America, Turkey and a misguided foreign policy

It should be remembered that until recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported Islamic State (ISIS) against Syria’s Bashar Assad, before it turned against him.

July 23, 2016 21:46
4 minute read.
Man sits in front of Turkish flag

Man sits in front of Turkish flag hours after coup in Turkey thwarted. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Friday night’s failed coup was Turkey’s last hope to stop the Islamization of its government...Reflexively, Western leaders rushed to condemn a coup attempt they refused to understand. Their reward will be a toxic Islamist regime at the gates of Europe.’ – US Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters

The mainstream account of American foreign policy in the Middle East over the past seven years is that the Obama administration has taken a hands-off, more isolationist approach, extricating America from its misguided entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In reality the president chartered a well thought-out agenda to profoundly reshape the whole Middle East, realigning relationships, redefining American interests, while endangering the fragile balance between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, Sunnis and Shi’ites. To most observers, American influence and interests have been undermined and weakened in the region.

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A combustible combination was created, siding with Shi’ite non-Arab Persian Iran over Sunni Arab and non-Arab Muslims. Within the Sunni world, the president chose Islamist Sunni leaders affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt over an authoritarian pro-American dictator, while in Turkey we supported with acquiescence the Islamization of the eastern flank of NATO, undermining our security interests.

It should be remembered that until recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported Islamic State (ISIS) against Syria’s Bashar Assad, before it turned against him.

We choose to ignore the growing authoritarian and contradictory anti-Western choices of President Erdogan.

The Islamist Turkish regime under Erdogan grew more authoritarian by undermining and weakening the independent judiciary, police, media, opposition leaders, journalists and secular military leaders, intimidating them, imprisoning them and replacing them with like-minded Islamists.

So when the coup was in its infancy, it was no surprise that the administration immediately sided with the “democratically” elected Muslim Brotherhood-like government of President Erdogan.

Mainstream journalists also misread the situation, thinking that a military coup in 2016 would be similar to a secular military coup of the 1980s. Too many seemed to be totally unaware that Erdogan had eviscerated the army of its secular leadership, making an Islamist coup as likely as a 20th-century-style secular Turkish generals’ coup.

So while I was listening to National Public Radio’s coverage of US Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Russia, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Syrian situation, I was startled to hear Kerry’s response to the question about Middle East hot spots.

The Turkish coup was a day away, but the first thing he said about the instability in the Middle East had to do with Palestine and Israel.

Palestine and Israel? Are you kidding? Genocide reigns in Syria, Iran is abrogating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), you are clueless about what is about to happen in Turkey, while Yemen, Iraq and Libya are magnitudes of order more precarious and threatening to the worldwide proliferation of terrorism, yet Israel is the first thing you speak about as a hot spot in the Middle East? To this administration the key stumbling block to regional stability is Israeli intransigence. Israel remains relevant only as a scapegoat to deflect attention from the hideous behavior within the Muslim world and worldwide Islamist terrorism, while focusing on Israel allows the Europeans to appease their discontented growing Muslim minorities by blaming Israel for all of their ills that they are too afraid to confront.

Kerry, like most of the Obama administration, is still wedded to the antiquated concept that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important issue of the Muslim and Arab world. How wrong and dangerous for American national security interests. If there were no Israel, Sunni-Shi’ite hatreds, international terrorism and the massacres and genocides would still be occurring.

The administration’s myopic view of the region ignores these realties, making common cause with Russia over Syria, in effect stabilizing the genocidal Assad regime, and empowering Hezbollah and Iran.

If a Palestinian state is to be created as part of a two-state solution, that solution must include genuine security for America’s indispensable ally Israel – security from the animosity of a people that has been nursed on anti-Semitism and sacred vows never to coexist peacefully with non-Muslims in the Middle East.

Yet Kerry’s statement is no slip of the tongue. He has already conceded a Palestinian state before an international audience that is just waiting for American legitimization at the United Nations this fall.

So while Assad besieges Aleppo’s 300,000 civilians, and Turkey balances on the edge, the administration remains focused on untying the Gordian knot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What they should be doing is repairing American bridges to the Sunni world, and reshaping the Turkish Islamist government’s relationship to Washington, beginning with reconciling Israel and the Sunni world over shared interests.

Instead, the president and John Kerry have in effect thrown America’s lot with Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Assad, and any regime aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

And I thought the Donald and Hillary show was scary.

The author is the director MEPIN™ (, read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

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