While candidate Donald Trump hasn’t said much about Turkey, Michel Flynn, his designed National Security Adviser has. Flynn, a retired general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency, appears to share the military’s traditional institutional deference toward Ankara.
Turkey’s critics long pointed to the army’s outsize, and the regime’s brutal campaign against Kurdish separatists. Questions have raised about its military invasion and continued occupation of a large portion of the Republic of Cyprus, undemocratic role, and accusations about the Turkish government’s routine violations of human rights.
In fact, Turkey has become a liability for NATO. Last fall President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risked dragging the entire continent into a full-scale war by shooting down a Russian aircraft for a 17-second violation of Turkish airspace.
Turkey became a scary place and lost its democratic status when Erdogan dropped his liberal feint which had won support from secular Turks and foreign observers alike. His government arrested critics, jailed scores of journalists, seized private media enterprises, threatened business critics, tried opponents in bizarre conspiracy trials, and advanced Islamist values.
So much for the traditional arguments for embracing Ankara. The rise of the Islamic State offers new reasons to doubt the bilateral relationship.
Turkey increasingly thwarts U.S. policy in the Middle East
Ankara rejected an American request to launch a second front from the north against Iraq in 2003. Only after extended negotiations did Turkey agree to American use of Incirlik air base against the Islamic State. At the same time, the Erdogan government accommodated the Islamic State, allowing passage of men and materiel into Syria and facilitating the sale of oil seized by the violent jihadists.
Since Ankara refused to coordinate its operations with U.S. backed Kurdish forces, the U.S. was forced to halt its support for Turkish operations. Washington apparently decided it would gain nothing by treating Turkey as an enemy.
But many say the U.S. should stop treating Ankara as an ally. Only four months ago, Flynn backed the coup against Erdogan, who has been increasingly criticized by conservative friends of Turkey for his Islamist leanings. Flynn had earlier blamed Ankara for not halting the movement of foreign fighters and materiel into Syria.
But since last month, Flynn unflinchingly embraced the Erdogan government. On election day, The Hill published the article entitled “Our Ally Turkey is in Crisis and Needs Our Support.”
Argued Flynn, “Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Turkey is really our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as a source of stability in the region. It provides badly needed cooperation with U.S. military operations.”
He complained that “the Obama administration is keeping Erdogan’s government at arm’s length — an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.”
Under the Trump Administration, it will be interesting to see if America’s attitude toward Turkey changes. One thing we can trust, he doesn’t appear easily fooled.
Do you think we should consider Turkey an ally or foe?