Turkey bidding for greater influence in Middle East
By Shoshana Bryen
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Turkey and Brazil announced they have “brokered” a “deal” to bring some percentage of Iranian LEU (Low Enriched Uranium) to Turkey. The “deal” is a fraud-without knowing how much uranium Iran has, you cannot know how much it “lent” to Turkey and how much remains in its weapons program. And knowing that Iran has lied about every single stage of its nuclear program, we will assume it is lying about this stage as well.
So much for Iran.
But there is something compelling about a country that looks at its position, determines its interests, and changes course to achieve new objectives. Turkey has done that.
Let us be clear: we don’t have to like the direction or the choices; we don’t have to support them; and we don’t think the United States should treat Turkey as if it hadn’t made those choices. That was one reason we wrote-and strongly believe-that the Congress of the United States is the wrong place to parse and judge someone else’s history. Our Armenian friends entirely misunderstood-we were neither denying nor denigrating their history. But Congress has to be about the present and, more important, about the future. Our ongoing irritation with our Congress and our Administration is that they find it easier to pronounce on a past for which they are not responsible than to deal with present circumstances.
For the moment, it may be easier but it is shortsighted in the extreme.
After decades of resolutely secular, pro-Western economic and security policy, during which it was resolutely rejected by Europe, the Turkish government, specifically the AKP, surveyed the landscape in the absence of the Soviet Union and the apparent decline of the United States and decided to stop banging its head against a closed European door. Turkey, in their view, didn’t have to be the stepchild of Europe; it has a strong military, a good economy in regional terms and historic interests.
Turkey certainly will not give up the benefits bestowed by NATO membership and is unlikely to do anything to hamper its economic ties to the West. It is unlikely to actually sever ties with Israel while there are still benefits to be had. It simply has added new portfolios, Muslim portfolios. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are all Turkic, all Muslim, all post-Soviet and all amenable to leadership from Ankara (although the coup in Kyrgyzstan was a setback).
New military relations with Syria and Russia, increased political relations with Iran, the hosting of Hamas leadership and increasingly strident rhetoric are signs of Turkey’s belief that it can do as it pleases, at least in the region.
There are those who believe Turkey is aiming to re-establish the old Ottoman Empire and others who think the goal is restoration of the Caliphate. Maybe, or maybe it is just opportunistic push back. In any case, the result is likely to be inimical to American and Western interests.
We have two thoughts: Turkey’s future choices in the region will be much more important to the United States than any possible benefit of looking backwards at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Was that only one thought? Yes, it was one thought about Turkey. The second thought is about the United States.
The Turks stopped begging Europe for entry and considered their options; the United States should do no less. The clock cannot be turned back to 1948 any more than to 1915. The Obama Administration should stop begging the Palestinians to let us force Israel to manufacture a small, kleptocratic, dictatorial, terrorist-sponsoring welfare regime wedged in between two of our regional allies. Stop trying to create “two states” where three governing bodies currently exist with no likely mergers.
Stop blaming Israel for American difficulties in the region that have nothing to do with it.
Face the issues of perceived American inability to deal with radical Islamic ideology and the wars it engenders and deal with them. Face the fact that radical Islamic ideology is, at its core, forward looking-not a slap at the past, but a belief in the Islamic future. Turkey and “the Stans” are in that mix. So are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and, increasingly, the failed states of Africa. Russia and China are heavily involved, and not necessarily on our side.
As with the congressional fixation on the Ottomans to the exclusion of the Turkish future, it is easier for the Administration to keep pounding on Israel for its alleged intransigence than to accept that the “peace process” is over and serious American interests for the future lie elsewhere.
It is equally shortsighted.
Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.
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