by Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives
January 4, 2015
Turkey is officially a NATO ally, and President Barrack Obama has called the current President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a friend. But Erdogan-led Turkey does not behave as an ally or a friend of the US. This is not a new development.
Erdogan and his Islamist party, the AKP, have ruled Turkey since 2002. Erdogan’s Turkey has gradually distanced itself from the West, adopting domestic and foreign policies fueled by Ottoman and Islamist impulses.
Turkey has been on the road to an authoritarian regime for several years. Infringements on human rights have gradually increased. In truth, Turkey has never had a political system with checks and balances able to constrain attempts to consolidate power around one politician. In recent years, Erdogan has weakened further the few constitutional constraints against the ‘Putinization’ of the Turkish political system.
The longer Erdogan rules, the more power hungry he seems. His authoritarian personality becomes clearer every day. The press is hardly free. Erdogan arrests even Islamist journalists that are critical of his policies. His party has infiltrated the judicial system and the police. Foci of power, such as the bureaucracy, the banking system, industrial associations and trade unions have been mostly coopted by the AKP. Opposition political parties are largely discredited. The military, once active in politics as the defender of the Kemalist secular tradition, has been successfully sidelined.
From a realpolitik perspective, the domestic political developments, deplorable as they may be in Turkey, could be ignored by the democratic West as long as Ankara continues to be a useful ally. Unfortunately, Turkey no longer qualifies as a trusted ally.
The most recent examples of nefarious Turkish behavior are its support of ISIS and Hamas. Turkey is playing a double game on the issue of the Islamic State. It pretends to cooperate with the US policy in the attempt to contain radical Islam, but actually Turkey supports ISIS. It allows volunteers passage through Turkish territory to join ISIS in Iraq. ISIS receives logistical support via Turkey, and sends its wounded militants for treatment there. Turkish military forces stood idly by the besieged city of Kobani, just across the Turkish border, while the Islamists killed Kurdish fighters. Finally, Turkey denies the American air force access to Turkish bases; forcing the US to use far away bases when attacking ISIS targets.
Turkey is also openly supporting another radical Islamist organization — Hamas. Despite the fact that the West regards Hamas a terrorist organization, Ankara regularly hosts Hamas representatives that meet the highest Turkish dignitaries. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a rabid anti-American position. Moreover, Salah al-Aruri, a senior Hamas operative, operates out of Istanbul. Recently, the Turkish branch of Hamas was involved in a series of attempts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel, and in orchestrating a coup against the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
Such behavior should not surprise policy makers in Washington. In 2003, Ankara denied the request from Washington to open its territory so that the …read more