THE GOVERNMENT of Turkey, a key US ally, stands on the brink of collapse. A string of cabinet ministers and leading MPs have resigned from the Democratic Left-the party of Turkey's prime minister, Bulent Ecevit-over the last two weeks. Now a group of nine dissident party members are demanding radical change and the removal of Ecevit, its veteran leader.
The political turmoil has already intensified Turkey's deep financial crisis. It is the International Monetary Fund's biggest debtor. The fall of the government and new elections would spell huge problems for the US.
US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited Turkey last week to seek support for a US attack on Iraq. Turkey is a member of NATO and its Incirlik airbase is a vital staging post for US planes in the Middle East.
A general election, however, could see the Islamists emerge as the biggest party in Turkey. They tell their supporters they are opposed to US military dominance.