustrated with what it claims is US failure to take military action against the separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq. The country is also concerned about events in the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the Turks say Iraqi Kurds are staging a power grab as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdish state, something it views as a serious threat.
Egemen Bagis, a member of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and chairman of the Turkey-US friendship caucus in parliament, says the unpopular war in neighboring Iraq continues to fuel anti-American feelings.
"This public feeling, this public tension, is not any different from what is happening in other European countries or other Middle Eastern countries," Mr. Bagis says.
But American officials in Turkey say the kinds of things they are hearing represent something different.
"It's not an isolated phenomenon - you see it all across Europe, but it is more of an exaggerated phenomenon here," says one US official. "I'm not sure in Europe you would see the manifestations that you see here, like this book."
Adds another US diplomat, who declined to be named: "Just like sex sells, anti-Americanism sells right now. Unfortunately, it's nothing to laugh at, because it's damaging to both American national interest and to Turkish national interests. We're really pulling our hair out trying to figure out how to deal with this."
A particularly striking feature of the book - one that may say a lot about recent changes in Turkish opinion - is who saves Turkey from defeat: Europe and Russia.
For decades, the European powers were derided in Turkey as the ones that tried to carve the country up after World War 1. Russia, which invaded Turkey in the early 20th century, had always been viewed here with great suspicion. In fact, the potato-and-mayonnaise concoction known in most places as Russian salad is called American salad here.
"In all the surveys, increasingly we see people more anti-American. What is different today is that they are less anti-European," says Ali Carkoglu, a political scientist at Istanbul's Sabanci University.
"Back in the 70s, they wouldn't even trust the Europeans," he says. "The change has been very swift."
For Metal Storm's two authors, Burak Turna and Orkun Ucar, success has come swiftly. This is their first published work.
Sitting in an Istanbul cafe, the two say the novel came out of the conviction that the battle they depict is a strong possibility. The book, they say, is their contribution to Turkey's well-being.
"Everybody was thinking about a clash like this in their subconscious," but it was articulated by Metal Storm, says Mr. Turna, who used to work in an US-owned textile company but now devotes himself full-time to writing.
Turna does not see the book as fiction. "From our point of view, it's a philosophical and scientific calculation," he says. "It's more than a novel."