By Gene Rossides
Turkey’s verbal attacks and actions against Israel give an important opportunity to the Greek American community: (1) to seek a critical review of U.S.-Turkey relations by the Congress and Executive Branch; and (2) to show why Greece and Cyprus are more important than Turkey to the U.S. and Israel.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s numerous and virulent attacks on Israel; the breach of the Israel-Turkey military arrangement; the disinviting of Israel to the annual “Anatolian Eagle” NATO air force exercise in Turkey; the joint Turkey-Syria forces “maneuvers near Ankara,” and the high level Turkey-Syria ministers meetings in Syria in October 2009; provide the Greek and Armenian American communities with an opportunity to have a critical review of U.S.-Turkey relations and to place economic, political, military and diplomatic pressure on Turkey.
Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading foreign affairs lobby group, have been the major supporters of Turkey in the U.S. since at least 1996 when the Israel-Turkey military arrangement began. Initiated in 1996 during the Clinton administration by Vice President Gore’s office, it was not in the interests of the U.S., Greece or Cyprus. According to Professor Amos Perlmutter, who spoke at an American Hellenic Institute noon forum, it provided jobs for Israel’s defense industry and arms enhancement for Turkey and was not aimed at Greece. The Cold War was over. We did not and do not need a militaristic Turkey.
The military arrangement should be formally ended for a number of reasons. It was harmful to Greece, Cyprus and Armenia. In demonstrated support of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus; support of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christian genocides; support of Turkey’s violations of the human and political rights of its Kurdish minority; and support of Turkey’s numerous violations of religious freedom and seizures of church property.
Turkey’s military relations with Israel and relations generally have worsened since Erdogan’s insulting public attack on Israeli President Shimon Peres at Davos in January 2009. Erdogan’s rhetoric and actions against Israel have escalated since Davos.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, in a Jerusalem Post article, Oct. 28, 2009, pointed “to the profound change of orientation by Turkey’s government – for six decades the West’s closest Muslim ally – since Erdogan’s AK party came to power in 2002.” That orientation has shifted to Muslim nations and the East, particularly Iran and Syria.
Pipes refers to Turkey as “an ally no more” and cites three recent examples in his article. The first was on Oct. 11, 2009, when the Turkish military “abruptly asked Israeli forces not to participate in the annual ‘Anatolian Eagle’ air force exercise.”
Secondly, Pipes cites Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s announcement on Oct. 13, 2009 that Turkish and Syrian forces had just “carried out maneuvers near Ankara.”
Thirdly, “ten Turkish ministers, led by Foreign Minister Davutoglu, joined their Syrian counterparts on Oct. 13 for talks under the auspices of the just-established ‘Turkey-Syria High Level Strategic Cooperation Council.’ The ministers announced having signed almost 40 agreements…and that the two countries’ leaders would sign a strategic agreement in November.”
Pipes points out that Turkey’s strategy “to enhance relations with regional and Muslim states” comes from the strategy “enunciated by Davutoglu in his influential 2000 book, Strategic Depth: Turkey’s International Position.”
Pipes also cites Barry Rubin of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya that “the Israel-Turkey alliance is over,” and that “Turkey’s armed forces no longer guard the secular republic and can no longer intervene if the government becomes too Islamist.” Also Rubin notes, “The Turkish government is closer politically to Iran and Syria than to the United States and Israel.”
Pipes further cites Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post columnist, who goes further: Ankara has already “left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.”
Congress has a key role to play
The Congress has a key role to play, The House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees should hold hearings on a critical review of U.S.-Turkey relations to reevaluate the relationship based on realism and the facts.
Oversight hearings should be held on the Executive Branch’s dealings with Turkey.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees should also be involved. The appropriations for State and Defense and NSC should be scrutinized regarding those parts dealing with Turkey. No monies should be appropriated for any bilateral efforts with Turkey, until Turkey meets certain conditions.
Greece, Cyprus and Turkey
Greece and Cyprus should take positive steps to enhance their relations with Israel in view of Turkey’s rhetoric and actions against Israel. More on that in a future op-ed with some specific suggestions.
*** Gene Rossides is founder of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury