There is no question that Turkey, because of its size and geo-strategic location maintains a pivotal role in NATO. Its armed forces are NATO’s second largest and its troops had acquitted themselves well during the Korean War. Turkey had also played a constructive role in bridging relations between Israel and the Muslim world acting as an effective interlocutor. But with the ascent of the Islamist Justice and Development party in 2002 and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as party boss, things have taken a stark turn for the worse.
Under the stewardship of an increasingly unbalanced Erdoğan, Turkey has renounced secularism in favor of Islamist dogma and creeping sharia. Turkey’s new president elect has, through intimidation and strong-arm tactics, usurped control of Turkey’s judiciary and press. Indeed, Turkey holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest incarcerator of journalists followed only by Iran and China.
An increasingly paranoid Erdoğan has also declared war on social media and in March threatened to ban Facebook and YouTube, accusing the sites of “every kind of immorality and espionage for their own ends.” Erdogan had already banned YouTube for two years though the restriction was lifted in 2010.
Erdoğan’s disloyalty to the United States and NATO began early in his term of office as prime minister but his betrayals have only increased in recent years.
In March 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Turkey refused to allow the deployment of US troops on Turkish soil which would have enabled the US to open a second front against Saddam Hussein. Turkey also refused to allow the US to utilize Turkish airspace and airbases to launch strikes against Iraqi forces.
In 2010, Turkey was one of only two nations in the UN Security Council (the other being Brazil) that voted against imposing sanctions against Iran in connection with its nuclear proliferation activities. Turkey (along with China) is currently taking a lead role in helping the Islamic Republic circumvent sanctions, often fronting for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and instituting various other schemes to bypass legal obstacles. Turkey’s stance on Iran has even drawn praise from mullah’s official propaganda outlet, Press TV.
It is clear that Turkey, acting as Iran’s conduit to Europe has become the Islamic Republic’s premier enabler. Turkey’s outreach to Iran represents a disturbing pattern by Erdoğan to curry favor with nations and entities whose interests substantially diverge from Washington’s. Turkey has established itself as the world’s foremost supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are listed as terrorist organizations by the United States. Turkey has also opted to purchase air defense platforms from a Chinese firm already on a designated sanctions list for violating embargoes against Iran and North Korea. Moreover, the Chinese systems are incompatible with NATO platforms but to Erdogan, NATO’s defense needs play second fiddle to his disconcerting policy of thumbing his nose at the West.
Central to any defense pact and cooperation between allies is trust. But Erdoğan has proven that he is anything but trustworthy. In fact, he has established himself as the premier betrayer of trust when, in violation of all norms and protocol within the intelligence community, he betrayed a network of spies working to compile data on Iran’s proliferation activities.
Israel and Turkey have had numerous understandings and agreements with respect to intelligence sharing dating back to the 1950s and it was thought that despite strained ties between Ankara and Jerusalem, the intelligence protocols which had withstood the test of time, would remain intact. Erdoğan’s perfidious actions torpedoed those assumptions. Intelligence and security officials from across the political spectrum termed Turkey’s act of betrayal, “despicable” and intimated that Turkey could no longer be trusted with sensitive data.
With every passing day, Erdoğan appears more irrational and unbalanced. Protests against his authoritarian style are met with cryptic claims that the unrest was sparked by the “interest rate lobby” and just in case anyone had any doubts about what he meant, his deputy prime minister, Besir Atalay put them to rest when he blamed the “Jewish Diaspora” for the strife.
The Turkish leader’s vitriolic hate toward Israel has veered uncomfortably close to outright Jew-hatred. In September 2011, he absurdly claimed that Israel had killed “hundreds of thousands” of Palestinians in Gaza and adopting a classic anti-Semitic canard, boorishly stated that Israel used the Holocaust as a mechanism to gain world sympathy. In February 2013 Erdoğan compared Zionism to fascism and further declared Zionism to be a “crime against humanity.” He also bizarrely accused Israel of engineering the coup that deposed Erdoğan’s Muslim Brotherhood ally, Mohammed Morsi prompting the State Department to issue a stern rebuke terming Erdogan’s histrionics, “offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong.”
During Israel’s recent counter-insurgency efforts against the Hamas terrorist group, Erdoğan accused the Jewish State of committing genocide, lamented the fact that not enough Jews had been killed during the conflict and compared Israelis to Adolph Hitler.
These examples just scratch the surface when it comes to Erdoğan’s Judeophobia. His hatred of Jews is ingrained and is inspired by a convoluted and radical interpretation of Islam, an interpretation with roots firmly embedded in the teachings of the fascist Muslim Brotherhood. But where there is hatred of Jews, there invariably is hatred of other minorities and misogynistic proclivities. In August, Erdoğan lashed out at a female journalist telling her that she “should know [her] place.” That very month, he made pejorative and deprecatory references to Armenians.
There can no longer be any doubt that Erdoğan is rabidly xenophobic. His war against social media and cryptic references to international conspiracies to dethrone him are indicative of a delusional mind, one wracked by extreme paranoia and fantasy. His efforts to distance Turkey from the West and undermine American foreign policy are demonstrative of a nefarious agenda. His betrayal of intelligence agents crystalizes the fact that so long as Erdoğan maintains the reins of power, Turkey cannot be trusted as a reliable NATO partner. It is time for the United States to reevaluate Turkey’s role in NATO and make clear to Erdoğan that there are consequences for his actions.