206. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for Europe1

TURKISH OPIUM POPPY BAN

The Problem: Turkey has revoked its June 1971 opium ban. This threatens a resumption of smuggling of illicit opium from Turkey and a resultant worsening of the heroin problem in the U.S. There is also a danger of serious damage to our interests in Turkey as sentiment develops in the Congress to take punitive measures against Turkey.

Background/Analysis

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s government decided on July 1 to end the opium poppy ban. Despite numerous promises to notify us in advance, our Embassy in Ankara received the final news through the radio announcement that the ban had been lifted. Ambassador Macomber met with Prime Minister Ecevit at midnight to protest the Turkish action and warn him of the possible consequences for Turkish American relations.2 Ecevit confirmed that the decision was irreversible and reiterated his determination to impose a foolproof control system that would prevent smuggling and said he would welcome advice.

The government’s decree indicates that the GOT plans to allow farmers in seven provinces to apply for planting licenses. Each farmer would be limited to 11/4 acres of poppies. Thus there is posed a serious problem in terms of control: the probability of many small plots planted by individual farmers spread across a six-and-a-half province area.

Section 481 of the Foreign Assistance Act requires the President to suspend all assistance when he determines that a country’s government has failed to take adequate steps to prevent narcotic drugs produced in that country from entering the U.S. unlawfully. While this section does not require a production ban, the breach of the agreement does constitute a prima facie case for questioning the adequacy of Turkey’s performance.

[Page 674]

Examination of possible courses of action is based on the following assumptions:

a.
The decision to lift the ban is irreversible barring an overthrow of the Ecevit government. We are not considering promoting an overthrow.
b.
There are many within and without the Turkish Government who are genuinely concerned at the possible impact of the poppy decision on Turkish-American relationships, and particularly its impact on the security relationship. (The opposite side of this coin is that there are some who welcome the decision as an opportunity to weaken or destroy that relationship.)

Objectives:

We are looking for ways to:

a.
Minimize the adverse impact of the Turkish decision on our increasingly successful battle against heroin addiction in the United States;
b.
Maintain our credibility with foreign governments, the Congress and the American people regarding our seriousness in combatting international narcotics trafficking;
c.
Accomplish the above with the least damage to our important security relationship with Turkey.

The Options

1. Enter into discussion with the GOT on ways to prevent opium smuggling3 while attempting to maintain business as usual on all other aspects of the Turkish-American relationship.

Pros:

  • —As the Turkish decision to resume growing is irrevocable, the next best chance we have for avoiding a serious setback to our narcotics efforts is the establishment of an adequate control system in Turkey. This is technically feasible. The issue is whether the GOT is willing to bear the domestic political costs of a truly effective system. We have indications that the GOT is seriously concerned over the potential damage to its relations with the U.S. We should be able to translate this concern into a firm willingness to employ whatever methods are necessary to prevent smuggling. We will be able to enlist international support in this effort.
  • —By maintaining business as usual throughout the rest of the wide range of relationships, we would try to divorce the opium issue from our other interests, which are important to us, especially in the area of [Page 675]security, thereby minimizing the damage to these other interests from the heat which has developed on opium.

Cons:

  • —There is substantial Congressional pressure to take a tougher line.
  • —The Administration will be accused of being soft on narcotics.
  • —Internationally, we may weaken the credibility of our anti-narcotics efforts in a number of other countries, if we do not react to the Turkish setback.

2. Enter into discussion with the GOT and the UN agencies concerned on ways to prevent opium smuggling (see Annex A), while applying pressure at several points, but attempting to maintain most other aspects of the Turkish-American relationship.

Pros:

  • —By taking several actions on the military side, we can increase the pressure on the GOT to establish an effective control system. The Turkish military establishment is sympathetic to our position on opium as it has the most to lose from a rupture. These actions may well encourage the military to increase its pressure on the GOT to accommodate the U.S.
  • —By bringing the UN into the control issue at an early stage, we can multilateralize the discussions and pursue them regardless of any deterioration of our bilateral relations with Turkey.
  • —This will also partially assuage Congressional hardliners.

Cons:

  • —Applying pressure will add another irritant to U.S.-Turkish relations, already strained over the opium issue.
  • —More importantly, the mutually beneficial nature of our relationship with Turkey provides just as many points at which the GOT can retaliate by applying the same sort of pressure on us. (See Annex B.)
  • —Furthermore, we would have to move very carefully or we would risk totally alienating the Turkish military.

3. Recommend to the President that he suspend economic and military assistance to Turkey. Apply pressure at all points. Refuse to discuss the subject of control with the GOT.

Pros:

  • —This would demonstrate very clearly that the U.S. Government attaches the highest priority to its efforts against narcotics. Our credibility would be enhanced elsewhere in the world.
  • —The action would be popular with Congress and the press.
[Page 676]

Cons:

  • —This would not succeed in persuading the GOT to reverse its decision.
  • —It would, moreover, remove whatever leverage we have by changing the threat into reality. We would be unable to persuade the Turks to impose better controls if our relations so deteriorate that we cannot carry on discussions.
  • —The Turkish Government would probably force us to remove the drug enforcement agents who are presently cooperating with the Turkish police in enforcement activities.
  • —The military establishment, which we rely on to exercise pressure on the GOT in our favor, would be alienated. The Turkish military tend to be nationalistic and suspicious of foreigners. They have until now, however, appreciated the value of American military assistance to Turkey. A complete suspension of this assistance (more than

Recommendation:

We recommend Option 2. We should approach the GOT with minimum criteria for the establishment of system to prevent smuggling. We should discuss with them the advantages of switching to papaver bracteatum, a virtually risk-free form of poppy. We should also insist, if opium poppies are grown, that incising be prohibited in Turkey and a straw process be used.

These discussions should be accompanied by a clear warning on our side that Section 481 is being considered and will be invoked if we are not convinced that their system is adequate. The credibility of this threat will be increased by applying pressure at several points, specifically by (a) denying a recent GOT request to transfer to Turkey two excess U.S. Naval vessels, (b) informing the GOT that the U.S. will not program any grant military assistance in FY 75 until we are convinced that the GOT has an adequate plan to prevent smuggling. We must expect counter pressure and be prepared to accept this in the interest of furthering the narcotics program. This involves a decision that it will be necessary to risk some of our security interests in Turkey in the interest of our narcotics program. On the other hand, a complete breach would serve neither objective. Concurrently, we should immediately consult with the international narcotics control organizations in Geneva to inspire and assist them to make a maximum contribution to improve controls in Turkey.

We must persuade Congress to withhold punitive action against Turkey pending these discussions. This will require the personal intervention [Page 677]of the Secretary of State, who should advise the Congress that we will insist on effective Turkish controls and will not program grant military assistance in FY 75 until we are convinced that the GOT has an adequate plan.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–54, NSDM 267. Secret. Concurred in by John McDonald (IO/CMD), James Michel (L/PM), Mark Feldman Cyrus Vance (S/NM), [name not declassified] (CIA), Kenneth Towery (USIA), and Robert Mantel and E. Johnson (OMB). Not concurred in by DOD/ISA, Treasury, AID, and JCS. Nonresponse by DEA. Transmitted by Jeanne Davis of the NSC staff to the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury, CIA, JCS, USIA, AID, and DEA. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 204.
  3. Annexes A, B, and C were not attached and not found.