October 14, 2011

Turkey (or U.S.) Problem?

Below is a piece about our Turkey problem. It's long, it's detailed and it lists the many red flags we missed along the way, but here's the thing: In true Washingtonian fashion, it analyzes and dissects a problem that was obvious from day anyone with a modicum of common sense, that is.

Michael Rubin writes:

In hindsight, Erdogan's true agenda should have been clear. As Istanbul's
mayor, Erdogan had regularly disparaged secularism. "Thank God Almighty,
I am a servant of sharia," he declared in 1994, and the following year he
described himself as "the imam of Istanbul."

In hindsight? How about foresight?! Even the slightest familiarity with Islam or sharia law should have alerted us to a problem. In the absence thereof (i.e., of familiarity), a quick look around the globe and the state of affairs in countries governed by Islamic or sharia law should have sent a shiver up anyone's leg.

And yes, one would have expected that big bureaucracy in Washington, DC, i.e., the one populated with deep-thinkers in global affairs (aka the State Department) to have noticed, but, alas, t'wasn't meant to be.

Then, in 2003, a bushel of red flags came our way. That's when our BFF Turkey refused to allow our troops ingress to Iraq from Turkish territory. That caused a myriad of problems for us, not least of which was cutting off a major resupply route to our troops. Did that awaken our slumbering giants at State? Apparently not.

The constant spitting on our ally, Israel, of course did nothing to faze the Arabists at State. After all their motto has always been you can trash the Jews, but don't mess with our Arab buddies, otherwise we'll send in the troops! (First Gulf War, anyone?)

Meanwhile, Erdogan continued his "lip service to secularism" and we continued to act like witless dupes. Just as we did throughout the '90s with then little known al Qaeda. The message sent to Erdogan-types throughout the world? If you want our attention, hit us and hit us hard, otherwise we're too busy grappling with full-grown problems to notice the growing ones. Do as al Qaeda did and call on us when you're all grown up!

That, folks, is U.S. foreign policy. We torture our friends (e.g., Israel) and reward our enemies, and end up paying for it in blood and treasure (i.e., ours, and that of our allies).

National Review Online  |  October 13, 2011

The Trouble With Turkey

by Michael Rubin

Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.jpg
Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP Courtesy:

'We stand together on the major issues that divide the world," Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower declared in Ankara while preparing to depart Turkey, on a cold and windy day in December 1959. "And I can see no reason whatsoever that we shouldn't be two of the sturdiest partners standing together always for freedom, security, and the pursuit of peace."

It took almost a half century, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has succeeded in ending that partnership. Certainly Turkey no longer stands for freedom. Like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Erdogan roughs up and imprisons those who challenge him. In 2002, the year before Erdogan became prime minister, Turkey ranked 99th in the world in press freedom out of 139 nations rated by Reporters Without Borders. By 2010, it ranked 138th out of 178, barely nosing out Russia and finishing below even Zimbabwe. Nor can American officials any longer say that America's relationship with Turkey bolsters national security. Just one year ago, the Turkish air force held secret war games with its Chinese counterparts without first informing the Pentagon. Erdogan has also deferred final approval of a new NATO anti-missile warning system. Meanwhile, Hakan Fidan, Turkey's new intelligence chief, makes little secret of his preference for Tehran over Washington.

More recently, Erdogan’s anti-Israel incitement propelled Turkey to a leadership role within the Islamic bloc at the expense of the Middle East peace process, and for the first time raised the possibility that Israel and Turkey, historic friends in trade, diplomacy, and defense, might clash in the Eastern Mediterranean. Making matters worse, Egemen Bagis, Erdogan’s longtime confidant and current minister for European Union affairs, threatened this month to use the Turkish navy against Cyprus should that island nation drill for oil in international waters.

While diplomats and generals too often ascribe tensions between Turkey and the West to a reaction to the Iraq War, disappointment with the slow pace of the European Union–accession process, or anger at the death of nine Turks killed in a clash with Israeli forces aboard the blockade-challenging Mavi Marmara, in reality, Turkey’s break from the West was the result of a deliberate and steady strategy initiated by Erdogan upon assuming the reins of government.

The rise of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey’s November 2002 general elections shocked the West. The AKP had its roots in Refah, a party founded in 1983 by Islamist ideologue Necmettin Erbakan after the Turkish constitutional court had banned two previous parties modeled on the Muslim Brotherhood. The court dissolved Refah in 1998, the same year Erdogan went to prison for religious incitement. After his release, Erdogan founded the AKP out of the ashes of the banned parties.

Because five secularist parties split the vote in 2002, each falling short of the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament, the AKP was able to amplify its 34 percent vote into an outright majority — 363 out of 550 seats. As the world press highlighted the party’s ties with Islam, Erdogan tried to calm fears. “We are the guarantors of this secularism, and our management will clearly prove that,” he promised.

At the time of the AKP victory, however, Erdogan’s conviction still disqualified him from seeking political office, even though he was party leader. Erdogan accordingly chose Abdullah Gul, who previously had worked for eight years in Saudi Arabia as an Islamic-finance specialist, to head the government. Gul would not be prime minister for long, however. The AKP was able to use its majority to change the law and enable Erdogan to run for office. Four months later, after a court conveniently threw out the results in one district, he won a special election, and on March 14, 2003, he became prime minister.

American officials initially welcomed Erdogan. The U.S. embassy in Ankara accepted his pledge to embrace Europe. Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, described the AKP as “a kind of Muslim version of a Christian Democratic party,” while Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Turkey as a “Muslim democracy.” Turkish liberals chafed at this description, believing it to endorse Erdogan’s Islamism. “We are a democracy. Islam has nothing to do with it,” one Turkish professor explained. Yet even if unintentionally, Powell may have been on to something: While American officials continued to endorse Turkey as a partner and a country bridging East and West, Erdogan and his confidants were quietly setting Turkey on a different course.

In hindsight, Erdogan’s true agenda should have been clear. As Istanbul’s mayor, Erdogan had regularly disparaged secularism. “Thank God Almighty, I am a servant of sharia,” he declared in 1994, and the following year he described himself as “the imam of Istanbul.” Around the same time... more here.


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