By Gene Rossides
Erdoganʼs outburst at Davos
The recent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic outburst by Turkeyʼs Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his attack on Israel and Israeli President Simon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calls for a thorough review by the Obama/Biden administration of U.S.-Turkey relations.
At Davos, Erdogan engaged in a verbal assault on Perez regarding Israelʼs response to Hamasʼ rocket attacks on Israel and then walked out of the meeting. On his return to Turkey he was greeted enthusiastically. Turkish elections are scheduled for the end of March.
Erdoganʼs theatrics demonstrate vividly that U.S. and Turkish views on important matters do not coincide and that Turkey is an unreliable ally. Turkeyʼs apologists in the State Department, the NSC and elsewhere should take note.
Turkey—a disloyal ally
In past administrations officials would refer to Turkey as “our long-time loyal ally” during the Cold War and thereafter. Such comments, routinely made were and are blatantly false and misleading. I have documented that during the Cold War decades Turkey on several occasions, actively aided the Soviet Unionʼs military to the detriment of U.S. interests. Examples include:
• During the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, Moscowʼs overflights of Turkish airspace were tolerated while Turkey refused to allow the U.S. refueling and reconnaissance facilities during the American airlift to Israel.
• In the 1977-78 conflict in Ethiopia, Turkey granted the Soviets military overflight rights to supply the pro-Soviet Ethiopian communists under Colonel Mengistu, who eventually prevailed.
• Over U.S. and NATO objections, Turkey allowed three Soviet aircraft carriers, the Kiev on July 18, 1976, the Minsk on February 25, 1979 and the Novorosiisk on May 16, 1983, passage rights through the Bosphorous and Dardanelles Straits into the Mediterranean in violation of the Montreux Convention of 1936. The Soviet ships posed a formidable threat to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter
Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the respected CATO Institute stated it clearly when he said:
“The conventional wisdom in American foreign policy circles regarding Turkey asserts a number of propositions:
First, that Turkey has been a loyal ally of the United States since the earliest days of the Cold War and remains a loyal ally.
Second, that Turkey is a force for stability in the Middle East and Central Asia in addition to its role within NATO and European affairs.
Third, that Turkey is basically a Western secular country.
Fourth, Turkey is a good candidate that should be admitted to the European Union in the near future.
Iʼm going to argue that every one of those assumptions is either partially false or totally false.
First, is Turkey a loyal ally of the United States? Well if that was ever true, itʼs not true any longer. It is certainly not true with regard to the Iraq mission in 2003.
Second, is Turkey a force for stability in the Middle East? I donʼt think that has ever been true. You have fairly obvious things like the invasion of Cyprus in 1974… the ongoing claims to Greek territory in the Aegean and the provocative overflights by Turkish planes….the economic blockade of Armenia.
Third, is Turkey a Westernized, secular country? If anything the trend appears to be in the opposite direction under the guidance of the governing Justice and Development Party.
Fourth, is Turkey a good candidate that should be admitted to the EU in the near future? Turkey shows signs of becoming an increasingly bizarre and intolerant cauldron of populist nationalism. Itʼs difficult to reconcile that Turkey with a worthy candidate for admission to the European Union…To be very polite about it, Turkeyʼs bid to join the E.U. is decidedly premature….”
“Extortion in the name of alliance”
On March 1, 2003, Turkeyʼs parliament voted not to allow the U.S. to use Incerlik Air Force base and Turkish territory to open a second front against the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. The U.S. had irresponsibly offered 26 billion dollars to Turkey to allow use of its territory to open a second front. Turkeyʼs prime minister then asked for $6 billion more to change the vote! A U.S. Treasury Department negotiator called it “extortion in the name of alliance.” The U.S. refused and the U.S. 4th mechanized division which had been on ships in the Eastern Mediterranean had to be sent to Kuwait to enter Iraq from the south.
Turkey—an anti-Christian country
Turkey is an anti-Christian nation. In the twentieth century Turkey committed genocides against its Armenian and Greek Christian populations killing over 1.5 million Armenian Christians and 350,000 Pontian Greek Christians from 1915-1923. An exchange of populations with Greece resulted in one million Greeks being removed from Turkey to Greece and 400,000 Turks from Greece to Turkey.
One hundred thousand Greek Orthodox Christians were allowed to remain in Istanbul under the agreement. However in September 1955 Turkey initiated a massive program against the Greek Christians in Istanbul which resulted in most of them leaving Turkey. Today only a few thousand elderly Greek Christians remain in Istanbul.
Turkeyʼs anti-Christian actions against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the world-wide head of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, are well-known and have been documented in many places including before the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress by Archbishop Demetrios and others.
Turkeyʼs U.S. lobbyists/foreign agents
Turkey has relied for decades on U.S. lobbyists particularly former members of Congress, as paid foreign agents of Turkey registered with the Department of Justice. Currently former Democratic Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey are paid U.S. foreign agents for Turkey. They are paid over a million dollars each.
In accordance with the Obama/Biden campaign statements on lobbyists, the Obama/Biden administration should refuse to see, talk or deal with Gephardt, Armey or their colleagues in any way.
Obama/Biden national security team needs to critically review and revise the U.S. policy of appeasement towards Turkey
In October 2008 the Obama/Biden campaign issued a disappointing campaign statement regarding Turkey which reads as if it had been written by Turkeyʼs lobbyists. See www.barackobama.com.
Prime Minister Erdoganʼs actions these past few years culminating in his anti Israel and anti –Semitic actions at the Davos World Economic Forum call for an end to the present appeasement policy towards Turkey.
The Turkish military and the Turkish political leaders are responsible for Turkeyʼs aggression and occupation in Cyprus, for Turkeyʼs threats in the Aegean, for threats against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and for the horrendous treatment of itʼs Kurdish minority.
The U.S. in its own interests should call for:
1. the withdrawal of the aggressorʼs military forces on Cyprus; the demilitarization of Cyprus and return of the 180,000 illegal settlers in Cyprus in violation of the Geneva Convention;
2. autonomy for the 20% Kurdish minority—between 15 and 20 million Kurds;
3. the immediate return to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of the several thousand properties illegally take from it and the immediate opening of the Halki Theological School illegally closed in 1971.
4. a halt to Turkeyʼs provocations in the Aegean Sea; and
5. the Congress to pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and the Pontian Genocide and compensation for the victims.
The need to use diplomatic, economic and political pressure including sanctions and the withdrawal of benefits if Turkey does not cooperate
To get Turkey to act as a responsible member of the international community will require more than words. Unless the Obama/Biden administration is willing to apply adequate diplomatic, economic and political pressure on Turkey to cooperate, there is little hope of progress. The pressure should include sanctions, withdrawal of benefits and no high level visits to Turkey or from Turkey until there is specific progress on the several issues with Turkey.
Dr. Carpenter urged the following in his remarks on July 16, 2008, commemorating the 34th year of Turkeyʼs aggression and occupation in Cyprus:
“Now what specifically should Washington do? First of all, there should be a very blunt statement from the highest level…to Ankara that a close relationship between Turkey and the United States is impossible without major Turkish concessions on the Cyprus issue. Without that, we can have only an armsʼ length correct and rather frosty relationship.
Second, U.S. leaders should make it clear that the United States will do nothing to encourage the European Union to proceed with Turkeyʼs desire for membership unless and until Ankaraʼs policy regarding Cyprus undergoes a radical, constructive change.”
President Obama has spoken eloquently regarding the application of the rule of law and human rights in international affairs. Call on him to demonstrate his sincerity by ending the decades of appeasement of Turkey and by applying the rule of law to Turkey.
Gene Rossides, founder of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.