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  • Turkey’s New Threat Assessment: A Challenge for Washington

    Turkey’s dramatic announcement that it revised the list of countries which it believes threatens its national security (a list alternatively known as the “Red Book”) confirms Ankara’s strategic drift away from the West and greater embrace of Iran and other states hostile to the U.S.

    Turkey’s top-secret national security policy document (known by its Turkish abbreviation MGSB), or the Red Book, lists Turkey’s perceived domestic and external threats. It is regularly updated by the National Security Council, formerly chaired by a general, but as of recently under the control of the ruling Islamist AK Party (AKP).

    Under the AKP, the “Red Book” just underwent its most drastic changes since the document was first issued in 1980. These alterations, which are established behind closed doors, prove the ascent of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s “neo-Ottoman” geopolitical approach  and the continuation of a staunchly anti-Israeli foreign policy.

    The newest version, leaked to the pro-government media, is revolutionary. Turkey has removed Russia, which in 2008 occupied one-quarter of its neighbor and friend Georgia’s territory, from its list of critical threats. Earlier, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his counterpart Vladimir Putin a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform”, a condominium that would include Russia and the three South Caucasus states, but not the U.S., EU member states, or Iran—without consulting or even warning Washington or European capitals.

    Instead, over the least eight years, Turkey and Russia developed a strategic and energy partnerships, which provide Turkey with over 60 percent of its energy, and extensive trade ties. Turkey also removed its neighbor Armenia from the list of adversaries, despite the ongoing blockade of Armenia’s border.

    Along with Russia, Turkey removed Iraq and Syria from the list. Iraq is unstable and is a base for Kurdish irredentism and PKK, al-Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah terrorism, while Syria is a long-time state sponsor of terrorism, including Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Iran, with its highly suspicious nuclear program, a ballistic missile arsenal, vitriolic rhetoric denying Israel’s right to exist, and propaganda aimed against the United States, has allegedly been removed from Turkey’s list of critical threats.  his new list, combined with Turkey’s proposed partnership with Iran and Brazil to facilitate Iran’s uranium enrichment, and Turkey’s vote against U.N. anti-Iranian sanctions indicate Ankara choice of Iran as a preferred partner and ally,

    Finally, Turkey has put the former strategic and trade partner Israel at the forefront of the list as a “severe threat.” Turkish-Israeli relations have been in a steep decline since Prime Minister Erdogan’s verbal assault on the dovish Israeli elder statesman, President Shimon Peres at the Davos World Economic Summit in January 2009. Unfortunately, in May, 2010, the AKP government supported the Islamist IHH organization’s flotilla in support of Hamas in Gaza. A botched Israeli action against the MEVI MARMARA, the lead ship of the flotilla, in which nine Turkish pro-Palestinian Islamists were killed after attacking the Israeli force, gave Turkey a pretext to quickly unravel the carefully weaved ties with Israel. Recently, according to Turkish and Israeli media reports, Hakan Fidan, Director of MIT, Turkey’s intelligence service, ordered to cease cooperation with Mossad, Israeli foreign intelligence. There are indications Turkey is expanding cooperation with Iran.

    The addition of Israel to the “Red Book,” coupled with Turkey’s allegation that Israel’s actions may prompt a Middle Eastern arms race, delivered a decisive blow to what remained of Turkish-Israeli relations. Turkey showed its hostility to staunch US ally Israel with other measures as well – a “strategic partnership” between Turkey and Syria, and Ankara’s alleged military supply agreement with Hezbollah.

    During last week’s discussions over a new NATO missile defense shield, Ankara demanded that non-NATO members (primarily Israel) could have no access to intelligence gained through the missile shield’s radar system, to which the U.S. reportedly agreed.

    Turkey’s contributions to the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns and desire to be a part of NATO missile defense program are laudable, but many questions have been raised about Turkey foreign policy since the AKP has taken over. Regardless of Davutoglu’s stated goals, such as “zero problems with neighbors,” the new Turkish foreign policy is distancing Turkey’s long time friends and creating a challenge and a headache for the U.S.

    The Obama Administration should express a grave concern over Turkey’s foreign policy trajectory, as relations with Iran and Israeli have become a litmus test for Turkish foreign policy course. The U.S. Government should offer incentives, but should also apply more pressure to deter Turkey from growing closer to Iran. Washington should insist on a Turkish-Israeli rapprochement—including the vital intelligence sharing regarding the Iranian threat. This is a strategic priority the White House cannot ignore.

    Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Turkey’s New Threat Assessment: A Challenge for Washington

    1. Brian, Norfolk, VA says:

      It appears that Turkey's leadership is convinced that Iran will be allowed to build nuclear weapons. Turkey is siding with the perceived "power" in its neighborhood.

      • Bulent says:

        No!!! Turkey is siding with its own national interests and against the 'Undeclared Terrorist Zionist State' PERIOD. This article is a sham written presumably by yet another ZIonist Propagandist "Ariel Cohen" (?)

    2. Washington DC says:

      This is a result of very bad policy making by the US.

      It is an habit of our policy makers to provide blank check to Israel for every action they take, including killing of citizens of a NATO member country on "international waters". This is imply what Turks see, clear and simple.

      And this is just the beginning. Turks have just started punishing their NATO allies for lack of support we provided after the incident, particularly following the UN report accusing Israel as sole responsible party for the incident.

      We need to be careful, and not go after Turkey any further. Otherwise, other important American interest depending on Turkish support will be lost starting from Incirlik AB. If yuo do not believe me, remember that following Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus 1974, the US had implemented an arms embargo, which resulted of closure of all US bases by Turkey but the Incirlik, which is actually a Turkish base used by the NATO (US).

      If Turks feel like they are screwed by their oldest NATO ally the US, did anyone believe that they will be willing to help us on missile defense?

      This is another after-the-fact price we pay for Israel's actions, effecting our own national security fundamentally.

      If it was not all the Jewish intellectuals like Mr Cohen, who have allegiance to Israel first, the US would have sided with Turkey, not only in ethical grounds but also to make sure what is the primary interest of American people takes place.

      Oh ! By the way. Stop accusing me with being anti-Semitic, I say nothing bad about Jews as people.:)

    3. Don Harper says:

      Israeli action against the MEVI MARMARA may have been botched and certainly was unfortunate, but their hand was forced. They could not allow that flotilla to land in Palestinian territory without searching the cargo. I have no doubt that the result is exactly what the pro-Palestinians wanted, and Israel played right into their hands.

    4. ted................. says:

      Its time to confront the Zionists all over the world and defeat them.

    5. James (USA) says:

      "Turkey is siding with the perceived “power” in its neighborhood."

      Actually, Turks will own Iran in a couple of days if they wanted to. Turks do have an amazing military, and Iran knows it.

    6. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      The Russians are symbolized by the Bear. Bears hibernate, and as it proved out in the Putin Administration, Russians hibernate. They have lulled Americans to sleep with their fake Democracy, the Russians are still pursuing their Cold War with America. Take Iran as the perfect example: Giving Iran nuclear technology (known sponsors of Terrorism) and now Venezuela? I'm sorry! I don't buy this Obama-baloney. Obama gets his support in America almost exclusively from Communist orgs. Our Foreign Policy is to give up! (But talk a good game!)

      Ask me Obama is a Domestic Enemy because he is a Third Generation Communist! Obama has filled the White House with Third Generation Communists. The Cold War is not over! Glenn Beck is right! Representation in America has been usurped and Communist violence is coming to your town, and soon!

      Turkey is another Foreign Policy Failure and NATO is weaker for it. I am descended from the Mayflower, and a blue blood American! So I'm calling it! Obama is a Traitor, there is no getting around that! It expresses itself in virtually everything he does. The new Treaties are all against American Interests! Obama is trading away our Sovereignty! Meanwhile, they let China corner the market on Rare Earths. State Socialism is illegal in America, but look what they want and what they promote!

    7. Linda P. says:

      I agree with James…Turkey is second only to the USA in NATO's military might…..Iran is well aware of that…perhaps because Turkey conscripts their young men who are proud to serve and that results in a matter of national pride that Iran will never have…. but Turkey is in a precarious position,,,,trying to balance it's position in the Middle East-Arab neighborhood and also with it's Western allies and our use of the base at Incirlik…If I remember correctly, Turkey hesitated and blocked our entry when the US wanted to approach Iraq through Turkey from the North…but that put Turkey in a position of being seen as agreeing with the USA invading Iraq….something that would be frowned upon in the Arab and Muslim world….Turkey want's to keep the peace because they want to be accepted into the European Union…that won't happen if they meddle in Iran and the Middle Easts squabbles….they are trying to remain neutral, but when Turkish citizens were killed in the flotilla fiasco…they had to get involved to defend her people and not look weak to the Middle Eastern neighbors…I also agree with Mr. Harper….Isreal played right into the hands of the pro-Palestinians…Isreal has a right to defend herself…but maybe they need to go about it in a different manner. I don't know what it will take…the US policies ans involvement is only looked upon as interferance and support for Isreal……in reality, Turkey, Isreal, and the Middle East-Arab world are in a no win situation…until they honorably agree on peaceful compromise….for the good of all.

    8. Shalom Freedman says:

      Turkey is moving away from alliance with the democratic West, and in the direction of alliance with the Islamists. It is cancelling the secular revolution of Ataturk and making a counter- revolution towards being an Islamic state. This is bad news for the U.S. and the West, and especially bad news for Israel.

      There does not seem to be a real possibility of turning things in the other direction, as the Erdogan government continues to increase its hold on centers of power in Turkey.

      The Turks by the way were not innocent in the flotilla incident but rather government money and support was behind the terrorists who attacked the Israeli soldiers.

      Again all this is very worrisome. I do not believe in the end it will be good for the Turkish people as a whole.

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    10. Mehmet Sultan says:

      It is true that Erdogan is making Turkey more islamist against Ataturk's vision which is evident in Turkish revolution. However, it doesn't mean that secular people of Turkey are supporting Israel or U.S. against policies of Erdogan. Anti-imperialism is in the heart of Turkish revolution and that is why secular people of Turkey are against 99% of Israeli and U.S. policies in the region which aim either making people of the region slaves of their imperialist ambitions (promised lands for Israel and oil for U.S.) or kill them. These objectives are so clear for the experienced people of region that usage of nice words such as democracy and freedom can't shadow them (which is unfortunately the case in the west looking at the re-election of the governments who started and supported the wars).

    11. Moshe says:

      Turkey is a bully state. (Shame)

      It has planed the MEVI MARMARA to Bully Israel.

      Its time to put Turkey in the right place.(like Iran).

    12. Turkiye is no turkey says:

      1. The article is biased and pro Zionist.

      2. I wonder why all article publised in US media is pro Zionist.

      3. The Türkiye people are fed up with the childish behaviour of Israel. Nobody in the world is allowed to kill a Türkiye Citizen. No matter what the circumstances are.

      Israel killed nine of them. Cowardly. It has nothing to do with Islam. It is a national proud thing. The last time Türkiye Citizens were killed was in Cyprus, from 1960 – 1974. After 28 hours in 1974 half of the Island was freed from the terrorist greek junta.

      Turkiye will never forget who killed us. The military, secularist, kurds and all other groups are supporting Erdogan in this case.

      Make no mistake, you cannot divide and conquer Türkiye.

    13. GeberEmi says:

      Why don't you just try Moshe! Israel has only an air force on par with Turkey, everything else Turkey is superior especially Navy and even more so in a few years time when Milgem Project has matured. All of Israel's sophisticated equipment does not provide a big enough advantage over an army and navy which in sheer size is much bigger and offcourse which isn't doing that bad in the technology department either. If you want to hurt Turkey, you do via economy but nowadays Turkey deals so much more with the east, any western effort for economic blackmail will be limited in its effects! Long live Erdogan, down will Extremism, down with Kemalists, down with Armenians and Greeks. Long live Pan-Turkism mixed with moderate Islam. To hell with those who hide the sinister motives behind "democracy"!

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