Thursday, June 03, 2010

Who Lost Turkey?

That's the question currently making the rounds in Washington, D.C. Many observers were stunned by Ankara's support of the "aid mission" to Gaza that ended in a confrontation with Israeli commandos.

So, how does an important U.S. ally (and NATO partner) get involved with groups that are sworn enemies of Israel? And, how did we fail to notice Turkey's move away from the west, and towards its new friends like Iran and Syria?

As Robert Pollock explains in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal, Ankara's march towards Islamic extremism began almost a decade ago, with the election of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Since then, Turks have been fed a steady diet of anti-Semitic (and anti-U.S. propaganda), inflaming public sentiment against two of the nation's most important allies:

To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews. The newspaper Yeni Safak, Erdogan's daily read, claimed that Americans were tossing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates that local mullahs had issued a fatwa ordering residents not to eat the fish. The same paper repeatedly claimed that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Fallujah. And it reported that Israeli soldiers had been deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and that U.S. forces were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqis for sale on the U.S. "organ market."

It is especially telling that Mr. Erdogan, in a subsequent interview with Robert Pollock, refused to denounce such claims. That is hardly a surprise; such lies clearly serve his political goals. Now, in the wake of the Gaza incident, Erdogan's foreign minister is demanding U.S. "solidarity" with Turkey. So far, the Obama Administration has refused to take the bait. So far.

The question really isn't "who" lost Turkey. Ankara lost its way years ago. The question now is what happens to its relationships with the U.S., Israel and NATO. As we noted previously, Tel Aviv has gone out of its way to preserve its long-standing relationship with the Turkish military, which remains the cornerstone of the modern, secular state. We would hope that our own Defense Department is doing the same thing.

Bottom line: someone needs to take the pulse of the Turkish General Staff (TGS); if Ankara's senior military leaders are firmly behind their Islamist Prime Minister, then it may be impossible to preserve our alliance with Turkey.


Paul G. said...

Absolutely 100% spot on. The civilian Islamic government decided it was better to be cozy with Iran than Israel. They haven't convinced the military government yet, this could get interesting.

Mrs. Davis said...

May be?

We need to get out of it before they make an Article 5 claim.

planethou said...

@Spook86- You wrote:
"Now, in the wake of the Gaza incident, Erdogan's foreign minister is demanding U.S. "solidarity" with the United States." I'm confused, did you mean "the United Nations"?

Unknown said...

Planethou--Good catch; it has been corrected. Meant to say that Ankara is demanding U.S. solidarity with Turkey.

Ed Rasimus said...

We used to tell the joke about the scorpion and the duck, in which the duck is convinced to take the scorpion across the river on his back because the scorpion promised not to sting him since they both would drown. Of course the scorpion does sting and when asked why, replies, "Because I'm Turkish..."

You can trace Turkey through the twentieth century and find that behavior. Churchill dealt with it in WW I.

When I was doing nuke alert rotations to Incirlik, we were subject to Turkish whims despite being NATO "allies". We got outsted during the Cyprus war and had operations curtailed after that.

When I was running NATO Southern Region exercise plans from USAFE Hq, the Turks were always problematic and you never knew until it actually happened if they would keep their agreements.

The denial of the third front through Turkey in the Iraq war is another example.

This simply follows the trend of stinging their supporters in mid-stream because they are Turkish.

Utopia Parkway said...

Erdogan's party was elected in 2002 and has been in control since then. We must remember that Erdogan's party refused entry to the third ID in the 2003 attack on Iraq. Since Operation Cast Lead in Jan 2009 his party has been on the warpath against Israel with constant anti-Israel statements in public.

The Turks have realized that their country has been rejected by the EU for membership. In order to get the respect that they feel they deserve they have decided that they'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. They are attempting to become the fourth member of the axis of Evil.

While there is no proof yet, it seems likely that Erdogan has personally approved this action to break the blockade of Gaza with violence.

There is no question that this will end with a confrontation with the West, and possibly war with Israel and the US.

Poor Richard said...

U.P. -- I hope you're wrong. I hope Erdogan is just thinking, "Hell, if I just bluff a little, Obama will make the Israelis back down, and I'll be a hero to the Islamic world."

Because if you're right, we are truly living in August 1914.

Peaceful Crusader said...

Who Lost Turkey?

Persons who didn't bother to understand their enemy. Persons who didn't bother to read the Quran and the Hadith. Persons who don't bother to learn about Taquyya. Persons who don't bother to learn about "al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh". Persons who didn't and don't realize they are "Harbi".