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Review Category : Turkey

Erdogan Will Give Up the S-400 on One Condition

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system has long been a burden not only for the United States but for NATO, too, the security bloc in which Turkey is a member. 

NATO was created to counter Soviet threats. Today it aims to do the same as Russia extends its influence across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Its members are sovereign states with the right to have normal relations with any nation, even Russia. But its members also have the obligation to not undermine the interests of the alliance. Turkey’s purchase of the very military equipment the alliance was created to deter undermines the interests of NATO.

The situation is not complicated. No NATO member can purchase defense systems that are incompatible with NATO defense systems, especially if the missiles were created to shoot down fighter jets like the American F-35.

Turkey’s list of bad decisions against US national security interests is never-ending: from evading Iranian sanctions, standing against designating the IRGC a terrorist organization, condemning the US recognition of US Embassy to Jerusalem and its recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, supporting Venezuela’s Maduro regime, threating America’s Kurdish partners in Syria and more. 

One must ask itself: Why does America need enemies when it has an “ally” like Turkey? Why is Erdogan so adamant on purchasing our adversaries’ weapons, even as the US gave Ankara an option to purchase the Patriot missile system, a much more sophisticated choice? 

The answer may not seem obvious, but as Kurds, we understand Erdogan’s devious tactics. 

Erdogan wants American’s to move out of the way in Syria so he can have his way with the Kurds, with an intent to slaughter them. 

Erdogan is dragging his feet. This is not about America or his country’s defense needs. The United States has gone out of its way to appease his Islamist government, even after multiple warnings. For Erdogan is threatening a shift toward the East, as he has already done and will continue to do, unless America lets go of the Kurds.

But the reality is that Turkey, with or without Erdogan, needs America, Europe and NATO. And if America wishes so, it can shut down the Turkish economy with a blink of an eye, as it nearly did with very basic sanctions in 2018. In addition, Turkey is already in a recession, so threatening the US is not very smart on Erdogan’s part.

Turkey’s policy toward the same Kurds who defeated the Islamic State caliphate, the same Kurds that sacrificed over 11,000 fighters and had nearly 8,000 wounded, should be condemned.

The biggest loser of the defeat of the caliphate is not ISIS itself, but Erdogan. He counted on the radical group to wipe out the Kurds, as we witnessed in 2014 in Kobani. With the threat of Erdogan from the North, ISIS and the Assad regime, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) composed of majority Kurds shattered Erdogan’s dream.

Erdogan’s biggest fear is another autonomous Kurdish region similar to that of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, created by the US in 1991 after it imposed a no-fly zone. There are more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey; the fear that they will demand the same is unfathomable to any Turkish government. 

The Russian S-400 is set to be delivered in July, though Erdogan has threatened to move the delivery date sooner. He has also declared that the purchase is complete and that he will not go back on the deal. 

Due to the reality on the ground, and in the interest of US national security, those in Washington must see Turkey for what it is: an unreliable burden on NATO and America. Erdogan is unlikely to change any time soon and may never. Therefore we must approach his government with realistic expectations and stop going out of our way to attempt to change it. 

America must continue to protect the Kurds in Syria. They are not up for bartering. Set up a no-fly zone for northeast Syria and recognize the Syrian Democratic Council as the best and proven alternative to the Assad regime. And finally, call Erdogan’s bluff so that he cannot use the Kurdish card in America as he has done in Turkey to gain political points. 

Originally published: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Erdogan-will-give-up-the-S-400-on-one-condition-588098

Photo: Reuters

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US Must Acknowledge Lebanon, Turkey No Longer True Allies

Photo: (John Grummitt/Dreamstime.com

Recently, the Trump administration made news by breaking with fifty years of U.S. policy and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights, of course, is mountainous territory that Israel conquered in a defensive war from Syria back in 1967. Israel extended Israeli law to the area in 1980, thereby annexing it.

Periodically, those in the peace process camp would propose that Israel trade the Golan for peace with the Assad regime. Luckily, Israel never did so; otherwise, today the Islamic Republic of Iran would be stationing its men and missiles on the Heights, and threatening not just Israel, but Jordan as well. But even though the U.S. had a national interest in keeping the Israelis in the Golan, it took President Trump, with his willingness to go against the conventional wisdom, to recognize the reality of the situation, and stop being afraid of the (supposedly) explosive “Arab Street.”

Recognizing reality is a good thing. And we need a whole lot more of it, when it comes to the Middle East. All too often, foreign policy makers in the U.S. get stuck in the past, and refuse to reevaluate policies that have long since become moot or counterproductive.

Here is one example: in 2005, after the (likely) Hezbollah orchestrated assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, the people of that nation — including most religious groups in Lebanon, with the possible exception of the Shia community — went to the streets to protest the continuing occupation of Lebanon by Syria, and to demand more democracy. As a result, Syrian troops were pulled out, and eventually, Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son, became Prime Minister. Hezbollah, the terrorist militia that Iran had established in Lebanon, which was aligned with the Syrians, was weakened considerably.

In 2006, to build on these positive developments, the U.S. began supplying military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

U.S. policy makers hoped that this aid, which over the years has included Hellfire missiles, A 29 Super Tocano aircraft, and M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, would help to make the LAF a powerful counterbalance to Hezbollah. This should not be surprising, as Hezbollah is a bitter enemy of the U.S., having more American blood on its hands than any other terror group excepting al-Qaeda.

In the end, however, the LAF proved to be no match for Hezbollah.

Today, Hezbollah basically controls the Lebanese nation, and the LAF has essentially become an “auxiliary” of the terror militia. The cooperation between Hezbollah and the LAF has become so close that the two sometimes patrol the same villages togethershare uniforms and equipment, and conduct joint military operations.

But the U.S. continues to provide military aid to the LAF, a total of $1.7 billion so far.

If Hezbollah goes to war against Israel, as Hezbollah often threatens to do, it is likely that U.S. military equipment will be used by that terror organization against our strongest democratic ally in the Middle East. Needless to say, this is not in line with the United States’ national interest.

Here is another example; prior to the 2000’s, Turkey was a strong NATO partner of the U.S. But beginning in 2003, when (now) President Recep Erdogan first gained power, that nation slowly began to turn against the U.S., and against the West and democracy itself.

In 2003, Turkey refused to allow the U.S. to use the Incirlik military in the invasion of Iraq.

Since then, Turkey has violated international oil sanctions on Iran, allowed men and supplies to flow through Turkey to reinforce the Islamic State, and now threatens to buy the S-400 missile system from Russia. Plus, Turkey continues to attack U.S. allies in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, because the SDF started as a Kurdish militia, and Erdogan hates and fears the Kurds. Turkey also routinely threatens other U.S. allies, like Greece and Israel. Turkey has even grabbed American hostages.

Yet many in the U.S. government continue to pretend Turkey is still a trusted ally of the U.S. Both President Trump, and former President Obama, have relied on President Erdogan’s advice when formulating U.S. foreign policy. Reportedly, Erdogan was able to persuade President Trump to call for the removal of all the U.S. troops from Syria, which would have given Turkey the opportunity to invade and crush the SDF. Fortunately, President Trump reconsidered his decision.

Had this troop removal taken place, it would have been a huge mistake by the U.S. The U.S. had gone to great trouble to persuade the SDF to be the ground forces against the Islamic State in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria. If, after the completion of that war against the physical caliphate (but with ISIS still a threat), the U.S. then abandoned the SDF to the Turks, the word would have gone out that the U.S. was not a loyal ally. Further, unlike in Afghanistan or Iraq, there was little pressure on the administration to remove these troops, as there have been few casualties since they were sent to Syria in 2014. Finally, by keeping the U.S. troops there, other enemy nations like Iran, Russia, and the Assad forces are blocked from expanding their areas of control in Syria.

The U.S. needs to recognize the reality of Lebanon and Turkey. At this time, both nations are led by enemies of the United States. President Trump needs to act accordingly.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/lebanon-turkey-golan-heights-trump/2019/04/03/id/910048/

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Khashoggi – Who Put Erdogan In Charge?

There have been 25 dead journalists accounted for in Turkey since 1992; seven under Erdogan’s regime. Since the 2016 coup in Turkey, 189 media outlets have been shut down and more than 319 journalists have been arrested, the most of any country – even surpassing China.

In recent weeks, Turkey requested that the international police agency Interpol issue a “red notice” warrant to arrest exiled journalists Can Dundar and Ilhan Tanir. Erdogan’s abuse of Interpol to arrest his critics has received pushback from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said, “We must not misuse international organizations like Interpol for such purposes.”

If hunting them down weren’t enough, once journalists are in Turkish custody they are subject to more suffering. Turkish journalist Cevheri Guven stated that he was forced to sign his confession and was subject to mistreatment and torture. Another tactic is abduction. To date, 14 journalists have disappeared.

So why has the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi ignited like wildfire among the mainstream media? Why are we focused on one journalist and not all? Why just one country, Saudi Arabia, and nhot Turkey’s horrendous human rights record? If Saudi Arabia is guilty, then Turkey is beyond guilty. If this is truly about Jamal Khashoggi, then Turkey should be put under the same, if not greater, scrutiny until the cases of all 25 dead journalists have been solved and the perpetrators have been arrested – not just for Khashoggi. But this is not about human rights, nor is it about a journalist. Erdogan as usual is banking on a specific issue because he sees an opportunity to gain leverage.

Erdogan’s first motive is an attempt to shift the focus from his own troubled state to that of Saudi Arabia. If we discuss objectively a bad track record, then let’s have a look at Erdogan’s Turkey as of August 29, 2018: 170,372 state officials, teachers, bureaucrats and academics have been dismissed; 142,874 have been detained; 81,417 have been arrested; 3,003 schools, dormitories and universities have been shut down; 6,021 academic have lost their jobs; 4,463 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed – all since July 2016. This excludes the number of deaths and arrests in Erdogan’s war against the minority Kurds which number more than 20% of the country’s population in the southeast.

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. It does not claim to be a democracy nor does it want to be one, despite gradual changes by the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. However, Turkey claims to be a democratic state, a secular modern state, a European Union candidate, a NATO member and a US ally. But let’s not forget that Turkey has deep ties with Russia, evaded Iran sanctions, threatened US soldiers and top officials at Incirlik Air Base, still holds Americans hostage, has close ties with Hamas – a US-designated terrorist organization – and aided Islamic State while spreading Muslim Brotherhood ideology in the Middle East. So, what makes Erdogan’s Turkey better than Saudi Arabia?

If shifting the focus off Turkey is not enough, Erdogan desires closer ties with the United States and is bitter towards the Trump administration’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Erdogan believes as a NATO partner, Turkey should be priority for the US, not Saudi Arabia, despite ruining the relationship on his own. Most importantly, Iran has been quiet throughout the Khashoggi case. Erdogan is attempting to steer the US from taking punitive measures against Iran by weakening Saudi Arabia.

It seems Erdogan is fighting Iran’s battle against the kingdom. Iran is deviously doing what it does best, patiently wait to strike. Meanwhile, Erdogan will also likely demand more leverage in Syria, especially against US allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces. Erdogan’s mission throughout the Syrian conflict has been to disintegrate the partnership between the Kurds and Americans. But he has miserably failed and this is just another stab at it. Of course, Erdogan will attempt to receive some sort of financial aid either from Saudi Arabia or the US for keeping his silence. This is another form of hostage diplomacy – blackmail, actually – with which he is well acquainted.

Erdogan is self-appointed as the protector of the Jamal Khashoggi case, but he should not be taken seriously. His attempt to reconstruct the image of Turkey and himself should be approached with the utmost hesitancy. Erdogan is not to be trusted.

Originally published: https://www.jpost.com//Opinion/Khashoggi-who-put-Erdogan-in-charge-571008

Photo: WPA Pool/Getty Images

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Don’t Reward Turkey’s Hostage Taking

Recently, after holding American citizen Andrew Brunson in prison for over two years, the Turkish regime finally let him go.

In response, President Trump tweeted, “There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!”

Hopefully, the President is going to limit his actions to this simple tweet of appreciation.

Andrew Brunson was nothing more than a hostage of the Turkish President. Brunson’s trial was a sham, with ridiculous charges and evidence. President Erdogan clearly intended to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam in exile in Pennsylvania, whom Mr. Erdogan accuses, without credible evidence, of plotting an anti-Erdogan 2016 coup in Turkey. The fact that Brunson was finally released when the Turks wanted to curry favor with Trump doesn’t change that he was unjustly grabbed and imprisoned in the first place.

The Turks’ release of Brunson is related to the disappearance of Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi.

“The Khashoggi affair has presented a unique opportunity to undermine Saudi influence, potentially creating a regional power void for Turkey to fill,” according to Axios.

But, according to The Federalist, to fill that power void, Turkey had “to improve their position by giving the Trump administration something it wanted.”

So, they gave up Brunson. However, it should be noted that Brunson is not the only U.S. citizen held hostage by the Turks. Serkan Golge and Ismail Kul, two Turkish-American scientists, are still being imprisoned by the Erdogan regime. There are also three Turkish citizens who work in the U.S. consulate that are being held.

So, the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding Turkish hostage taking, especially because we have countless examples of earlier instances where the U.S. rewarded hostage takers and suffered later for it. For example, leading up to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran held a number of hostages, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. When the Iran deal was finalized, the Obama administration shelled out $1.7 billion to Iran, in cash, to ransom four hostages. The Obama administration claimed this was not ransom; however, the money was not released to Iran until the U.S. had confirmation that the Iranian plane carrying the Americans had taken off, and Iranian officials told the press the cash was “a ransom payment.”

What was the result of this ransom payment to Iran? Nothing good for the U.S.

Soon after, Iran began to grab more hostages.

Further, Iran continued to vocally demonstrate their hostility to the U.S., and to actively wage war against our forces and interests in the region, despite the U.S. ransom payment, and the JCPOA’s other monetary rewards.

Likewise, the Turks under President Erdogan are also not going to change their anti-American stripes, even if the U.S. gives them some rewards for their release of Andrew Brunson.

President Erdogan has very different political interests than does the U.S. He is a proponent of radical Islam, and is a determined opponent of democracy and human rights. In fact, according to the former U.S. National Security Advisor, Turkey is taking on a “new role” as a key funder of Islamist ideology that targets western interests.

Although Turkey is part of NATO, the Turks have not been good allies in years, as they threaten fellow NATO member Greece, interfere in the use of the Incirlik base by other NATO allies like Germany and the U.S., conduct joint military exercises with China, and buy the s-400 missile system from Russia. (Eventually Turkey hopes to produce the s-500 as well.) The Turkish regime continues to threaten Israel. His regime continues to vow to buy oil from Iran, despite the sanctions that the Trump administration are reinstituting. And his country still allows ISIS recruits to cross its border into Syria, at a rate of about 100 a month.

The Turks also have a tremendous rivalry with the various Kurdish forces in the region, including the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, which are both strong allies of the U.S. Turkey has long feared that independence/autonomy for these Kurds would in turn inspire the same in Turkey’s large and growing Kurdish minority. As a result, Erdogan has attacked the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) multiple times, and is reportedly planning to use the jihadists groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda associates, against them (the SDF). Turkey has even gone so far as to threaten to attack U.S. forces in Syria for their willingness to work with the SDF.

The fact that the Turks finally released Andrew Brunson when it became convenient for them to do so does not mean that Turkey is any better an ally of the U.S. than it was the day before Jamal Khashoggi disappeared. It isn’t. And the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding President Erdogan’s consistent bad behavior.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/turkey-erdogan-hostages-trump/2018/10/22/id/887439/

Photo: The Milli Chronicle

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6 Challenges for US-Turkish Relations

Russia

It is clear that since Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in 2015 which flew over Turkish airspace for just under 12 seconds, Vladimir Putin has acted strategically to gradually pull Turkey under his sphere of influence, and Erdogan has taken the bait. Putin has fed Erdogan bits of Syria, like the once stable Kurdish enclave, Afrin. Putin has sold Erdogan the S-400 surface to air missiles, a weapons system incompatible with the NATO security bloc systems. The S-400 is set to be delivered July 2019. Erdogan is also interested in jointly producing the S-500 missile with Russia, “besides [the S-400s], I have made a proposal to Russia for the joint production of the S-500s.” This move will further force Turkey to dependent on Russia, a move Putin is hoping for only to establish a permanent rift between NATO partners.

Iran

Turkish president, Erdogan helped Iran evade US sanctions for violating the Nuclear Deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from 2010 to 2015, allowing the regime in Tehran access to international markets. The witness, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian Gold trader told jurors in New York that Erdogan had personally authorized a transaction on behalf of Iran. The banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, responsible for taking part in the trading scheme between Turkey and Iran was sentenced to 32 months in prison in Manhattan. Erdogan stated that “if Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be almost equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal.” The Atilla v US case continues to prove that Turkey is damaging US strategy against the Iranian regime and is constantly aiding our enemies.

Incirlik Base

Incirlik Air Base in Turkey has been a strategic point of access for the United States into the Middle East. However, the base has been a thorn on our back, Turkey has constantly attempted to use it against the United States to get its way. Most recently, a group of Turkish lawyers, close to Erdogan’s circle has filed an arrest warrant of US officers based at Incirlik. Reported by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported that lawyers filed a 60 page complaint of names which include top US officials asking for their detention. Included in the names is the commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Joseph Votel. Clearly US men and women in uniform are not safe in Turkey, anti-American sentiments continue to surge thanks to Erdogan. The United states should look for alternatives and end our dependency on the airbase, in 2017 Germany made the decision to do so, redeploying its troops to a Jordanian airbase. A heavy US presence in Iraqi Kurdistan would be welcomed by Kurds, and would thwart Iranian influence in the region, disrupting their land bridge to the Mediterranean.

US Hostages

Since the failed coup of 2016, Erdogan has purged Turkish dissidents and foreigners inside the country. As Dr. Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish parliamentarian and current scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) brilliantly characterized it, Erdogan is using “hostage diplomacy” to gain leverage over the United States. Most famously imprisoned and now on house arrest is American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for over 20 years, and is accused of having ties to the Kurdish armed group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Islamic scholar, Fetullah Gulen, which Erdogan blames for the coup. Vice President Mike Pence avowed, “to president Erdogan and the Turkish government, on behalf of the president of the United States of America, release pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences. If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.” The Trump administration did sanction two top Turkish officials in addition to doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum against Turkey, but Erdogan seems determined to ignore US pressure. Turkey responded by imposing its own sanctions on two US officials. Another hostage is Turkish-American, Serkan Golge, a physicist who worked for NASA’s Mars Program.

Hamas

Hamas has been on the foreign terror list by the United States since 1997, yet Turkey’s Erdogan openly embraces the violent organization. In 2017, Erdogan reiterated his support saying “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.” Erdogan’s hypocrisy of fighting terrorists while aiding and abetting a recognized terrorist organization reflects the path of his neo Ottoman Islamic ideology. Hamas is clearly a threat not only to Israel but as well as the Palestinian people, and Erdogan is banking on the tension in Gaza. His desire to be the custodian of Jerusalem and to become the savior of the Palestinians through the creation of an “army of Islam” to destroy Israel is something the US must wake up to before it is too late.

Islamic State (IS)

Countless reports have been published on linking Turkey to either directly assisting the Islamic State or turning a blind eye. Turkey’s main goal, as it is today, is to weaken the Kurds in Syria at all costs even if it means allowing the brutal terrorist organization to roam free within Turkey and across its borders. In 2014, Turkish forces watched on top of a hill as Kurds were besieged in a small Syrian border town, in Kobane. In addition, Turkey has profited from illicit oil deals with the Islamic State, the deals were not limited to Turkey and IS but Erdogan’s family and the terror organization as well. In 2014, former Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu stated that “ISIS is not a terrorist organization. It’s a group of people bound together with discontent and anger.” In a report titled ISIS in Turkey published in May 2018,  it stated that “had Turkey not been so tolerant of ISIS activities within its borders, including recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, ISIS would not be as powerful as it is today.” Moreover, Turkey continues to undermine US operations in Syria against IS as it targets the Kurds organized under the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF.

Originally published: https://securitystudies.org/6-challenges-for-us-turkish-relations/

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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6 Challenges for US-Turkish Relations

Russia

It is clear that since Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in 2015 which flew over Turkish airspace for just under 12 seconds, Vladimir Putin has acted strategically to gradually pull Turkey under his sphere of influence, and Erdogan has taken the bait. Putin has fed Erdogan bits of Syria, like the once stable Kurdish enclave, Afrin. Putin has sold Erdogan the S-400 surface to air missiles, a weapons system incompatible with the NATO security bloc systems. The S-400 is set to be delivered July 2019. Erdogan is also interested in jointly producing the S-500 missile with Russia, “besides [the S-400s], I have made a proposal to Russia for the joint production of the S-500s.” This move will further force Turkey to dependent on Russia, a move Putin is hoping for only to establish a permanent rift between NATO partners.

Iran

Turkish president, Erdogan helped Iran evade US sanctions for violating the Nuclear Deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from 2010 to 2015, allowing the regime in Tehran access to international markets. The witness, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian Gold trader told jurors in New York that Erdogan had personally authorized a transaction on behalf of Iran. The banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, responsible for taking part in the trading scheme between Turkey and Iran was sentenced to 32 months in prison in Manhattan. Erdogan stated that “if Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be almost equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal.” The Atilla v US case continues to prove that Turkey is damaging US strategy against the Iranian regime and is constantly aiding our enemies.

Incirlik Base

Incirlik Air Base in Turkey has been a strategic point of access for the United States into the Middle East. However, the base has been a thorn on our back, Turkey has constantly attempted to use it against the United States to get its way. Most recently, a group of Turkish lawyers, close to Erdogan’s circle has filed an arrest warrant of US officers based at Incirlik. Reported by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported that lawyers filed a 60 page complaint of names which include top US officials asking for their detention. Included in the names is the commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Joseph Votel. Clearly US men and women in uniform are not safe in Turkey, anti-American sentiments continue to surge thanks to Erdogan. The United states should look for alternatives and end our dependency on the airbase, in 2017 Germany made the decision to do so, redeploying its troops to a Jordanian airbase. A heavy US presence in Iraqi Kurdistan would be welcomed by Kurds, and would thwart Iranian influence in the region, disrupting their land bridge to the Mediterranean.

US Hostages

Since the failed coup of 2016, Erdogan has purged Turkish dissidents and foreigners inside the country. As Dr. Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish parliamentarian and current scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) brilliantly characterized it, Erdogan is using “hostage diplomacy” to gain leverage over the United States. Most famously imprisoned and now on house arrest is American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for over 20 years, and is accused of having ties to the Kurdish armed group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Islamic scholar, Fetullah Gulen, which Erdogan blames for the coup. Vice President Mike Pence avowed, “to president Erdogan and the Turkish government, on behalf of the president of the United States of America, release pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences. If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.” The Trump administration did sanction two top Turkish officials in addition to doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum against Turkey, but Erdogan seems determined to ignore US pressure. Turkey responded by imposing its own sanctions on two US officials. Another hostage is Turkish-American, Serkan Golge, a physicist who worked for NASA’s Mars Program.

Hamas

Hamas has been on the foreign terror list by the United States since 1997, yet Turkey’s Erdogan openly embraces the violent organization. In 2017, Erdogan reiterated his support saying “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.” Erdogan’s hypocrisy of fighting terrorists while aiding and abetting a recognized terrorist organization reflects the path of his neo Ottoman Islamic ideology. Hamas is clearly a threat not only to Israel but as well as the Palestinian people, and Erdogan is banking on the tension in Gaza. His desire to be the custodian of Jerusalem and to become the savior of the Palestinians through the creation of an “army of Islam” to destroy Israel is something the US must wake up to before it is too late.

Islamic State (IS)

Countless reports have been published on linking Turkey to either directly assisting the Islamic State or turning a blind eye. Turkey’s main goal, as it is today, is to weaken the Kurds in Syria at all costs even if it means allowing the brutal terrorist organization to roam free within Turkey and across its borders. In 2014, Turkish forces watched on top of a hill as Kurds were besieged in a small Syrian border town, in Kobane. In addition, Turkey has profited from illicit oil deals with the Islamic State, the deals were not limited to Turkey and IS but Erdogan’s family and the terror organization as well. In 2014, former Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu stated that “ISIS is not a terrorist organization. It’s a group of people bound together with discontent and anger.” In a report titled ISIS in Turkey published in May 2018,  it stated that “had Turkey not been so tolerant of ISIS activities within its borders, including recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, ISIS would not be as powerful as it is today.” Moreover, Turkey continues to undermine US operations in Syria against IS as it targets the Kurds organized under the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF.

Originally published: https://securitystudies.org/6-challenges-for-us-turkish-relations/

Photo: Twitter

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Israel, Turkey and the Kurdish Question

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on the US relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Are these genuine comments from the Israeli side? Many Kurds feel bitter at Israel, rightly so despite many common interests. The Kurdish sentiment is legitimate. They feel the Israeli government only speaks out when it benefits its own national interests and does not really care about the Kurdish cause. Whatever the motive may be for the Israeli government to speak up, it is certainly time to alter its policy toward Turkey, as Ankara is gradually adjusting its policy toward the Jewish state.

Erdogan’s harsh rhetoric against Israel went as far as comparing the Jewish State’s response to recent Gaza protests to that of Nazi Germany.

“There is no difference at all between the persecution inflicted on the Jews in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality faced by our brothers in Gaza.”

He further added, “the children of people who were tortured in concentration camps in every way during World War II unfortunately today resort to methods against innocent Palestinians that are in no way inferior to those of the Nazis.”

But do these words mean anything to the governments on both sides? Economic ties say otherwise.

Turkey was in fact the first Muslim country to recognize Israel as an independent state in 1948. What followed was a series of gradual economic agreements, which still dominate the relationship between the two states today. Economist Hatice Karahan said Turkish exports to Israel have continued to grow over the last several years. They were at about $2.5 billion in 2016, and in the first 10 months of 2017, Turkish exports to Israel went up another 14%. Turkey’s state air carrier, Turkish Airlines, is also the second most popular airline out of Tel Aviv after El Al, Joseph Dana reported in an opinion piece written for The National.

Due to the lack of hydrocarbon resources in Turkey, the Turkish government has heavily relied on Iraqi Kurdistan for its supplies, and of course is working with Israel to build a pipeline through Cypriot waters. From 1995 to 2015, Turkey’s exports to Israel was on average 4.26 times of its share in the world export, as described in the International Journal of Commerce and Management. Furthermore, chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly Mehmet Buyukeksi called for a tripling of trade volume between the two countries in the next five years. This is after in 2017, Turkish exports to Israel increased by 20% and Israeli exports to Turkey rose by 45%, and trade volume was set to grow to $10b. from $3.9b., wrote Sharon Udasin.

Israel was the only country to recognize the Kurdish independence referendum held in September 2017, which failed miserably due to the lack of strategy on the Kurdish side and the absence of hard support from the international community.

It seems Israeli support for the Kurds does not have teeth similar to Turkish support for Palestinians. The Palestinians are surrounded by 22 Arab states that all call for an independent Palestinian state in addition to Turkey and Iran. The Kurds on the other hand are left to find partners anywhere they can to push ahead with their aspirations for self-determination, even if it means resorting to Israel’s tiptoeing statements.

If the Israeli government is firm about supporting the Kurds, and truly envisions the Kurdish people as a common ally with common interests in a Middle East rapidly shifting toward Islamist authoritarian governments, it must act quickly.

This can be done by supporting the Kurds in Iraq, dominated by Iranian influence, and in Syria, a fractured state that continues to be dictated by President Bashar Assad and his brutal allies, which include Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and holds over 3 million Kurds who have been the only successful force fighting Islamic State while facing a military campaign from Erdogan’s army.

The more than 20 million Kurds living under the Islamist Erdogan regime in Turkey, and the 12 million Kurds being governed by the dangerous Iranian regime for nearly four decades, are key to Israel’s security in the region. But if Israel continues to accommodate Erdogan’s regime through trade ties, then it may risk losing Kurdish support too.

Originally published at: https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israel-Turkey-and-the-Kurdish-question-559446

Photo: Al Jazeera

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What Will US Do About Turkey’s Bad Behavior?

Recently, Turkey released imprisoned U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor of a small church in Turkey with about 25 congregants, to house arrest.

Brunson however, is still on trial on charges of aiding terror groups and engaging in espionage. Brunson was grabbed by the Turkish authorities about two years ago, right after an attempted coup against the Turkish President and quasi-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has spent the past two years in a Turkish prison. Turkey claimed that Brunson has illegal links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, both of which are bitter enemies of Erdogan. If he is convicted of his “crimes,” Brunson may be imprisoned for a term of 35 years.

Brunson is clearly being railroaded by the Turks.

An expose of the charges against the pastor revealed that among them are that:

  • Brunson received a picture of a dish that is the signature dish of a terrorist organization in Turkey;
  • Brunson appeared in a photo with a man with a yellow, red, and green scarf, which are the PKK colors;
  • Brunson published Bibles in the Kurdish language.

In other words, this is nothing more than a kangaroo court trial. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that in Turkey, insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, and even school children have been prosecuted.

Then again, the Turkish President has made it clear that Brunson is not really an accused criminal at all; he is a political hostage. Erdogan has offered to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan has accused Gulen, Erdogan’s former ally, of being the instigator of the attempted Turkish coup. But he has produced no convincing evidence for the U.S. to mandate an extradition of Gulen.

Needless to say, allied nations don’t take as hostage citizens of their allies. For that matter, civilized nations don’t take hostages, period.

President Erdogan is not really a U.S. ally, however. He has been in power since 2003, and in those fifteen years, he has aided the Shia Islamist regime of Iran in evading international sanctions; facilitated ISIS’ expansion through oil smuggling and being a conduit for new ISIS recruits and supplies; and threatened U.S. troops with violence for their assistance to the Kurds. Under his leadership, as noted by the former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Turkey has taken on a “new role” as a main sponsor of funding for radical Islamist ideology. Included in this is that Turkey has developed good relationships with federally designated terror organizations such as Hamas, and the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Erdogan has also demonstrated his lack of trustworthiness as an ally by purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia, which is a violation of Turkey’s duties as a NATO member. The missile system cannot be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory. It also conflicts with Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 fighter jets. These jets, which are the latest in NATO technology, would have to be connected to the S-400 system. But this would compromise the jet’s security, as any data collected by the S-400 system and obtained by Russia could help expose the joint strike fighter’s vulnerabilities. To make things even worse, Erdogan has proposed that Turkey and Russia work together on the S-500 missile system.

President Trump and other U.S. officials lobbied Turkish officials for months to release Brunson, and Trump himself tweeted about it, saying that the situation was a “total disgrace,” and threatened sanctions if Brunson was not released. Congress, in a provision in the final National Defense Authorization Act, also called on Turkey “to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge.”

Finally, a deal was made at the NATO summit, which would pair the release of Brunson (from all legal jeopardy) with the release of a Turkish terrorist in Israel. But then Erdogan reneged on that deal. (Although Erdogan claims there was no deal).

So, the question is, what is the U.S. planning to do about Turkey’s hostage taking and other bad behavior?

There needs to be real consequences to Turkey’s persecution of Andrew Brunson, and any other American unfairly held in a Turkish prison. Both the Trump administration and Congress are considering sanctioning Turkey if Brunson is not released. They should do so, immediately.

At some point, however, the U.S. is going to have to address the elephant in the room — Turkey’s continued membership in NATO. Unfortunately, the NATO Treaty has no way to remove any members, unless the nation in question is willing to leave (as France once did).

But NATO allies don’t behave like Turkey has, under Erdogan.

Just ask Andrew Brunson.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/turkey-erdogan-nato/2018/08/01/id/874925/

Photo: Mike Hutchings/AFP/Getty Images

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Capitol Hill

EMET on Capitol Hill hosted Congressman Gus Bilirakis, FDD scholar and former Turkish parliament member Dr. Aykan Erdemir, the pro-Kurdish opposition US representative of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Giran Ozcan, and EMET’s Director of the Kurdistan Project, Diliman Abdulkader. The panel was moderated by EMET founder and president Sarah Stern. Our panel analyzed the implications of the June 24th Turkish elections called by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Leading Turkey since 2002 with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), internally Erdogan has tilted state institutions to further solidify his position, he has targeted political opposition groups, academics, journalists, and the Kurdish minority all while labeling those speaking against his rule as “terrorists.” Erdogan has distanced himself from his short-lived “zero problem with neighbors” policy as he has made more foes than friends in the region. He has threatened Greece with military action while continuing to have a foothold in Northern Cyprus. His incursions into Syria targeting US-backed Kurdish forces has created a diminishing of relations with the United States. Under Erdogan, Turkey has pivoted towards Russia by purchasing Russian missiles incompatible with NATO defense systems. The panel examined the outcome of the elections, what Turkey’s future holds under Erdogan and how this will affect US-Turkish relations.

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Time to Wake Up to Erdogan’s Turkey

On June 25, we awoke to the somber news that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had secured a victory in Turkey’s presidential elections. The reason this news is so grim is because he is a very dangerous man who wants to establish a Turkish Islamist caliphate, as he has simultaneously been eroding human rights inside Turkey and grabbing more power for himself.

On April 17, 2017, Erdoğan held a referendum that greatly expanded and consolidated the powers of the presidency, eliminating the office of prime minister, meaning foreign policy is now part of his portfolio.

In the meantime, he has arbitrarily arrested approximately 50,000 people, including dissidents, intellectuals, professors, journalists and anyone that he might possibly conceive of as being in the opposition. The prisons in Turkey are so full of dissidents that they have released common criminals and convicted felons onto the streets.

A dear friend and colleague, Aykan Erdemir of the Foundations of Defense of Democracies, who had been a member of the opposition in the Turkish Parliament, told me that every Saturday night his friends gets together over Turkish coffee and read the newspaper to see who, among their friends, will be arrested—and whether or not they can make bail.

Among those arrested is Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who has is in his second year of a seven-year sentence. The Turkish government contends that his evidence is based on the testimony of a “secret witness.” There is absolutely no habious corpus in Turkey, and no attorney working on Brunson’s behalf that can see the “evidence” and defend his client.

Turkey has one of the lowest rankings in the world in terms of freedom of press. The regime continues to trample on the right of its citizens, including freedom of speech, of association, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Turkey is also now the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists.

In particular, the Christians of Turkey, who are a tiny minority, have been under increasing assault. Anyone who cannot trace his roots back to Sunni Islam is under suspicion, which has resulted in a flurry of violent attacks against Christian churches throughout this newly xenophobic country.

In foreign policy, we have seen Erdoğan’s forces enter into Syria and massacre what had been an autonomous Kurdish canton of Afrin. Throughout Europe, we are seeing the emergence of cash-rich Turkish, Islamist parties. Erdoğan is emerging on the continent as a defender of a sense of victimization of Muslims against Islamophobia.

And in Jerusalem, in an attempt to win influence among the Palestinians, the Turkish autocrat has been showering the natives of eastern Jerusalem with funds. In an article in last week’s Haaretz, officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority expressed concern that Turkey is trying to establish itself as “the guardian of Jerusalem in the eyes of the Muslim world.”

He has also called for an “Islamic army to invade Palestine.”

What emerges is a picture of a totalitarian brute with imperialistic designs. What is equally disturbing is that Turkey under Erdoğan has already purchased the all-powerful S-400 long range, anti-aircraft defense system. He has been cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has worked to prevent the Russian-Iranian constellation from leaving Southern Syria.

All of this does not fit the usual description of an “ally.”

Yet Lockheed Martin plans to sell Turkey 100 F-35 Lighting II fighter jets—one of the most sophisticated stealth fighter jets yet to be developed.

Congress has weighed in, in both chambers. On the House side, the National Defense Authorization Act specified that before the transfer of F-35s is made to Ankara, both the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense must write a report that Turkey is behaving as an ally. The Senate side seeks to hold up Turkey’s possession of the F-35s unless it revokes its purchase of the S-400s, so it does not threaten NATOs defense capabilities and put an end to detaining American citizens.

The bill has yet to go to Conference Committee to be law.

Because Turkey is a member of NATO, many people would still like to regard it as an “ally.” Yes, it is formally in NATO. However, NATO (which has no mechanism to expel a member), had originally been established during the Cold War for smaller countries to defend one another against the Soviet threat.

From the way things appear now, Turkey appears to be far closer to Russia than to its other NATO partners. And America certainly does not want our most sophisticated stealth jet fighter ending up in Russian hands.

Yet despite the congressional action, on June 21, Lockheed Martin held a roll-out ceremony presenting the Turks with two F 35s. The jets will be remaining on American soil for at least a year while Turkish pilots are trained to use it.

That gives us a bit of time for folks to wake up to sample Erdoğan’s particular brew of Turkish coffee.

Originally published on: https://www.jns.org/opinion/time-to-wake-up-to-erdogans-turkey/

Photo: Twitter

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