Sunday, June 06, 2010

Barry Rubin: Turkish Regime Changes Sides, West Averts Eyes

As many of you know, I've written a number of essays on the changes in Turkey since the Islamist Erdogan government took over. Here's an excellent commentary by an expert in the field, Barry Rubin:

Why have Israel-Turkey relations gone from alliance to what seems to be the verge of war?

The foolish think that the breakdown is due to the recent Gaza flotilla crisis. The merely naive attribute the collapse to the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Such conclusions are totally misleading. It was already clear-and in private every Israeli expert dealing seriously with Turkey said so-well over two years ago. For example, the Justice and Development (AK) party government did not permit a single new military contract with Israel since it took office. The special relationship was over. And the cause was the election in Turkey of an Islamist government.

After all, Turkey needed Israel as an ally when a secular government in Ankara regarded Iran, Syria, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as the main threats. Once there was a government which regarded Iran and Syria as its closest allies, Israel became a perceived enemy.

When the Turkish armed forces were an important part of the regime, they promoted the alliance because they saw Israel as a good source for military equipment and an ally against Islamists and radical Arab regimes. But once the army was to be suppressed by those who hated it because of the military's secularism and feared it as the guardian of the republican system it sought to dismantle, the generals' wishes were a matter of no concern and depriving them of foreign allies was a priority of the AK party government.

And when Turkey thought it needed Israel as a way to maintain good relations with the United States, the alliance was also valuable. But once it was clear that U.S. policy would accept the AK and was none too fond of Israel, that reason for the alliance also dissolved. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced, "It's Israel that is the principal threat to regional peace." Not Iran, Israel.

At first, this outcome was not so obvious. The AK Party won its first election by only a narrow margin. To keep the United States and EU happy, to keep the Turkish army happy, and to cover up its Islamist sympathies, the new regime was cautious over relations with Israel. Keeping them going served as "proof" of Turkey's moderation.

Yet as the AK majorities in election rose, the government became more confident. No longer did it stress that it was just a center-right party with family values. The regime steadily weakened the army, using EU demands for civilian power. As it repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy, the AK's arrogance, and thus its willingness to go further and throw off its mask, grew steadily.

And then, on top of that, the regime saw that the United States would not criticize it, not press it, not even notice what the Turkish government was doing. President Barack Obama came to Turkey and praised the regime as a model of moderate Muslim democracy. Former President Bill Clinton appeared in Istanbul and, in response to questions asked by an AK party supporter, was manipulated into virtually endorsing the regime's program without realizing it.

Earlier this year, the situation became even more absurd as Turkey moved ever closer to becoming the third state to join the Iran-Syria bloc. Syria's state-controlled newspaper and Iranian President Ahmadinejad openly referred to Turkey's membership in their alliance. And no one in Washington even noticed what was happening. Even when, in May, Turkish policy stabbed the United States in the back by helping Iran launch a sanctions-avoiding plan, the Obama Administration barely stirred in its sleep.

Then there is the theatrical demagoguery of Erdogan himself who threw a choreographed fit at the Davos conference because Israel's President Shimon Peres, the mildest and most dovish of men, "offended" him. He returned home to an excited demonstration.

Bashing Israel to gain popularity and stir nationalist and religious passions is not the oldest of such tricks. It is merely a variation of doing the same historically to Jews in general. And yes it still works. Boy, does it work!

Then there's Turkey's new foreign minister. Ahmed Davudoglu. It's a pity that his writings in Turkish haven't been translated because when he writes in English Davudoglu says Turkey wants to be everyone's friend, but in the Turkish version he makes clear that his goal is to be friends with those who hate the West. Davudoglu's appointment completes the AK party's conquest of the Foreign Ministry, another institution that hates Islamism.

And so with electoral victories; advancing control over Turkey's bureaucracy, military and society; and Western complaisance, the regime has become continually bolder.

Read the whole thing here.

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4 comments: said...

Regime change is needed in Turkey. If the US didn't have a Muslim pres, maybe America could liberate Turkey from its Nazi regime

Freedom Fighter said...

I think it would be far more productive for the Turks to do it themselves if they desire to do so.

Also, to be fair I think President Obama's religion is basically self-worship.


louielouie said...

what i don't understand is the pending transfer/sale of UAVs from the joos to the ra........ ra....... islamic radicals who now control turkey.
the turks say the sale will go through.
the joos are quiet.

Freedom Fighter said...

Oh, I don't think it's going to happen. The Turks have already canceled a couple of other contracts for Israeli purchases...I doubt they expect to be able to buy arms from Israel now!