• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Turkey's Dangerous Turn Against the West

    Turkey may no longer be the friend the United States once knew.

    The Washington Post reports that thousands gathered in Istanbul on Saturday, shouting “Damn Israel!” in protest of the clash between Israeli forces and “peace activists” on a Turkish-flagged ship. The protest, together with dangerous shifts in Turkey’s foreign policy and inflammatory rhetoric from its prime minister, lead to questions about the country’s posture toward the West. The Washington Post reports:

    The incident occurred as Turkey has been strengthening ties with Muslim governments in the region — becoming more vocally pro-Palestinian and trying to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran.

    That has prompted worried speculation at home and abroad: Is Turkey turning away from the West?

    This is not a new concern. In April 2009, President Barack Obama traveled to Turkey and highlighted the country as a Muslim nation that respects democracy and the rule of law, but as The Heritage Foundation’s Ariel Cohen wrote at the time, the president’s remarks may have been an overstatement. Cohen noted that the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) had a stranglehold on power and “appears to be moving Turkey away from its pro-Western and pro-American orientation to a more Middle Eastern and Islamist one.”

    Cohen wrote that Turkey in 2006 became the first NATO member to host the leader of Hamas (a terrorist organization, according to the United States and the EU) and “enthusiastically” hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Turkey also temporarily blocked U.S. warships from delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia, was cool to the U.S. withdrawing forced from Iraq through Turkey, and made moves to strengthen its relationship with Russia.

    Then there’s Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has developed close ties with Ahmadinejad and openly attacked Israeli President Shimon Peres, while AKP and other Islamists “sponsored a flood of anti-Israel demonstrations, billboards and anti-Semetic rhetoric.” Erdogan also questioned calls for Iran not to produce nuclear weapons and, together with Brazil, Turkey attempted to derail U.S.-led UN sanctions against Iran. Most recently, it has been reported that Erdogan is “a hero to Palestinians for his vociferous verbal attacks on Israel” and has criticized western nations for not dealing with Hamas.

    Turkey’s involvement in the flotilla incident jives with the country’s alarming turn away from the West. The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano writes:

    Turkey not only knowing allowed the confrontation to be organized from Turkish soil, it did everything possible to exploit the incident. The Turkish Foreign Minister declared, “this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey.”

    This is the same government that has turned a blind eye to the crushing of independent voices in Iran and has moved to block sanctions intended to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

    And as Carafano notes, that provokes the questions “Why are we are losing Turkey?” and “What will happen if Turkey is lost?”:

    The consequences of that are pretty not pretty. Phased and adaptive missile defense will be less of both without Turkish cooperation. Iran will be more unbound. Israel will feel more isolated. NATO will be further weakened.

    The Washington Post explains Turkey’s turn in foreign policy as rooted in a desire to expand business ties and become a regional player. It underemphasizes, though, the geopolitical and extremist religious roots of Turkey’s massive shift in foreign policy — the neo-Ottoman attempts to recreate a Turkish sphere of influence in the Middle East, and the AKP Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy to build an Islamic state.

    Whatever the cause of Turkey’s turn away from the West, it comes at the expense of U.S. interests and reveals weaknesses – if not a failure – in Washington’s Middle East policy.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Turkey's Dangerous Turn Against the West

    1. West Texan says:

      It's all too tragic. Seems like one middle eastern country after another is headed for a dark age of Islamic subjugation. Although the 1920s fascist inspired Muslim Brotherhood provided the evil seed, Khomeini's 1979 overthrow of Iran seem to be the roots undermining civilized normalcy in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions. Today's Islamic revivalists have since gone international with their ideological insanity. My message to these Islamist extremist, Don't Mess with Turkey!

    2. K. B. Mason, Virgini says:

      Turkey has strong connections with Europe and has continued to press for support to join the European Union. It is quite possible they felt that not enough support for their desires was forthcoming. As Iran stands at the brink of becoming the strongest regional power, a nuclear power, they may be looking at future security and economic strategies which provide better access to the markets as Iran capitalizes on their oil exports and the new Russian and Iranian exchanges for future development. I believe we can regain the advantage by stronger support for their E.U. bid, and expanding trade programs that will allow their secular based military to maintain a steady strain as they balance their Islamic leaning governments new outreaches to regional players. We need to help their secular oriented leadership gain more influence by providing the tools they will need to improve future economic benefits of being pro-west, as nurtured by a renewed foreign policy initiative to develop their ties with Europe and the US to a greater extent.

    3. Mark says:

      How is that the idea is been spinned in the Pro-Jewish media that anyone who does not agree with Israels actions of murder and violation of international rules and norm is not been WESTERN,

      so Israel reperesent west in the ME, if so is that the west is all about,?

      this idea is of Turkey is turning its back to west is wrong, Turkey is the Bridge between east and west and bridge with one strong leg do not hold up very long

    4. Joe le taxi says:

      Barack Obama is directly responsible for the dangerous downturn in global affairs. In his haste to embrace the most extreme Arab states, he brushed aside US allies like Israel, S.Korea, and some of the moderate Arab regimes such as Egypt and Jordan. He demonstrated weakness vs. Iran, failed to make any requirements from the Palestinians while attacking Israel, bowed down to the Saudi king in a disgusting gesture and was silent about N.Korea's provocations. As a result we lost Turkey and more moderate Arab regimes will follow; Russia, China and Iran no longer worry about our response; our allies no longer trust us; and we essentially lost the war on terror once we stopped supporting democracy and justice and went kissing leaders of dark, fanatic regimes. When Israel will defend itself against this wave of fanatic Islam, the Middle East will burn, and the whole world will be affected. Next time, we need to elect an American for office.

    5. West Texan says:

      Mason, the EU has enough problems dealing with current member states. Turkey would be just one more headache in the mix of loose back room deals.

      Mark, blockades and/or boarding parties prior to entering a sovereign country's coastal waters is not a new phenomenon. Such maritime security is practiced by many nations around the globe. These measures are especially justified when hostilities exist. This has been the case with Israel.

    6. Pingback: Turkey – turning away from the West or rebalancing its priorities? | Key Posts | Global Dashboard

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×