Turkish flag 311 (R).
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
How can one explain the reticence of the US and other Western powers in the face
of Turkey’s aggressive declarations? On Saturday night, Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign
minister of Turkey, a country that is a member of NATO and a candidate to join
the EU, threatened to launch a military offensive against Israel, an important
Turkey would not “stay unresponsive” to an Israeli aggression
against any Muslim country, Davutoglu said, according to the Istanbul-based
daily Hurriyet, in response to Israel’s reported air strike on an arms convoy
inside Syria. If those are not fighting words, what are? On Sunday, meanwhile,
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept up the heat claiming Israel
has “a mentality of waging state terrorism.”
Israeli officials, speaking
off record to The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon, rightly
noted Ankara’s “brazen hypocrisy.”
Erdogan and Davutoglu have no qualms
taking Israel to task for a “crime” that Turkey itself is guilty of
Have the two men forgotten that just last October, after
Syrian shelling killed five Turkish civilians, Turkish military forces fired
salvos at Syria? Or that Ankara actively supports Syrian opposition forces?
Southern Turkey has in recent months become a launch pad for the smuggling of
crucial supplies across the border into Syria, including weapons, communications
gear, field hospitals and even salaries for soldiers who defect.
for Ankara is taken as an inalienable right to self-defense becomes “state
terrorism” when applied to Israel. Indeed, anytime the Jewish state resorts to
force to protect itself, Erdogan is quick to issue denunciations, whether those
on the receiving end are Turkey’s close allies, such as Hamas terrorists in
Gaza, or foes, such as Syria’s repressive military forces.
nearly all media reports, last Wednesday’s purported Israeli air strike targeted
a Syrian convoy that was trying to smuggle into Hezbollah-controlled southern
Lebanon Russian-made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles that are designed to attack
anything from cruise missiles and smart bombs to fixed- and rotary-wing
aircraft, to unmanned aerial vehicles. Introducing these SA-17 missiles to
Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon would compromise Israel’s air superiority,
which has so far provided important deterrence against Hezbollah attacks on
Turkey’s hypocrisy is so blatant and absurd that we wonder if the
flurry of accusations and threats is nothing more than a diplomatic ploy
designed to distance Ankara from Jerusalem so that the impression of an
Israeli-Turkish entente against Syrian President Basher Assad’s regime is
Perhaps Turkey is simply jumping at an opportunity
to galvanize support across the Middle East, from Cairo to Tehran, by using the
standard method known to all Middle East rulers for the last 80 or so years –
bash the Zionists.
Whatever the motivation, the unfortunate fact remains
that a NATO member state threatened to attack one of America’s major non-NATO
allies – and nobody in Washington, or for that matter, London, Paris or Berlin,
bothered to issue even the feeblest denunciation of Turkey or defense of the
legitimacy of the purported Israeli air strike.
The West had high hopes
for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, better known by its Turkish
acronym, the AKP. The Bush administration saw an AKP-governed Turkey as a model
Islamist state – moderate, democratic and with a booming economy – for other
Islamist parties in the region to follow. The Obama administration seems to have
adopted that optimistic approach. In a January 2012 interview with Time’s Fareed
Zakaria, US President Barack Obama named Erdogan as one of his top five
international “best friends” together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The West must stop deluding itself
with regard to the political leadership of Turkey. This is the same leadership
that, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, has broken the world
record for jailing the most journalists (more than 70); that threatened in 2011
to attack Cyprus over gas drilling off its shores; that made the ridiculous
claim The Economist was a part of an “Israeli conspiracy” because its editorial
board recommended ahead of the 2011 elections in Turkey not to vote for the AKP;
and that in 2009 denied the genocide in Darfur and defended Sudanese President
Omar al-Bashir, the man responsible for this genocide.
The time has come
to recognize that Turkey has changed radically – and for the worse.