ER­DO­GAN’S IS­LAMIST TURKEY

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

A mem­ber of the Pen­tagon’s de­fense pol­icy board, a panel that ad­vises the sec­re­tary of de­fense, re­vealed in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions by the board on the dif­fi­cul­ties of deal­ing with an in­creas­ingly Is­lamist Turkey un­der Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

Stu­art Eizen­stat, a Wash­ing­ton lawyer and mem­ber of the pol­icy board, pro­vided de­tails of in­ter­nal Pen­tagon dis­cus­sions with the Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. The Turkey as­sess­ment was con­tained in leaked emails ob­tained from Mr. Podesta, the cam­paign chair­man.

The as­sess­ment was based on brief­ings in Jan­uary by in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, diplo­mats and an­a­lysts. Mr. Eizen­stat out­lined the find­ings of the board meet­ing in an email to Mr. Podesta.

It was writ­ten be­fore the failed mil­i­tary coup against Mr. Er­do­gan in July that led to a fur­ther crack­down.

“Turkey is a very dif­fi­cult ally,” Mr. Eizen­stat said. “Prime Min­is­ter Er­do­gan has taken Turkey in a more Is­lamic di­rec­tion, and has cracked down hard on in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists, op­po­si­tion politi­cians, and any­one he views as chal­leng­ing him, in­clud­ing the mil­i­tary (15 per­cent of their flag of­fi­cers are un­der ar­rest).”

Also, ef­forts to pres­sure Turkey to close its bor­ders were de­scribed as “tricky” since both pro-Is­lamic State for­eign fight­ers and fight­ers hos­tile to both the Is­lamic State group and Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad have en­tered Syria through Turkey.

Mr. Eizen­stat said the pol­icy board was di­vided on how to deal with Ankara un­der Mr. Er­do­gan. “A few felt we should adopt a tougher tone … but a ma­jor­ity felt we should be ex­plor­ing ways to take ad­van­tage of Turkey’s eco­nomic prob­lems and se­cu­rity threats to draw him closer to the U.S.,” he said.

The board was told that the turn­ing point for Mr. Er­do­gan’s shift from pro-Western to au­thor­i­tar­ian Is­lamism was the cut­off of Eu­ro­pean Union ac­ces­sion talks, a long­time Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity.

For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Henry Kissinger told the board that it was a “fan­tasy” to think Mr. Er­do­gan will be­come more pro-Western since he re­mains firmly pro-Is­lamist.

The pol­icy board was told that de­spite the coun­try’s “sharp turn to­ward Is­lam,” Turkey re­mains more demo­cratic and pro-Western than other Mus­lim states in the re­gion, with around 45 per­cent of the Turk­ish busi­ness com­mu­nity, parts of the mil­i­tary and sec­u­lar pop­u­la­tion fa­vor­ing bet­ter ties with the West.

The board rec­om­mended that De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter, who sat in on one board meet­ing, adopt a “trans­ac­tional” re­la­tion­ship with Turkey be­cause a “strate­gic part­ner­ship would be dif­fi­cult.”

Among the op­tions are hold­ing a strate­gic di­a­logue with Turkey, sim­i­lar to talks that the U.S. reg­u­larly con­ducts with China, “to bet­ter un­der­stand their con­cerns, and where our in­ter­ests over­lap.”

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