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Dismantling the Cyprus Conspiracy

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Dismantling the Cyprus Conspiracy:

The United States Role in the Cypriot Crises of 1963, 1967, 1974

Caroline Wenzke

JD Candidate 2011

University of Michigan

Daniel Lindley

Associate Professor of Political Science

Flatley Director, Officer of Undergraduate Research and Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships

University of Notre Dame



Chapter 1. The Collapse of the Constitution and the Conspiracy 12

Theorists’ Interpretation

Chapter 2. The Realities of U.S. Policy 17

Chapter 3. The Reemergence of Hostilities and the Conspiracy 30

Theorists’ Interpretation
Chapter 4. The Realities of U.S. Policy 33
Chapter 5. January to July 15, 1974: The Greek Coup and its 43

Immediate Aftermath

Chapter 6. Who is to Blame for the Coup? 45
Chapter 7. Who is to Blame for the First Turkish Invasion? 59

Chapter 8. July-August 1974: The Aftermath and Second Invasion 69

Chapter 9. The Realities of U.S. Policy Post-Invasion 72


What was the extent of the United States involvement during the three crises on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in 1963, 1967, and 1974? After two Turkish threats to invade in 1963 and 1967, a Greek-sponsored overthrow of the Cyprus government led to Turkish military intervention in 1974. The ethnically Greek Cypriot population was left with less than 63% of the island they had once controlled in its entirety. Was the U.S. to blame for these events?

A number of authors say yes, the U.S. is culpable, and accuse the government of explicitly encouraging the Greek coup and Turkish invasion in order to preserve three U.S. communications facilities and two British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA’s) established by treaty on the island. Their argument is best described as a “conspiracy theory,” because it attributes the chain of events on Cyprus to secret decision-making by American policymakers in order to achieve strategic U.S. goals. Indeed, journalists Brendan O’Malley and Ian Craig explicitly refer to their argument as a “conspiracy by America.”1 Other major proponents of this theory include Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Stern, and William Mallinson.

This thesis analyzes the intentions and motivations of the U.S. government during the Cyprus crises of 1963-4, 1967, and 1974 with two goals: to assess the validity of this particular conspiracy theory and then present the policy implications of these findings. Specifically, this thesis sheds light on the danger of assuming that U.S. covert Cold War operations occurred without thorough research. It also illustrates the negative implications of conspiracy theories on the negotiation processes, both in Cyprus and more generally. As O’Malley and Craig aptly note in their introduction, “Greek Cypriots have long believed the Americans were to blame for failing to prevent the bloody events of 1974, which left the island ‘ethnically cleansed’ long before the phrase was ever conjured up.”2 Exclusively blaming the U.S. government has consistently misconstrued the events of that summer through ultra-nationalist propaganda. These tactics have diverted the focus away from a constructive solution to the problem by encouraging hard line positions and a rejection of compromise. The subsequent negotiations have also been tainted with an air of suspicion and mistrust. A clarification of U.S. foreign policy can only benefit both sides by discrediting a misinterpretation of facts and encouraging leaders to instead work on the core issues of the conflict.

Based on primary document research and analysis of the secondary source material on the subject, it is clear that the conspiracy theories are unsatisfactory explanations of the events leading up to the crisis in 1974. While it is certainly the case that the U.S. government merits criticism for its inactivity and focus on its own reputation and interests, no grand scheme existed to encourage a Greek coup or Turkish intervention in order to institute partition on Cyprus. Rather, the development of U.S. policies from the 1960s up to 1974 can be best described as, in the words of Monteagle Stearns, “firefighting operations designed primarily to prevent general hostilities between Greece and Turkey or secure other short-term objectives.”3 Thus the U.S. role in Cyprus during the 1974 crisis can be best described as a sin of omission, rather than a sin of commission.

We develop this argument in ­­­­four parts. First, we provide a brief historical background of the events leading up to the initial crisis in 1963. Second, we introduce the conspiracy theories and describe our two major criticisms of their argument: primarily that the U.S. did not have a consistent policy over this ten-year period and second that the communications facilities and SBA’s were helpful, but not vital to the government’s covert monitoring of Soviet activity.

The third portion will be divided into three sections: the crisis from 1963 to 1964, the turmoil of 1967, and the final explosion in 1974. Each section will begin with a more specific outline of the conspiracy theories’ arguments regarding U.S. involvement in each crisis. We will then describe what we argue was the true evolution of U.S. foreign policy toward Cyprus in a chronological, narrative format through primary documents. This section will emphasize that, rather than driving the events on the island, the U.S. was in a reactive position where the only consistent goals were to prevent a war between NATO allies and use negotiations rather than weapons to resolve the issues and create stability.

Fourth, in the conclusion, we summarize my argument against the conspiracy theories and describe its historical and political implications. We will elaborate on the way this thesis argues that conspiracies theories must be carefully questioned and analyzed, especially in regards to the U.S. and the Cold War. In addition, it expands on the negative impact that conspiracy theories may have on the negotiating process for those involved.
Cyprus spent much of its historical existence under the rule of imperial powers. The Ottomans, who had control for three centuries beginning in 1571, laid the basis for the island’s future problems by introducing a Turkish Cypriot minority.4 Groups on both sides of the conflict argue that strife between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities dates back to the period of Ottoman rule. The formative years of the island’s troubles, however, were during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries.5

In 1878, the British Empire took control of the island and instituted a policy of support for the Turkish Cypriot minority population in an alliance against the Greek Cypriot struggle for enosis, or union with Greece.6 The Greek Cypriots spearheaded this movement because of their dissatisfaction with British rule. This led to heightened tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and both the Turkish Cypriots and the British. It was at this point, then, that Greece and Turkey became involved in support of their respective communities on the island: Greece and Greek Cypriots desired unification, while Turkey and Turkish Cypriots began to support taksim, or partition, after 1957 with the continuation of British rule as a possible second option.7 The involvement of these two “outside” nations was further complicated by the history of animosity between Greece and Turkey themselves, which has played a role in this conflict since its inception. Thus even the early stages of the struggle were characterized by deeply polarized positions that appeared irreconcilable.

Confrontation over colonial rule was initiated by the EOKA (Ethniki Oranosis Kyprion Agoniston), a Greek Cypriot guerrilla organization. During the mid-1950s, the British responded in part by recruiting Turkish Cypriots for an Auxiliary Police Force to help manage the enosis riots and militant violence. This policy of “divide and rule” further polarized the communities. The immediate struggle over control of Cyprus ended with neither community achieving their goals; Britain adjusted their imperialist policy on the island and agreed to a republic in the late 1950s. The Greek Cypriot leader, Archbishop Makarios III, also agreed to accept independence, rather than enosis. The “homeland” countries of Greece and Turkey became diplomatically involved once more in the creation of a Constitution for the independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960.8

The Constitution of 1960 was an extremely complicated agreement that failed to unite either the government or its people under a united Cypriot nationality. Rather its consociational elements reinforced the separation of the two communities. The structure of the presidency and legislature helped create these sharp divisions along cultural lines by defining politicians, positions, and representation as either strictly “Turkish Cypriot” or “Greek Cypriot.”9 Part of this separation developed in negotiations, when Turkish Cypriots demanded recognition as an equal entity alongside the Greek Cypriot majority with a corresponding division of power in order to protect their political rights and interests. In order to satisfy these demands the Constitution created a Greek Cypriot Presidency and a Turkish Cypriot Vice-Presidency with veto rights. In addition, the agreement required that Turkish Cypriots comprise 30 percent of all civil service positions and 40 percent of the army. These ratios contrasted sharply with their percentage of the island’s demographics of about 18%.10 The Constitution was therefore designed for the security of group rights rather than individual Cypriot rights and established a constitution prone to gridlock.11

An additional important point about the Constitution of 1960 involves the three major treaties attached to the agreement: The Treaties of Establishment, Alliance, and Guarantee. The Treaty of Establishment is most significant for the conspiracy theories because it created the 99 square mile Sovereign Base Areas (SBA’s) that would maintain the military bases at Episkopi and Dhekelia under British sovereignty. The conspiracy theories argue that these bases, along with the U.S.’s communications facilities on the island, were valuable enough to the American intelligence during the Cold War to encourage a Turkish invasion.

The Treaty of Guarantee was intended to “ensure the independence, territorial integrity, and security” of the Republic and prevent the two communities from achieving enosis or taksim.12 The key portion of this Treaty is Article 4, which states that: “Each of the three guaranteeing powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present treaty.”13 This became crucial in 1974 when Turkey utilized this article to legitimize its military intervention and claimed force was used in order to re-establish the security of Cyprus. The Treaty of Alliance was designed as a defensive pact to maintain peace and security on the island that allowed for the presence of Greek, Turkish, and British troops.14

The Constitution of 1960 brought an end to the bitter anti-colonial struggle, but did not bring a lasting peace to the island. Greek Cypriots, under the leadership of President Makarios, were unhappy with the agreement because it was externally imposed, “a betrayal of the enosis cause,” and made “overgenerous” concessions to the Turkish Cypriot community.15 The Turkish Cypriots, led by Vice-President Fazil Kutchuk, were also unhappy with the final agreement and remained concerned about the security of their community’s existence and political rights. This dissatisfaction and the structure of the Constitution reinforced the division between the two groups. As a result, a conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots continued at the political level as the two communities struggled to create a police force, army, and civil service that conformed to the required ratios and satisfied the interests of both sides. In addition, Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not agree on taxes, the boundaries of the Turkish-speaking municipalities, or the lawmaking process within the legislature.

In the meantime, Makarios began a campaign to build international support for changes to the Cypriot Constitution through visits to non-aligned and Soviet countries. He also developed internal support from the Cypriot Communist party, AKEL, which had gained strength in the rural areas of the country since independence. Both moves increased U.S. concerns about Soviet influence in the Eastern Mediterranean, which impacted later events during the crises when the U.S. made decisions based on maintaining the strength of NATO and countering Soviet influence. In November of 1963, Makarios publicly proposed thirteen changes to the Constitution and the stage was set for the first Cypriot crisis.

In this section, I lay out the conspiracy theories before I assess their validity in light of available documentary evidence. The theories themselves range from a suspicion of ulterior motives to a clearly outlined thesis that directly accuses the U.S. of explicit support of Greek and Turkish intervention, and thus complete responsibility for the events in 1974. Several authors, such as Christopher Hitchens, John L. Scherer, and Laurence Stern, have raised the question of U.S. complicity in their respective books. They suggest that if the U.S. had the capability to call off a coup or deter invasion in 1963-4 and 1967, the government could have authorized either action in 1974.16 Scherer also claims that, since Henry Kissinger was able to engineer a ceasefire after Turkey’s first invasion on July 20, 1974, he should also have been able to do so after the second phase of the invasion on August 14.17 Thus the authors claim the U.S. at the least failed to act effectively against the Greeks and Turks and at worst explicitly supported their actions.18 These arguments rely primarily on testimony from those involved in the State Department at the time and the author’s own personal experiences, as many of the now available primary documents had not yet been released.

The most recent addition to the literature on the conspiracy, The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, Espionage, and the Turkish Invasion by British journalists Brendan O’Malley and Ian Craig, charges the United States with complete knowledge of the Greek coup and Turkish invasion plans. According to the authors, the U.S. had a consistent plan over a ten-year period, based on a proposal developed by Dean Acheson during the 1963-4 crisis under President Lyndon B. Johnson, to partition the island into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot areas. These actions were allegedly motivated by the island’s value as a military and intelligence base in the Eastern Mediterranean combined with U.S. concerns over the “twin threats of a communist takeover or British withdrawal.”19 The introduction states that the book “reveals an astonishing international plot, developed from a blueprint evolved first under British rule, then by U.S. President Johnson’s officials, the goals of which were finally realized [sic] in 1974.”20 O’Malley and Craig’s work uses primarily British sources, several State Department papers, and interviews to support their argument.

This theory is supplemented by other sources that cite its findings, such as William Mallinson’s A Modern History of Cyprus. His book is intended to provide historical context for the current crisis regarding Cyprus’ entrance into the European Union and imply the correct policy for the international community. His history of the Cyprus conflict implicitly supports the work of O’Malley and Craig, however, by citing their research and describing the course of events in terms of a “conspiracy” in his discussion of the 1974 invasion. He argues:

The two-state Turkish invasion of Cyprus in the Summer of 1974 was the culmination of ten years of planning by various U.S. government sectors, initiated with the ‘Ball/Acheson’ plan for double enosis in 1964, in secret connivance with the Turkish armed forces, with the British government looking on…21

Mallinson, and other authors like him, reinforce the legitimacy of the overall theory by relying on O’Malley and Craig’s research of the crises and using the “conspiracy” buzzword in his work on this subject.

There are two primary counterarguments to all of these authors I will emphasize in my presentation of Cyprus’ crises. First, the U.S. did not have a coherent policy or a single plan to drive events on the island during the ten-year period cited by the conspiracy theorists. Rather, the U.S.’s policy toward Cyprus was shaped by events on the island, as the State Department reacted to the crisis and relied heavily on contingency planning. The only consistent policy throughout each Cypriot crisis was that there must not be war between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and that any established solution must be the result of negotiation and acceptable to all parties.

The second counterargument concerns U.S. interests both on Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean. I argue that the U.S. was not focused on the military or strategic value of the island as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” through the use of the Sovereign Base Areas or the communications facilities for intelligence purposes.22 The U.S. had already established their facilities on the island before Cypriot independence, including two at Mia Milia and Yerolakkos, a Naval Facility that also included a Radio Relay Station, and a Foreign Broadcast Information Service station.23 An agreement with the Cypriot government concluded in 1968 extended their functions for the next ten years.24 This indicates that Makarios’ presidency and the status quo on the island would be better for the facilities’ operations than disruption in the form of a coup or an invasion. In addition, the U.S. had access to similar Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ’s) under the UKUSA agreement at Gibraltar and Sinop, Turkey, in addition to their own NATO facilities in Turkey and the Sixth Fleet home-ported in Athens.25 On the contrary, the U.S. concentrated on the need to contain the Soviet bloc and strengthen NATO’s southeastern flank against the perceived Communist threat. As mentioned above, the U.S. observed the activities of Makarios and his friendship with the Soviets with unease in the context of the Cold War. Regardless, concern about the SBAs and communications facilities was not significant enough to encourage the 1974 coup and subsequent invasion of an independent country as well as a potential war between two of its own allies. These two arguments will be clarified and supported through an analysis of the conspiracy theory’s specific statements regarding each crisis followed by a description of the more accurate chronology of events using primary documents.

PART III. 1963-4: The Crises Begin

Chapter 1

The Collapse of the Constitution and the Conspiracy Theorist’s Interpretation

On November 30, 1963, Archbishop Makarios revealed his thirteen point proposal to amend the Cypriot Constitution. The amendments included controversial revisions to the ratios within the armed forces, police forces, and civil services to reflect the actual division of the population; the removal of the President and Vice-President’s veto rights; the abolishment of the separate Turkish-speaking municipalities; and other adjustments to the legislature. Turkey, speaking for the Turkish Cypriots, rejected the proposals outright and tensions skyrocketed all across the island. The Turkish Cypriots left the Government of Cyprus in protest and regrouped within their enclaves. According to O’Malley and Craig, the intercommunal battles began on December 21st and escalated through Christmas Eve.26 On January 1, 1964, Makarios declared that the Treaties of Alliance and Guarantee were no longer valid.27 By now, the conflict had grasped the attention of both Turkey and Britain who decided to meet at a January peace conference in London, along with Greece, in order to fulfill their roles as Guarantor powers.

In early February, the situation on the island had again deteriorated and intercommunal clashes were increasing in intensity. O’Malley and Craig argue that, at this time, the Americans and British “began colluding to support Turkish attempts to separate the two communities and create the conditions that would make partition a practical military objective.”28 U.S. Secretary of State George Ball, President Johnson, and other Washington officials reportedly drew up a contingency plan that would “allow Turkey to invade Cyprus and occupy a large area of the north of the island…to protect Turkish Cypriots.” This invasion was to be a “deliberate and carefully controlled movement” consistent with Turkey’s rights under the Treaty of Guarantee, in order to convince Makarios to accept a joint U.S.-UK peace-keeping force on the island, protect the lives of the Turkish minority, and avoid an armed clash with Greece. According to the plan, the Ambassador in Athens would tell the Greeks to avoid military action against Turkey and allow Washington to control the situation. 29 O’Malley and Craig state that their information came from one State Department memo sent to George Ball from Assistant Secretary of State Philips Talbot on February 14, 1964.30

The Guarantor powers agreed on a Joint Force, primarily made up of British troops already on the island, to establish peace and end the clashes between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.31 O’Malley and Craig argue that this peacekeeping force was in accordance with Ball’s contingency plan and utilized tactics that made partition the most practical option. They quote a news article from the Guardian in which Ball reportedly told the head of the truce force patrols, “You’ve got it wrong son. There’s only one solution to this island and that’s partition.”32 In addition, they cite a quote from a senior British intelligence officer, which stated “We were helping to bring about a crude form of partition under which the Turkish Cypriots occupied and administered certain parts of the island.”33 The British forces attempted to maintain order on their own for three months.

Meanwhile, negotiations began on a NATO peacekeeping force that Makarios rejected in favor of a neutral UN force. In early March, the UN agreed to create a UN peace-keeping force (UNFICYP) “in the interest of preserving international peace and security,” that would “use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance of law and order and a return to normal conditions.”34 After significant pressures and negotiations, the force was composed of British (2,750), Canadian (1,000), Finland (1,000), Swedish (1,000), and Danish (1,000) troops.35 In addition, UN sponsored mediation would be conducted by Dr. Galo Plaza, a former president of Ecuador.

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