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Uncovering the Opium Crisis: The Poison of Turkish-American Relations in the 1960s and 1970s
Opium poppy cultivation in Turkey posed a challenge in relations between the Turkey and the USA in the late 1960s. Turkey was one of the opium production centers in the world, and the US-decision makers, specifically President Richard Nixon, suspiciously argued that the main source of heroin, a refined version of opium poppy, entering the USA through France was Turkey. As a result of public pressure in the United States as a result of the rising number of heroin addicts in this decade, the Nixon administration put pressure on Turkey's Justice Party (JP) government to ban opium poppy cultivation in the second half of the 1960s. The JP government and its Prime Minister, Süleyman Demirel, rejected these accusations but promised to limit and control opium poppy cultivation in the country. As a populist party, the JP government was afraid of losing the support of farmers in the countryside, and, more importantly, they believed that the volume of opium poppy cultivation in Turkey was far from meeting the opium poppy supply for heroin in the USA. However, the military intervened in Turkish politics in 1971, and the technocratic Nihat Erim government completely banned opium poppy cultivation in response to US demands. However, after the 1973 elections, a coalition government was formed between Bülent Ecevit’s Republican People’s Party (RPP) and Necmettin Erbakan’s National Salvation Party. (NSP) This weird coalition between a leftist and an Islamist party lifted the ban on opium poppy cultivation in 1974, which was followed by a strong reaction and an embargo by the USA following the Cyprus intervention. This study aims to uncover the opium poppy crisis between two allies by analyzing the history of opium poppy and its cultivation in Turkey and the developments in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the existence of studies on the opium poppy crisis between the USA and Turkey, a broader analysis of the developments not just before the crisis but also the policies of both countries after the crisis, including the positions of political actors, intelligence services, etc., has been lacking. Therefore, the main contribution of this study will be a contextual analysis of the crisis based mainly on the primary sources, especially the American archives and memoirs of the actors, and secondary sources such as the articles and books on this topic.
International Relations/Affairs
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