Tough Love for Turkey

The Washington Times Daily - - TURKEY - By Robert “Bud” McFar­lane

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.

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IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS

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