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 Erdogan as party boss, things have taken a stark turn for the worse.
Under the stewardship of an increasingly unbalanced Erdogan, 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 Erdogan 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.
Erdogan’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 Erdogan 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 Erdogan 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.
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