Tough Love for Turkey
The republic of Turkey, a beautiful country, has been an ally of the West, but that alliance is in trouble. The Eastern Flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance may be at risk. Turkey served as the southern anchor of NATO during the Cold War. It is easy to see why: It is the land bridge from Asia to Europe and from the Mideast to Central Asia. Europe and Turkey need each other: More than 6 million Turks are part of European economies. Turkey is also important because of the latest threat to civilization: terrorism. But Turkey is no longer a reliable ally in this war. The overtly radical vision of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leans toward extremist, political Islamism.
Recent events in Turkey are setting off alarms: the closing of all independent media, purges of pro-Western officials and the toleration of jihadist organizations.
Can Turkey can still secure NATO’s vision to “safeguard … democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law”? Regrettably, Turkey’s rule of law is in decline.
Respected scholars conclude that President Erdogan is deeply corrupted and has put his own ambitions above the security of his nation and of NATO. Case in point: He reportedly has used a Turkish-Iranian businessman to handle huge money transactions between Iran and Turkey, breaching sanctions against Iran. His illicit support for terrorist organizations in Syria has been documented.
Due to the upheaval that followed the failed attempted coup in Turkey last year, the Turkish people have been traumatized. But their president has made a bad situation worse by using the coup as an opportunity to expand his own political power. After the coup collapsed, the authorities began arresting many citizens who had nothing to do with it: reporters, military officers, policemen and teachers.
More than 150,000 were arrested — many tortured. The purged officials were replaced by the president’s cronies, political opportunists and radical, political Islamists.
Turkey will hold a national referendum on April 16th. It asks the Turkish people to take power from the parliament and give it to the president — who would have almost unlimited power to rule by decree.
But would more power to the president mean Turkey would do more to win the war against terrorism? No, it would not.
Turkish authorities have tolerated the presence of terrorists on Turkish territory for years — a tragic miscalculation. In 2015, Turkey did not carry out a single pre-planned counterterrorism operation on its soil against the Islamic State. Turkish authorities recently discovered 100 Islamic State safe houses in Istanbul. The Islamic State infiltration is very widespread.
Even worse, thousands of Turkish and foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq are expected to return to Turkey this year.