Category Archives: Turkey

Will America Reevaluate Ties with Turkey as Part of Middle East Vision?

Will America Reevaluate Ties with Turkey as Part of Middle East Vision?

Does the administration also realize that Turkey under Erdogan is no different from the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology that Sisi overthrew?

America’s reinvigorated role in the Middle East,” laid out a new American vision in sharp contrast to President Barack Obama’s speech 10 years ago.

Pompeo described Obama’s vision as distancing America away from its traditional allies, Israel and the Sunni Gulf States, his goal being a path to a new relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran that culminated with the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal). Notably absent from Pompeo’s speech was any mention of Turkey as an American ally.

How significant this speech will be as a turning point in America’s engagement with its allies and adversaries in the region remains to be seen. According to the New York Times, Pompeo “vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts… its ‘malign activities’ throughout the Mideast.” Critics have claimed the speech lacked details and was hyper-partisan.

Although National Security Advisor John Bolton and Pompeo mean what they say, it is ultimately the commander in chief who will decide American policy. One speech will not reassure America’s allies in the region, especially after the president decided to take the advice of President Erdogan of Turkey over his own foreign policy team regarding withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

The continued mixed messaging, even after Bolton said the Syrian policy had changed to a conditional withdrawal, has left allies unsure whether they can rely on US assurances in planning for their future security. Keeping your enemies guessing is a legitimate strategy, but it is unhelpful to do that to your allies and your own foreign policy advisers.

In his Cairo speech, Pompeo said, “We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” while praising Egyptian President Sisi for confronting this threat.

But this begs the question; does the administration also realize that Turkey under Erdogan is no different from the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology that Sisi overthrew?

Clearly, Iran is enemy number one for this administration, but how concerned is the President about Turkey’s nearly twenty-year Islamist rule that has been undermining our security interests?

As Tom Rogan wrote in the Washington Examiner, “Where Turkey was once a reliable Eurasian center for free trade, the rule of law and secular democracy, Erdogan has built an Islamist authoritarian state driven by corrupt patronage… At present, Turkey is extracting the benefits of its alliance with America without any responsibility.”

Trump Expected To Propose Weakening Obama-era Wetland Protections

Erdogan may feel immune to any consequences for his behavior, because he believes the United States needs Turkey as a counterweight to Syrian President Assad, and to reign in ISIS and al-Qaeda aligned militias.

SO DOES a president who values transactional negotiations see Erdogan as a friend, an enemy or something in between, a frenemy?

Erdogan’s public humiliation of Bolton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Dunford, by canceling their scheduled meeting, was a slap in the face to America. Perhaps it should be the tipping point to re-evaluate the stability and reliability of the relationship.

Getting this relationship right is crucial for stability in the region. Turkey has the second largest armed force in NATO, houses a pivotal but not vital American air base in Incirlik, is a crucial part of the production line for America’s next generation F-35 fighter, yet still desires to purchase the Russian S-400 anti-missile system. If Turkey incorporates a Russian system into NATO defenses, this relationship’s status will rise to the level of a crisis for American security.

In theory, Turkey as a Sunni state should be helpful in confronting Iran, a Shi’ite state, that like Turkey harbors grandiose desires to control the whole Middle East. But Turkey has gotten into bed with Russia and Iran, whose primary goal is to undermine American interests. Turkey has also pledged to destroy America’s only true ally in Syria, the YPG Kurds.

Pompeo said, “President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the (Iranian) regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises.”

The question going forward is, will the president end our “willful blindness” to the dangers of an Islamist Turkey?

Trump needs to tell Erdogan that it’s time for Turkey to choose which side it is on, and act accordingly.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, foreign policy advisers, Knesset members, journalists and organizational leaders.

Managing an Anti-American Turkey

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

Now is the time for American resolve and if need be significant consequences imposed on Turkey to advance our interests.

Turkish antagonism to America, Israel, and the EU, and the Islamization of this once proudly secular nation must be seen in historical context. Relations between the US and Turkey today are, as they have been over the last 70 years, primarily based on shared national security interests, which often shift and have been unpredictable.

Modern American Turkish relations began at the dawn of the Cold War with the Truman Doctrine in 1947 guaranteeing the security of Turkey and Greece. Turkey remained a linchpin of American military strategy in the Middle East through the Cold War, a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. But times have changed in the 21st century with the ascendancy of the neo-Ottoman authoritarian strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In light of the most recent Turkish election, Congress, American security experts, Turkey’s neighbors, and Israel must now ask if the newly empowered authoritarian Erdogan has irreversibly transformed Turkey into an anti-western, anti-Semitic, malevolent state that is to be no less radical than the Iranian Islamic republic, where we have learned that no amount of accommodation can temper their nationalistic expansionist Islamist vision.

Unlike Iran, where it is reputed that the Iranian population, especially it’s urban middle class, leans toward the West, and would welcome the chance to be freed of the repressive Mullahs, a recent PEW survey of Turkish citizens revealed that an astounding 79% of the populace harbor a negative view of America, no doubt fostered by years of anti-American propaganda.

Many pro-Western Turks have left or worse, have been fired from their jobs, imprisoned, or tortured in the aftermath of the 2016 failed coup. Erdogan’s monopoly on power has been consolidated since that time, tightening his control over the military, judiciary, academia, business, and media. Turkey has the infamous distinction of imprisoning more journalists than any nation in the world.

America, for strategic reasons, gets into bed with many unsavory nations, but few states may threaten our safety net more than Turkey, since it is intertwined in our security through NATO. Turkey has the second largest military in NATO, houses a vital US air base in Incirlik, and is located in an absolutely critical position in the Middle East next to Syria, Iraq, Russia, and the Black Sea.

In the coming decades, is Turkey to be friend or foe? Turkey believes the US cannot live without its Incirlik airbase, and that we need Turkey as the eastern flank of NATO. So Erdogan calculates that he can take liberties against American interests in the region, while advancing his own distasteful agenda – undermining the Kurds in Iraq and Syria who have been loyal American allies, supporting Hamas, which is designated a terrorist enemy by the US State Department, and its parent the Muslim Brotherhood, and working with American nemesis Iran, which is making every effort to destabilize the region.

So, are there any red lines Turkey cannot cross for it to continue to receive American support, or has Turkey already crossed a line with Congress and this administration? Turkey, Russia and Iran are three peas in a pod. Turkey occupied and ethnically cleansed Cyprus, Russia invaded and occupied Crimea, northern Georgia and eastern Ukraine, and the Iranian controlled Popular Mobilization Units ethically cleansed Iraq and Syria of its Sunni residents. Three bad actors, and Turkey is the only one of them that is a member of NATO.

Last year, National Security advisor H.R. McMaster said that Turkey had joined Qatar as a prime source “funding groups that help create the conditions that allow terrorism to flourish.”

Analysts expect Erdogan will be unchallenged and in power for years to come, and there is no expectation of moderation based on his record over the last 14 years.

America fears that Turkey might ally with Russia, Iran or China, if America imposes any meaningful consequences for Turkish behavior. This calculation is a serious foreign policy mistake, as Turkey realizes that those alliances carry with them significant risks to Turkish security in the long term, and even Erdogan must know he will need America as an ally again.

Being held hostage and extorted by Erdogan is a sure prescription for undermining American national security interests around the world. If Erdogan cannot be quietly persuaded through diplomacy to moderate his policies, then at the very least the United States should halt arms sales beginning with suspension of deliveries of F-35 fighters, and limit security cooperation that might already have been compromised by his relationship with Russia and Iran.

Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell told the Senate recently that the “acquisition of the S-400 [Russian anti-missile system] will inevitably affect prospects for Turkish military-industrial cooperation with the US, including F-35.”

Significant American consequences for Turkey would not be unprecedented, as we have employed this strategy with Turkey way back in 1974 after their invasion and ethnic cleansing of northern Cyprus.

As for undermining our vital allies Israel and Egypt, this too goes against a core US strategic interest, and Erdogan needs to pay a price for it. Erdogan, Hamas and the MB are all ideologically Sunni Islamists, and dissuading Erdogan will require strength, admonishments with teeth, as we learned that President Obama’s 2009 accommodations and oratory met with failure.

Critics rightly claim that America is already aligned with other human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, so why punish Turkey. The difference is that those nations are not pursuing strategies that directly undermine our security interests. However, they too will have to moderate their human rights record, if our alliances have any possibility for longevity.

Turkey is vital to our interests but not indispensable. The risks have begun to outweigh the benefits of trusting Turkey to remain the eastern flank of NATO and not share our security secrets with our enemies. It is probably not possible to have a grand quid pro-quo offering Turkey conditional EU membership, American investment, and continued US military support in exchange for ending their military relationship with Russia, Iran and Hamas, but incremental steps can be accomplished as long as we are not afraid to use a diplomatic big stick with economic pain.

Turkey and Israel have had mediocre relations for years.

Most recently Erdogan intends to bring Israel to the International Criminal Court for its actions on the Gaza border during the Hamas March of Return.

According to the Times of Israel, Erdogan said “Israel is a terror state” that has committed “a genocide”, and ‘There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to.”

At least he acknowledges the Holocaust as a historical fact, something his Iranian friends cannot do.

Further infuriating Turkey is the new Israeli-Cyprus-Greek alignment over natural gas reserves. Dr. Spyridon Litsas of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies referred to it as a “tectonic shift” in the Eastern Mediterranean altering “the geopolitical configuration” that “holds the interest of the great powers, (the United States, Russia and China).”

Now is the time for American resolve and if need be significant consequences imposed on Turkey to advance our interests. Ignoring what Turkey has become and where it is most likely to go over the next decade is not a sound foreign policy strategy.

The writer is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network™.