12 Rea­sons Turkey Should be Ex­pelled from NATO

The time has come to part ways with the un­hinged Er­doğan

The Jewish Voice - - OP-ED - By: Ari Lieber­man Ari Lieber­man is an at­tor­ney and former prosecutor who has au­thored nu­mer­ous ar­ti­cles and pub­li­ca­tions on mat­ters con­cern­ing the Mid­dle East and is con­sid­ered an author­ity on geo-po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary de­vel­op­ments af­fect­ing the re­gion.

Turkey's ac­cep­tance to the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Oc­to­ber 1951 was a boon for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Though its hu­man rights record was far from stel­lar, it was staunchly anti-Com­mu­nist, main­tained a for­mi­da­ble army, was amenable to the place­ment of NATO as­sets in the coun­try, in­clud­ing nu­clear-tipped Jupiter bal­lis­tic mis­siles and was strate­gi­cally lo­cated, flank­ing the Soviet Union on the south and act­ing as a bridge be­tween Europe and Asia.

Though Turkey was tech­ni­cally a Mus­lim coun­try, it lead­ers, fol­low­ing the doc­trines es­poused by Ka­mal Ataturk, zeal­ously guarded the sec­u­lar na­ture of the state. Re­li­gious in­flu­ence was kept to a min­i­mum and this was es­pe­cially true for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. In­deed, there was a sig­nif­i­cant Jewish pop­u­la­tion in Turkey and Turkey was the first Mus­lim ma­jor­ity na­tion to rec­og­nize Is­rael, ex­tend­ing recog­ni­tion in March 1949.

Dur­ing the Korean War, Turkey sent a siz­able contin­gent to fight along­side the United Statesled United Na­tions coali­tion, and its troops ac­quit­ted them­selves well in com­bat. Turkey's strained re­la­tions with its neigh­bor Greece and its hu­man rights record proved to be prob­lem­atic is­sues for NATO but were over­looked in light of the ben­e­fits con­veyed to NATO by Turk­ish mem­ber­ship.

With the as­cen­sion of Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan as prime min­is­ter in 2003, the equa­tion be­gan to change. Er­doğan's Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP), a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood off­shoot, be­gan sys­tem­at­i­cally chang­ing the char­ac­ter of sec­u­lar Turkey, in­cre­men­tally at first so as not to up­set the Turk­ish Army, but at an ac­cel­er­ated pace in re­cent years. Now pres­i­dent, Er­doğan has con­sol­i­dated his power and has neutered his foes in the press, the ju­di­ciary, the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion, and the army.

The Turkey of today is vastly dif­fer­ent than the Turkey that ex­isted prior to the as­cen­sion of Er­doğan. The na­tion is cur­rently led by a neo-Ot­toman, heavy-handed, au­thor­i­tar­ian Is­lamist who shares noth­ing in com­mon with his NATO part­ners, and who works at cross-pur­poses with NATO to frus­trate its objectives. Rather than be­ing an as­set, Turkey has be­come a hin­drance to NATO. The time has come for NATO to part ways with Er­doğan. Here's why.

1. Hu­man rights abuses: On April 20, the U.S. State Depart­ment re­leased a re­port de­tail­ing sig­nif­i­cant hu­man right abuses in Turkey. These in­cluded ar­bi­trary de­ten­tions and mass ar­rests, tor­ture, press cen­sor­ship, cur­tail­ment of free speech and forced dis­ap­pear­ances of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. Au­thor­i­tar­ian Er­doğan has trans­formed Turkey into a near-dic­ta­tor­ship where one can be ar­rested for du­bi­ous crimes like “in­sult­ing the pres­i­dent.” Po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and mem­bers of the press are rou­tinely ar­rested on con­trived “ter­ror­ism” charges based on the flim­si­est ev­i­dence. The once in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary has been thor­oughly cor­rupted and is now staffed by Er­doğan cronies and party hacks.

2. Use of for­eign na­tion­als as bar­gain­ing chips: In Oc­to­ber 2016 Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties ar­rested and de­tained an Amer­i­can pas­tor named An­drew Brun­son on con­trived ter­ror­ism charges. The iden­ti­ties of the wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied against Brun­son were ob­scured. In Fe­bru­ary 2017, Turk­ish po­lice ar­rested Ger­man-Turk­ish jour­nal­ist Deniz Yu­cel, ac­cus­ing him of en­gag­ing in ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda. Turk­ish po­lice also de­tained two Czech na­tion­als it ac­cused of aid­ing Kur­dish gueril­las, and in March 2018 the Turks seized two Greek sol­diers, who due to in­clement weather, mis­tak­enly strayed across the bor­der at Evros River. In the former case, the Turks are de­mand­ing that the Czechs ex­tra­dite a Kur­dish leader cur­rently in Prague in ex­change for the two Czech na­tion­als and in the lat­ter case, the Turks are de­mand­ing that Greek au­thor­i­ties hand over Turk­ish sol­diers who fled Turkey fol­low­ing the failed 2016 coup at­tempt. In this re­gard, Turk­ish be­hav­ior is no dif­fer­ent than the be­hav­ior of Iran and North Korea both of which rou­tinely snatch for­eign­ers for po­ten­tial use as bar­gain­ing chips. The only dif­fer­ence is that Turkey is a mem­ber of NATO and is seiz­ing the na­tion­als of al­lied part­ners.

3. Sup­port for ISIS: It seems ab­surd to sug­gest that Turkey sup­ported ISIS in light of the ter­ror at­tacks per­pe­trated by ISIS on Turk­ish soil but this was in fact the case. The Er­do­gan gov­ern­ment ini­tially be­lieved that it shared com­mon in­ter­ests with the ter­ror­ist group. Both were Sunni, and shared ha­tred for the Kurds, the Shia and As­sad. As such, Er­do­gan was in­stru­men­tal in prop­ping up ISIS dur­ing its for­ma­tive years. Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials as­sisted ISIS ter­ror­ists with arms and lo­gis­tics and the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment pur­chased ISIS oil thus pro­vid­ing the ter­ror group with a steady stream of fund­ing to sup­port its ac­tiv­i­ties. The Turks also per­mit­ted known ISIS op­er­a­tives to freely cross their borders and hin­dered U.S. ef­forts to sup­port the Kurds against ISIS dur­ing the bat­tle of Kobani. Of course, the Turks soon bit­terly learned that they could not con­trol the beast they helped cre­ate. Nev­er­the­less, Er­do­gan and his hench­men were partly re­spon­si­ble for the group's as­cen­dancy.

4. Sup­port for Ha­mas: Ha­mas is a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion fully rec­og­nized as such by the U.S., Is­rael the Euro­pean Union, Canada, Ja­pan, Egypt and Saudi Ara­bia with­out the fraud­u­lent dis­tinc­tion be­tween its mil­i­tary and “po­lit­i­cal” wings. Yet Turkey has fos­tered ex­cel­lent re­la­tions with the blood-thirsty group. This is due to the fact that both the AKP and Ha­mas are closely af­fil­i­ated with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and pro­fess sim­i­lar ide­olo­gies. Turkey has per­mit­ted Ha­mas ter­ror­ists to freely op­er­ate, re­cruit and fundraise within its borders. The mur­der-kid­nap­ping of three Jewish youths from the Gush Etzion junc­tion in the sum­mer of 2014 was the prod­uct of a plan hatched and funded by Ha­mas op­er­a­tives in Turkey. Ha­mas con­tin­ues fun­nel money to its op­er­a­tives in the West bank and Gaza via its of­fices in Turkey as ev­i­denced by the re­cent ar­rest by Is­raeli un­der­cover com­man­dos of Omar al-Kiswani, a Ha­mas ter­ror­ist who re­ceived €150,000 from his Ha­mas han­dlers in Turkey.

5. De­cep­tive and un­trust­wor­thy: Turk­ish-Is­raeli ties, never good un­der Er­do­gan, ex­pe­ri­enced a marked de­cline fol­low­ing the 2010 seizure of the block­ade-run­ning Mavi Mar­mara ves­sel and the killing of 10 Turk­ish IHH ter­ror­ists who at­tempted to at­tack Is­raeli naval com­man­dos dur­ing the op­er­a­tion. Po­lit­i­cal ties were all but sev­ered. Nev­er­the­less, there was lim­ited co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Is­raeli and Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. But in what can only be de­scribed as an act of egre­gious per­fidy, Turkey's in­tel­li­gence chief Hakan Fi­dan, be­trayed the names of 10 Is­raeli agents, all Ira­nian na­tion­als, who were work­ing un­der­cover in Iran, con­demn­ing them all to death and wreck­ing the se­cret spy ring. Fi­dan ob­tained Er­do­gan's ap­proval be­fore com­mit­ting this mon­strous act. It was an un­prece­dented act con­sid­er­ing that Is­raeli and Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence had pre­vi­ously en­joyed a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial, 50-year re­la­tion­ship. If Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence is ca­pa­ble of en­gag­ing in such treach­ery, it's a sure bet that Turkey is hand­ing over closely-guarded NATO se­crets to its close al­lies, Rus­sia and Iran.

6. In­com­pat­i­ble weapons pro­cure­ment: In times of war, NATO mem­bers are ex­pected to act in a co­he­sive, uni­fied man­ner to meet com­mon chal­lenges. To that end, al­liance mem­bers are ex­pected to pro­cure weapon sys­tems and sub-sys­tems that are com­pat­i­ble. In lay­man's terms, these plat­forms need to rec­og­nize and com­mu­ni­cate with each other for things to run smoothly. Un­til re­cently, this was the case un­til Turkey de­cided to uni­lat­er­ally pur­chase Rus­sian S-400 anti-air­craft mis­siles in a deal worth $2.5 bil­lion. The plat­form is not com­pat­i­ble with al­liance plat­forms. Protests by the U.S. and other NATO mem­bers have been largely ig­nored. In ad­di­tion, Rus­sia is still viewed as the great­est con­ven­tional threat to peace on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent but Turkey's S-400 pro­cure­ment gave the Rus­sian de­fense in­dus­try a sig­nif­i­cant boost, which of course, is not good for NATO.

7. Mi­grant ex­tor­tion: On mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, Er­do­gan has threat­ened to flood Europe with Syr­ian and Iraqi mi­grants camped in Turkey if his ex­tor­tion­ist de­mands were not met. He has de­manded visa-free ac­cess for Turk­ish na­tion­als to EU na­tions, de­manded Turk­ish ad­mit­tance to the EU, and de­manded bil­lions of eu­ros in ex­tor­tion money from EU na­tions. Con­sid­er­ing Turkey's abysmal hu­man rights record, Is­lamist bent and close af­fil­i­a­tion with Is­lamist ter­ror­ist groups, these de­mands are be­yond ab­surd.

8. Di­ver­gence on Syria: As noted, Turkey has as­sisted ISIS mil­i­tar­ily, lo­gis­ti­cally and eco­nom­i­cally and in 2014, frus­trated U.S. ef­forts to help Kur­dish forces fend off ISIS at­tacks on the Kur­dish city of Kobani. In Jan­uary 2018, Turk­ish forces in­vaded Syria's north­west re­gion of Afrin to do bat­tle with the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, a group closely al­lied with the U.S. and largely re­spon­si­ble for de­feat­ing ISIS in Syria. Turk­ish ag­gres­sion was mo­ti­vated by im­pe­ri­al­is­tic and ir­re­den­tist am­bi­tions. Be­fore in­vad­ing, the Turks con­sulted with the Russians but paid scant at­ten­tion to Amer­i­can and Ger­man protests. Turkey's in­va­sion, ob­scenely called “Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch,” was a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law and nearly caused di­rect con­fronta­tion with U.S. forces sta­tioned in nearby Man­bij. By its words and ac­tions, Turkey has made clear that its geo-po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests lie with Rus­sia and Iran, not with NATO.

9. Sanc­tions bust­ing: On Er­do­gan's or­ders Turkey helped Iran cir­cum­vent in­ter­na­tion­ally im­posed sanc­tions aimed at forc­ing the rogue regime to quit its nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties. In a plan hatched by Er­do­gan, Turk­ish state banks were em­ployed in a com­pli­cated scheme in­volv­ing gold for Ira­nian oil to the tune of bil­lions of dol­lars. Er­do­gan's cronies were paid hefty bribes along the way. An at­tempt by Turk­ish po­lice to ex­pose the il­le­gal­i­ties was quashed by Er­do­gan.

10. Anti-Semitic and anti-Western rhetoric: Er­do­gan fre­quently lashes out at Is­rael and al­liance mem­bers. His fiery speeches are of­ten laced with anti-Semitic over­tones, wild con­spir­acy the­o­ries and bel­li­cos­ity. Er­do­gan has com­pared Is­rael to Nazi Ger­many, claimed that Is­rael has com­mit­ted geno­cide against the Pales­tini­ans, al­leged that Is­rael en­gi­neered the coup that saw the over­throw of Egyp­tian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leader, Mo­hammed Morsi and ac­cused the in­ter­na­tional “in­ter­est rate lobby,” a eu­phemism for rich Jews, of fo­ment­ing the 2013 Gezi Park riots. Al­liance mem­bers have not been spared his con­spir­acy-laden wrath ei­ther. Ger­many, France, the Nether­lands, Greece and the United States have all been sub­jected to his un­hinged vit­riol. Fol­low­ing a spate of racist at­tacks by Mus­lims di­rected against French Chris­tians and Jews, an ef­fort was made by the by prom­i­nent French of­fi­cials to re­move Qu­ranic verses that made ref­er­ence to vi­o­lence against non-Mus­lims. Rather than ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lem and seek­ing a so­lu­tion, Er­do­gan re­sponded by re­fer­ring to the West as “vile” and lashed out against Judeo-Chris­tian writ­ings. His ut­ter dis­dain for the West was clearly demon­strated last year when he made the fol­low­ing state­ment; “Our con­cern is not what Ge­orge or Hans or Helga says. Our con­cern is what Hat­ice, Ayse, Fatma, Ah­met, Mehmet, Hasan, Huseyin says, what Al­lah says…”

11. Ag­gres­sion to­wards Greece: Turkey con­tin­ues to ini­ti­ate ag­gres­sion against fel­low al­liance mem­ber, Greece. In March, it seized two Greek sol­diers who mis­tak­enly crossed the bor­der due to in­clement weather. Turk­ish air­craft rou­tinely vi­o­late Greek airspace and its ships have rammed Greek ves­sels near dis­puted ar­eas of the Aegean. There were at least two such hos­tile ram­ming in­ci­dents this year. Add to this Er­do­gan's ex­press cov­et­ing of Greek ter­ri­tory, ex­pan­sion­ist agenda and un­hinged tem­per­a­ment and we have a recipe for an all-out war be­tween Greece and Turkey, which ul­ti­mately harms the co­he­sive­ness of the NATO al­liance.

12. Oc­cu­pa­tion of North­ern Cyprus: In 1974, Turk­ish forces in­vaded Cyprus and oc­cu­pied the north­ern part of the Mediter­ranean is­land na­tion. The Turks dubbed their bel­liger­ent mil­i­tary in­va­sion the “Peace Op­er­a­tion,” a mis­nomer if ever there was one. Dur­ing the course of its ag­gres­sion, Turkey dis­placed some 200,000 Greek Cypri­ots from their homes. In ad­di­tion, the Turks im­planted Turk­ish colonists from main­land Turkey in an ef­fort to cre­ate a fur­ther eth­nic im­bal­ance. Turkey's ac­tions in Cyprus are no dif­fer­ent than those of the Ira­ni­ans in Syria, who are eth­ni­cally cleans­ing large swaths of Syria and re­plac­ing va­cated Sunni ar­eas with Shia. Turkey was found to be in vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle 8 of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights, which ad­dresses dis­place­ment of pop­u­la­tions. Turkey may also be in vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle 49, Clause 6 of the Fourth Geneva Con­ven­tion which states that, “the Oc­cu­py­ing Power shall not de­port or trans­fer parts of its own civil­ian pop­u­la­tion into the ter­ri­tory it oc­cu­pies.” Af­ter 44 years, Turkey still con­tin­ues to fla­grantly vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional law through its il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of one-third of an EU mem­ber state.

Each of these trans­gres­sions, stand­ing alone, is cause for con­cern. Col­lec­tively how­ever, they are damn­ing. Sovereign na­tions of course, are free to pur­sue their own na­tional in­ter­ests. Er­do­gan has cho­sen a vir­u­lently anti-Western path that veers sharply from NATO's. He has demon­strated that he is noth­ing but an un­hinged, con­spir­acy-prone and deeply anti-Semitic thug. It's time now for NATO to po­litely show Er­do­gan the door and ex­pel Turkey from the al­liance.


The mur­der-kid­nap­ping of three Jewish youths from the Gush Etzion junc­tion in the sum­mer of 2014 was the prod­uct of a plan hatched and funded by Ha­mas op­er­a­tives in Turkey

Er­do­gan fre­quently lashes out at Is­rael and al­liance mem­bers. His fiery speeches are of­ten laced with anti-Semitic over­tones, wild con­spir­acy the­o­ries and bel­li­cos­ity.

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