Commentary Magazine


Topic: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Jews Begin to Leave

Turkish Jews have long had a secure position in Turkish society. Jews were one of the few peoples who had not rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, and so Turks—and Turkish school books—always treated them as far more loyal citizens than others. It was no wonder, therefore, that Turkey retained a relatively large Jewish community—probably the second-largest in the Middle East, as Iran’s Jewish population has continued to decline. The stability of the Turkish Jewish community has been one straw upon which those in denial about the change in Turkey have grasped. It’s time to stop the denial. According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Anti-Semitism, triggered by harsh statements from the Turkish government, has led to the migration of hundreds of Jewish youngsters from Turkey to the U.S. or Europe, Nesim Güveniş, deputy chairman the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 21. This unease went before the Mavi Marmara incident, and was aggravated by the notorious “one minute” spat between the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, according to Güveniş.

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Turkish Jews have long had a secure position in Turkish society. Jews were one of the few peoples who had not rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, and so Turks—and Turkish school books—always treated them as far more loyal citizens than others. It was no wonder, therefore, that Turkey retained a relatively large Jewish community—probably the second-largest in the Middle East, as Iran’s Jewish population has continued to decline. The stability of the Turkish Jewish community has been one straw upon which those in denial about the change in Turkey have grasped. It’s time to stop the denial. According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Anti-Semitism, triggered by harsh statements from the Turkish government, has led to the migration of hundreds of Jewish youngsters from Turkey to the U.S. or Europe, Nesim Güveniş, deputy chairman the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 21. This unease went before the Mavi Marmara incident, and was aggravated by the notorious “one minute” spat between the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, according to Güveniş.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used religious incitement to reinforce his domestic political constituency, and anti-Semitism has permeated the Turkish bureaucracy. Rather than a bastion of tolerance, Turkey is a country in which the prime minister’s political allies can finance a movie featuring a subplot about Jews smuggling organs and then the prime minister’s wife can urge everyone to see it.

That the emigration occurs against the backdrop of Turkey’s economic boom of the past decade suggests that Turkish Jews aren’t simply taking advantage of their minority status to seek better economic opportunities. Rather, they are leaving because they are afraid of what Turkey is becoming. More liberal Turks and Turkish tour guides still like to point out the religious diversity of Istanbul society. They may need to change their talking points. Emigration often starts slowly, but it is a tide difficult to reverse. Within a decade or two, Turkey’s Jewish community might much more resemble Egypt’s. Unfortunately, that is a result Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would probably call success.

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Turkey Shops Israeli Agents to Iran

If anyone still believes President Barack Obama’s vow to keep Iran from going nuclear, today’s bombshell from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius ought to dispel this illusion. According to Ignatius, Turkey deliberately gave Tehran the identities of up to 10 Iranians working as informants for Israel, resulting in a “significant” loss of intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally approved this decision, and it followed several other incidents in which Erdoğan’s handpicked spy chief gave Iran “sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel.” Yet not only did Washington refuse to even lodge a protest with Ankara, it warmed relations with Turkey even further, to the point that “Erdoğan was among Obama’s key confidants.”

Needless to say, someone serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program would be raging over the loss of “significant” intelligence about it, not rewarding the person responsible for this loss by elevating him to the role of key confidant. By this behavior, Obama signaled Tehran that he’s quite content to remain in ignorance about its race toward the bomb. Someone serious about stopping this program would also stop sharing “sensitive” intelligence about it with a person who known to have passed it on to Tehran, rather than continuing to treat him as a confidant.

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If anyone still believes President Barack Obama’s vow to keep Iran from going nuclear, today’s bombshell from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius ought to dispel this illusion. According to Ignatius, Turkey deliberately gave Tehran the identities of up to 10 Iranians working as informants for Israel, resulting in a “significant” loss of intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally approved this decision, and it followed several other incidents in which Erdoğan’s handpicked spy chief gave Iran “sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel.” Yet not only did Washington refuse to even lodge a protest with Ankara, it warmed relations with Turkey even further, to the point that “Erdoğan was among Obama’s key confidants.”

Needless to say, someone serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program would be raging over the loss of “significant” intelligence about it, not rewarding the person responsible for this loss by elevating him to the role of key confidant. By this behavior, Obama signaled Tehran that he’s quite content to remain in ignorance about its race toward the bomb. Someone serious about stopping this program would also stop sharing “sensitive” intelligence about it with a person who known to have passed it on to Tehran, rather than continuing to treat him as a confidant.

But even without the Ignatius bombshell (which should also lead to mass resignations from the Congressional Turkey Caucus, if Congress is as serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program as it has hitherto shown itself to be), the contrast between this week’s negotiating session with Iran and Obama’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu last month provided pretty clear evidence of Obama’s attitudes. According to Haaretz, Obama complained to the Israeli premier that Israeli-Palestinian talks were progressing too slowly and demanded that they be accelerated, saying otherwise, the nine-month deadline wouldn’t be met. Nothing irreversible is likely to happen that would make a deal impossible if this deadline were missed, yet even so, Obama considered the once-a-week negotiating sessions insufficient.

On Iran, in contrast, time is really of the essence: Its nuclear program is continuing apace even during the negotiations, and experts predict that at this rate, it will reach “critical capability” – the ability to produce nuclear weapons undetected – by mid-2014 at the latest. Yet on this issue, Obama seems to have all the time in the world: Following this week’s opening session in Geneva, talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 will resume only in another three weeks’ time, on November 7.  The contrast between Obama’s impatience on the non-urgent Israeli-Palestinian issue and his seemingly inexhaustible patience on the urgent Iranian one is cogent proof of which issue he really cares about and which he doesn’t.

Last month, a poll found that two-thirds of Jewish Israelis no longer believe Obama’s promise to stop Iran from getting the bomb, and after Ignatius’ revelation sinks in, I’d expect the number to climb even higher. That’s precisely why, contrary to the New York Times’ fond delusion that Netanyahu is “increasingly alone abroad and at home,” the Israeli public is now solidly behind him: In another recent poll, fully two-thirds of Israelis said they would back a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran, a sharp reversal from the 58% who opposed it just last year. Israelis, it seems, are starting to realize that nobody will stop Iran from getting nukes if they don’t. 

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Turkey Shifts Toward Autocracy

I’ve now spent almost a decade writing about the transformation in Turkey. A decade ago, Turkey was a Western-leaning democracy, however flawed, with a largely free even if cantankerous press. Now, Turkey leans firmly toward the Arab world and China, has a prime minister who seems a blend of Vladimir Putin and an Ottoman Sultan, and has not only cracked down on press freedom, but now also seems to be penalizing “thought crime.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, for example, Turkish police raided the home and office of Ahmet Şık in order to confiscate his unpublished manuscript in which he demonstrated penetration of the Turkish security forces by the followers of controversial Islamist leader Fethullah Gülen. Now, a Turkish writer is to be prosecuted for making a word play on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s middle name:

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I’ve now spent almost a decade writing about the transformation in Turkey. A decade ago, Turkey was a Western-leaning democracy, however flawed, with a largely free even if cantankerous press. Now, Turkey leans firmly toward the Arab world and China, has a prime minister who seems a blend of Vladimir Putin and an Ottoman Sultan, and has not only cracked down on press freedom, but now also seems to be penalizing “thought crime.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, for example, Turkish police raided the home and office of Ahmet Şık in order to confiscate his unpublished manuscript in which he demonstrated penetration of the Turkish security forces by the followers of controversial Islamist leader Fethullah Gülen. Now, a Turkish writer is to be prosecuted for making a word play on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s middle name:

[Emrah] Serbes had made a pun in a TV show by changing the prime minister’s middle name “Tayyip” to “Tazyik,” a word meaning pressurized water in reference to the police’s excessive use of water cannons and tear gas against protesters during the most recent May Day.

Serbes could serve up to 12 years in prison.

It gets worse: Earlier this year, Turkey was rocked by protests against the destruction of one of the few remaining green spaces in central Istanbul. The protests shook Erdoğan, who is unaccustomed to public criticism. Indeed, at a recent rally in Adana, photographers spotted gas masks under the chairs of Erdoğan and his wife, just in case. Well, now even thinking about protesting is a crime in Turkey. The Justice and Interior Ministry, both controlled by Erdoğan’s political party, has issued new regulations authorizing without any judicial action the detention for up to one day of anyone at “risk of conducting a protest.”

The lesson learned? Both Bush and Obama let Turkey slip away with a series of ambassadors more prone to sycophancy than hard talk and with political correctness blunting observation of Erdoğan’s Islamist agenda. In the short run, however, I guess the lesson learned is simply not to think bad thoughts about the Tazyik-in-chief next time anyone should pass through Istanbul.

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Erdoğan Embraces “Separate but Equal”

Millions of Turks have migrated to Europe; Turks comprise the largest minority in Germany. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that: Many of the Turks living in Germany work hard and seek to integrate into German society. In the most recent German elections, Cemile Giousouf, a 35-year old daughter of a Turkish immigrant, was elected to the Bundestag as a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. That is good news. For too long, Europe has been a pot in which little has melted.

Alas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan now seeks to keep it that way. He has now demanded that European countries teach the children of the Turkish Diaspora in Turkish, rather than the language of the land:

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Millions of Turks have migrated to Europe; Turks comprise the largest minority in Germany. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that: Many of the Turks living in Germany work hard and seek to integrate into German society. In the most recent German elections, Cemile Giousouf, a 35-year old daughter of a Turkish immigrant, was elected to the Bundestag as a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. That is good news. For too long, Europe has been a pot in which little has melted.

Alas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan now seeks to keep it that way. He has now demanded that European countries teach the children of the Turkish Diaspora in Turkish, rather than the language of the land:

“Those people who contribute to the economy of the country they reside in by working and [turn an honest penny] for more than half of a century have become, to a great extent, permanently settled. However, a large part of those [Turkish] citizens have not been granted education in their mother tongue despite their great efforts and demands,” Erdoğan told European education ministers.

Erdoğan would essentially promote a system of separate but equal in which Turkish emigrants would attend Turkish schools while other German, Danish, Dutch, and Swedish students attended their own separate schools in the language of the land. In effect, the man caricatured as a would-be sultan back home now seeks to impose a modified version of the Ottoman millet system. His demands also reflect the bigotry at the heart of the Turkish leader, who categorizes citizens on the basis of religion and ethnicity rather than in terms of national citizenship. Erdoğan’s demands follow revelations that the Turkish government has maintained secret race codes for use by its own education ministry.  

Immigration can enrich societies, but not at the expense of the embrace of common values which underlays citizenship. How sad it is that the religious and ethnic lens trumps all else in 21st century Turkey, as Turkish liberalism and secularism continues to slide backward. Let us hope that European leaders will be confident enough in their own societies to ignore Erdoğan and his backward demands.

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Turkey Undercuts Anti-Terror Fight

Against the backdrop of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a meeting from which the Obama administration still excludes Israel at Turkey’s insistence, the United States and Turkey have agreed to create a $200 million fund to counter extremism. What a waste of money. The problem is not that countering extremism is bad—it’s not, although so many of the counter-extremism programs out there are unproven or ineffective. Rather, it’s that the program is poisoned from the start with the inclusion of Turkey.

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at a Nairobi mall and a Pakistani church, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a Turkish audience, according to some Turkish interlocutors, “No one can make me say that there are Muslim terrorists.” This builds on previous statements denying that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had any responsibility for the massacres in Darfur and his refusal to acknowledge that the Nusra Front, which Turkey supports and which the United States government considers an al-Qaeda affiliate, is a terrorist group. Erdoğan has even gone so far as to endorse an al-Qaeda financier.

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Against the backdrop of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a meeting from which the Obama administration still excludes Israel at Turkey’s insistence, the United States and Turkey have agreed to create a $200 million fund to counter extremism. What a waste of money. The problem is not that countering extremism is bad—it’s not, although so many of the counter-extremism programs out there are unproven or ineffective. Rather, it’s that the program is poisoned from the start with the inclusion of Turkey.

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at a Nairobi mall and a Pakistani church, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a Turkish audience, according to some Turkish interlocutors, “No one can make me say that there are Muslim terrorists.” This builds on previous statements denying that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had any responsibility for the massacres in Darfur and his refusal to acknowledge that the Nusra Front, which Turkey supports and which the United States government considers an al-Qaeda affiliate, is a terrorist group. Erdoğan has even gone so far as to endorse an al-Qaeda financier.

Nor is it just Islamist terrorism on which the United States and Turkey diverge: While the United States still considers the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group at Turkey’s insistence, Erdoğan has launched talks with the group and acceded to a truce. This creates an irony in which Turkey supports an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria to fight a secular group which controls key territory but which the United States isolates because it is an offshoot of the PKK.

While Erdoğan excuses and actually encourages terrorism, he is acerbic toward free speech. He has identified “Western Islamophobia”—in which he includes criticism not only of Islam but also its more extremist manifestations—as a greater threat than terrorism. And, as he has moved to Islamize the classroom, we find items like this in Turkey’s 2nd grade classrooms: “Look at your jihadist brothers fighting in distant lands, see what you can do to help them.”

How sad it is that Obama isolates states that suffer terrorism, but unites with leaders who promote it. And, of course, what a dereliction of duty it is that so many U.S. congressmen still lend their names to a blanket endorsement of Turkey and Erdoğan’s desire to exclude Israel and excuse terror.

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Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Blasphemy

Just over four months ago, President Obama stood beside Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and spoke warmly of the relations between the two countries and his personal friendship with Turkey’s leader. While they stood together, Erdoğan’s security forces were seizing yet another independent media company; it would soon be transferred to his political allies.

Alas, the situation is going from bad to worse in Turkey. From today’s Hürriyet Daily News:

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court today in a retrial. Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam… Say was convicted after tweeting the following lines: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?”

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Just over four months ago, President Obama stood beside Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and spoke warmly of the relations between the two countries and his personal friendship with Turkey’s leader. While they stood together, Erdoğan’s security forces were seizing yet another independent media company; it would soon be transferred to his political allies.

Alas, the situation is going from bad to worse in Turkey. From today’s Hürriyet Daily News:

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court today in a retrial. Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam… Say was convicted after tweeting the following lines: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?”

Perhaps senior diplomats—some former U.S. ambassadors to Turkey and men like Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried, who downplayed Erdoğan’s Islamism and suggested his party was nothing more than the Turkish equivalent of a European Christian Democratic Party—might want to consider how they got Turkey so wrong. 

For Turkish liberals, businessmen, students, and secularists who are striving for a constitutional order where rule-of-law trumps any prime minister’s personal orders and an independent judiciary reigns supreme, the worst aspect of American behavior is that so many American figures are lending their endorsement not to Turkish-American relations but rather to Erdoğan’s agenda. Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, has made it clear that the Turkish government interprets membership in the Congressional Turkish Caucus as a sign of endorsement of Turkey’s anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-secularist, and anti-free speech agenda. And yet, despite everything, more than 130 members of Congress, continue to effectively endorse a government which engages in blasphemy trials with a frequency now rivaling Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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Turkey’s Double-Speak on Al-Qaeda

Yesterday, on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, released a statement remembering that day and condemning terrorism:

The cowardly acts committed twelve years ago today will always remain as a solemn and tragic reminder of the threat posed by the scourge of terrorism. No cause can justify terrorism, for nothing is more valuable than human life and dignity.

Actions are louder than words and, alas, it seems Tan’s words are empty given the approach the government he represents has taken toward al-Qaeda in recent years.

Yesterday, on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, released a statement remembering that day and condemning terrorism:

The cowardly acts committed twelve years ago today will always remain as a solemn and tragic reminder of the threat posed by the scourge of terrorism. No cause can justify terrorism, for nothing is more valuable than human life and dignity.

Actions are louder than words and, alas, it seems Tan’s words are empty given the approach the government he represents has taken toward al-Qaeda in recent years.

  • Ahmet Kavas, like Tan a Turkish ambassador, raised eyebrows earlier this year when against the backdrop of al-Qaeda fighting in Mali, he declared, “Al-Qaeda is very different from terror” and that “The word ‘terror’ is a French invention. Not the work of Muslims.”
  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the man for whom Tan works, has embraced and continues to support Yasin al-Qadi, designated by the U.S. Treasury Department to be terror financier, having channeled money to al-Qaeda. After it came out that Cuneyt Zapsu, a top Erdoğan adviser, had donated money to Yasin al-Qadi, Erdoğan defended both his aide and Qadi himself. “I know Yasin, I believe in him as I do in myself. He is a charitable person who loves Turkey,” Erdogan told Turkish television.
  • Turkey has in recent years embraced Hamas, and Tan himself has gone above and beyond to defend the flotilla meant to support the terrorist group. The head of the flotilla that Tan defended? Apparently, he has also been involved in channeling money to al-Qaeda.

Tan likes to be all things to all people, but if he’s serious that Turkey stands against terrorism, perhaps he might want to explain the support he, his colleagues, and the government he represents provide toward terrorists.

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Blame Turkey for PKK Truce Breakdown

Back in April, amidst a great deal of public optimism regarding the peace process between Turkish authorities and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgents, I suggested that the Turkish government was more cynical than sincere, and was using the peace process for two reasons: First, to win Kurdish support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s proposed constitution—one that would consolidate his power for more than a decade to come—and second, to win Istanbul the 2020 Olympic Games. (I explain in more detail, here.) I predicted that after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made its choice, Turkey would no longer need to play nice, and so the peace process would collapse in September.

Well, September is here. Erdoğan’s ambitions for the constitution have been sidelined by his own behavior against the backdrop of the Gezi protests earlier this summer, and the IOC decided three days ago to bypass Istanbul’s ill-conceived bid and choose Tokyo. Now, like clockwork, the peace process is collapsing.

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Back in April, amidst a great deal of public optimism regarding the peace process between Turkish authorities and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgents, I suggested that the Turkish government was more cynical than sincere, and was using the peace process for two reasons: First, to win Kurdish support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s proposed constitution—one that would consolidate his power for more than a decade to come—and second, to win Istanbul the 2020 Olympic Games. (I explain in more detail, here.) I predicted that after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made its choice, Turkey would no longer need to play nice, and so the peace process would collapse in September.

Well, September is here. Erdoğan’s ambitions for the constitution have been sidelined by his own behavior against the backdrop of the Gezi protests earlier this summer, and the IOC decided three days ago to bypass Istanbul’s ill-conceived bid and choose Tokyo. Now, like clockwork, the peace process is collapsing.

The Kurdistan Democratic Committee’s Union, a PKK front group, released a statement yesterday on the breakdown of the negotiations, a portion of which I excerpt here:

While a one-hundred-years-old problem is being dealt with, imposing solitary confinement on a main factor on the one side of the problem and not making room for him to work on the solution issues is a clear proof that the government is not sincere in settling the problem. While the Prime Minister and his government are free to hold many sessions and share opinions with many circles every day, Leader APO is only permitted to have a two-hour-long meeting in a month; this fact clearly shows that the process is not developing… Constructing new military posts, building new dams and HES’es [sic] are enough to show the ill-willing approach of the government. The government is preparing itself for war, not for peace. During the 9-month-long non-conflict environment, compared to those of the years of conflict, the government has escalated its military preparation more and more. It has taken no steps with regard to the democratization of Turkey. It has not released the KCK detainees – which would have cleared the way for democratic politics – as it has not abolished the Anti-Terror Law.

Erdoğan has called an emergency meeting with his military and national-security staff to discuss the situation.

Erdoğan will castigate the PKK, but he has no one but himself to blame. While the Turkish media and their Western counterparts expressed optimism about Erdoğan’s truce achievement, few considered what the Kurds hoped to achieve.

After the ceasefire agreement, I traveled both to Brussels and to Qandil—an area of Iraqi Kurdistan controlled by the PKK—to discuss the issue with Kurdish intellectuals and senior PKK leaders. While there is still much about which they and I disagree and much of the conversation was off-the-record, it was clear that the PKK expected far more than Erdoğan was willing to offer. Indeed, aside from some radio programming and language freedom, Erdoğan offered little if anything.

Most Turks cannot conceive of what equality and reintegration inside Turkey would mean. Rather than talk about a few Kurdish language courses, they should understand that true reconciliation will mean former PKK soldiers become integrated into the Turkish army, and former PKK scouts join the MIT, Turkey’s intelligence service. Istanbul—which is the city with the largest Kurdish population in the world—should have bilingual street signs. Turkey would, in such circumstances, become a bi-national state. Under any circumstance, the PKK would want its leader Abdullah Öcalan released from prison.

There is no excuse for Turkey not to release Öcalan if Turkey is serious about peace. After all, by opening negotiations with Öcalan, Turkey made him the indispensable man. After years of declaring him irrelevant, Erdoğan transformed him into the only figure who can represent Turkey’s Kurds in negotiations. When Öcalan is released from prison, I doubt he will settle for being mayor of Diyarbakir, which would be the cap if anyone accepted Erdoğan’s plan.

Turkey and the United States consider Öcalan a terrorist, but it is well past time the United States reconsider the designation: Both sides have bloody hands in the conflict and the PKK has long acted more as an organized insurgent group rather than a terrorist group. The United States delisted the Mujahidin al-Khalq, an abhorrent cult that does conduct terrorism, has targeted Americans in the past, and has little if any support in Iran. In contrast, the PKK has never targeted Americans, has not bribed Americans as the Mujahedin does, and has widespread support not only in Turkey, but also in Iran and Syria.

Öcalan, from isolation in a prison cell, has run circles around Erdoğan and regardless of what happens next, will come out the victor. If the ceasefire collapses, he still has the relevancy Erdoğan bestowed upon him. If Erdoğan offers more concessions, he affirms the PKK’s strategy.

As problematic as some PKK behavior can be, it is time for American policymakers to reconsider its leader and the group, and end America’s blind support for Erdoğan who has used Kurds like a political football and has yet to outline his own road map or vision for the resolution of the conflict. That certainly does not mean swapping blind support for one authoritarian with another, but rather determining what is in the long-term interests of regional stability, democracy, and U.S. national interests.

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Turkey Caucus Should Speak Out on Anti-Semitism

I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

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I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

When it comes to political theories and Jews, Erdoğan increasingly sounds like a cross between Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The difference between Erdoğan and those three footnotes to history, however, is that only Erdoğan has 135 congressmen watching his back. How shameful it is that the chairmen of the Congressional Turkey Caucus have not spoken out on Turkish anti-Semitism. Their silence convinces the paranoid and conspiratorial Erdoğan that American congressmen support his theories. Sometimes, diplomacy isn’t simply about making friendships; true diplomacy requires sometimes breaking them as well.

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What’s Motivating Erdoğan on Egypt?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become the most outspoken international leader condemning the coup in Egypt and calling for the restoration of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Certainly, part of Erdoğan’s commitment to Morsi is ideological: Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party is, at its roots, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both share an ideological and religious agenda and hope to remake their societies fundamentally.

It would give Erdoğan too much credit to suggest his only motivation is religious. Erdoğan is no saint; he is vain, coarse, and has amassed an amazing amount of money far beyond his salary or religious alms. In the months before Morsi’s ouster, Turkish defense contractors cultivated Egypt. From Hürriyet Daily News:

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become the most outspoken international leader condemning the coup in Egypt and calling for the restoration of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Certainly, part of Erdoğan’s commitment to Morsi is ideological: Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party is, at its roots, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both share an ideological and religious agenda and hope to remake their societies fundamentally.

It would give Erdoğan too much credit to suggest his only motivation is religious. Erdoğan is no saint; he is vain, coarse, and has amassed an amazing amount of money far beyond his salary or religious alms. In the months before Morsi’s ouster, Turkish defense contractors cultivated Egypt. From Hürriyet Daily News:

An Arab diplomat in Ankara said he expected “difficult times” in Turkish-Egyptian relations, which may disrupt economic relations too, unless Ankara and Cairo prefer to pursue a pragmatic line… In May Turkey granted Egypt a $250 million loan to finance Turkish-Egyptian joint defense projects. The loan, the first of its kind, intends to boost defense cooperation and Turkish defense exports to Egypt. Earlier, Egypt expressed an interest in buying the new ANKA Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles built by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Egypt was one of the pioneers in unmanned aerial systems, fielding the Teledyne Ryan Model 324 Scarab high speed drone and SkyEye tactical UAVs since the early 1980s. The addition of a MALE platform will fulfill the gap offering better persistence, improved imagery and multi-payload capacity. The potential sale of six to 10 ANKA systems to Egypt was discussed during Erdoğan’s visit to Cairo last November… In a separate deal, Ankara had approved the sale to Egypt of six multi-role tactical platforms, MRTP-20 “fast-intervention crafts,” produced by the privately-owned shipyards Yonca-Onuk.

Erdoğan may be angry at the financial hit Turkey took in Egypt, but the episode should also be a wake-up call to the changing military balance in the Middle East. While the United States provides Turkey with high-end military platforms, Turkey has been building up a military industry which potentially can change the military balance in the region. The coup may have voided Turkish military contracts in Egypt, but it is an open question what Turkey has provided to Islamists in other Arab Spring countries.

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“I Thought So”: Of Turkey and Telekinesis

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, following the path laid down by so many strongmen before him, has become so isolated from reality, surrounded by sycophants, and indulged in his own prejudices and fantasies that he is not only seeming increasingly mad, but down right unhinged: Think Muammar Gaddafi meets Vladimir Zhirinovsky meets Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The latest evidence? The increasing obsession of Erdoğan and those around him that his enemies are using telekinesis to destabilize Turkey. Here, for example is an article reporting on the Prime Ministry’s Inspection Board investigation into a recent spate of suicides at the Turkish military’s research and development arm:

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, following the path laid down by so many strongmen before him, has become so isolated from reality, surrounded by sycophants, and indulged in his own prejudices and fantasies that he is not only seeming increasingly mad, but down right unhinged: Think Muammar Gaddafi meets Vladimir Zhirinovsky meets Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The latest evidence? The increasing obsession of Erdoğan and those around him that his enemies are using telekinesis to destabilize Turkey. Here, for example is an article reporting on the Prime Ministry’s Inspection Board investigation into a recent spate of suicides at the Turkish military’s research and development arm:

The suspicious suicides of four engineers working at the Turkish corporation ASELSAN could have been caused by telekinesis, according to a report by the Turkish Prime Ministry Inspection Board. The report, presented to the Ankara Public Prosecutor in accordance with the ongoing investigation over the 2006-2007 suicides, claimed the victims could have been directed toward the suicides by way of telekinesis, citing the work done by neuropsychology expert Nevzat Tarhan.

As for those protests which stymied the prime minister’s plans to pave over one of central Istanbul’s last remaining green spaces? The answer, according to Erdoğan’s chief adviser, is telekinesis employed by Turkey’s enemies. And here’s that advisor, Yiğit Bulut, arguing on Turkish television that those nefarious Israelis are trying to kill Erdoğan with their mental powers.

On the count of three, we should all direct our telekinesis to Bulut himself. One, two, three: Oops, my horns keep getting in the way.

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Will Erdoğan End His Career in Prison?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may think he is riding high. Despite the recent Gezi protests, he remains popular among a large segment of society and, during his last election, he surpassed 50 percent of the vote. He may believe demography is on his side, for religious Anatolians upon whose support he relies have more babies than the more Europeanized, Mediterranean Turks who tourists falsely believe dominate the country based on interactions in historic districts of Istanbul and along the Mediterranean coast. Even though frustration with Erdoğan runs high throughout Turkey and anxiety about the true state of the Turkish economy has increased in recent months, the prime minister can take solace in the impotence of the opposition’s leadership.

Erdoğan at best sees himself as a combination between Russian President Vladimir Putin and an Ottoman sultan, and at worst has become unhinged. He appears above the law, shuttering opposition media willy-nilly to the point where Turkey now rests in the bottom 15 percent in world press freedom, behind such enemies of freedom as Russia, the Palestinian Authority, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, and only just above Belarus and Egypt. The imprisonment of journalists, generals, and civil society activists has made a mockery of Turkish justice, making Midnight Express look like Turkish courts’ liberal, open, golden age. Erdoğan, who was imprisoned two decades ago for religious incitement, is far more interested in settling scores than he is in reforming or democratizing Turkey.

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may think he is riding high. Despite the recent Gezi protests, he remains popular among a large segment of society and, during his last election, he surpassed 50 percent of the vote. He may believe demography is on his side, for religious Anatolians upon whose support he relies have more babies than the more Europeanized, Mediterranean Turks who tourists falsely believe dominate the country based on interactions in historic districts of Istanbul and along the Mediterranean coast. Even though frustration with Erdoğan runs high throughout Turkey and anxiety about the true state of the Turkish economy has increased in recent months, the prime minister can take solace in the impotence of the opposition’s leadership.

Erdoğan at best sees himself as a combination between Russian President Vladimir Putin and an Ottoman sultan, and at worst has become unhinged. He appears above the law, shuttering opposition media willy-nilly to the point where Turkey now rests in the bottom 15 percent in world press freedom, behind such enemies of freedom as Russia, the Palestinian Authority, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, and only just above Belarus and Egypt. The imprisonment of journalists, generals, and civil society activists has made a mockery of Turkish justice, making Midnight Express look like Turkish courts’ liberal, open, golden age. Erdoğan, who was imprisoned two decades ago for religious incitement, is far more interested in settling scores than he is in reforming or democratizing Turkey.

The problem is few Turkish leaders are as secure as they come to believe. By imprisoning journalists, opposition parliamentarians, and generals for little more than their belief in secularism and Western-style liberalism, Erdoğan is creating a precedent for his own future. Erdoğan—and, according to U.S. diplomatic documents, some of his top cronies like Egemen Bağış and Cuneyt Zapsu—are corrupt; Erdoğan himself has more than a dozen suspended corruption probes against him that, theoretically, will restart once he loses his immunity.

Many of those sentenced to prison on trumped-up charges and conspiracies will not likely end their lives or careers in prison, even if their immediate situation appears dire. Sometimes, the sultan wears no clothes. Unfortunately for Erdoğan, he has paved the way for his new set to be a prison uniform, probably sooner than he realizes.

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The Madness of King Erdogan

Since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited Hamas to Istanbul in 2006, shortly after the Islamist terrorist organization won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority, Israel-Turkey relations have deteriorated.

Erdogan has repeatedly exploited the Palestinian issue to score propaganda points both at home and with Arab and Muslim audiences and has sacrificed a strategic alliance over his pride, especially after the Israeli incursion into Gaza in late 2008 and the Mavi Marmara affair. Why Erdogan would take cheap shots at Israel has been repeatedly discussed here and elsewhere and needs not be rehashed.

But as his vicious rhetoric increasingly flirted with anti-Israel language, there was little opposition inside Turkey to this aspect of Erdogan’s boisterous style on the international stage. Even when he brought his personal animus to a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres, whom he abruptly abandoned on stage in Davos, or when he sought revenge against Israel at NATO by seeking to exclude Israel from NATO-Mediterranean dialogue programs, or when he set up a kangaroo court against Israeli military personnel in Istanbul, few dared label this trend for what it was: political insanity and a self-inflicted wound.

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Since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited Hamas to Istanbul in 2006, shortly after the Islamist terrorist organization won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority, Israel-Turkey relations have deteriorated.

Erdogan has repeatedly exploited the Palestinian issue to score propaganda points both at home and with Arab and Muslim audiences and has sacrificed a strategic alliance over his pride, especially after the Israeli incursion into Gaza in late 2008 and the Mavi Marmara affair. Why Erdogan would take cheap shots at Israel has been repeatedly discussed here and elsewhere and needs not be rehashed.

But as his vicious rhetoric increasingly flirted with anti-Israel language, there was little opposition inside Turkey to this aspect of Erdogan’s boisterous style on the international stage. Even when he brought his personal animus to a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres, whom he abruptly abandoned on stage in Davos, or when he sought revenge against Israel at NATO by seeking to exclude Israel from NATO-Mediterranean dialogue programs, or when he set up a kangaroo court against Israeli military personnel in Istanbul, few dared label this trend for what it was: political insanity and a self-inflicted wound.

As if one could act irrationally on one front while being reasonable on all other fronts, Turkish society continued to back Erdogan. After all, his regional policies appeared briefly to pay dividends–Turkey’s economy was booming, trade with Iran was booming, relations with Syria were thawing, and popularity across the Arab world for standing up to Israel gave Turkey the brief illusion it could regain its role of regional guide it lost at the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Madness, unfortunately, cannot be compartmentalized. Erdogan’s latest outburst–in which he, as Michael Rubin pointed out, accused Israel of being behind Egypt’s military coup while citing as the only evidence a public conversation between French intellectual Bernard Henri-Levy and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni from two years ago (when she actually was in opposition)–is the acne of a conspiratorial mind that has lost touch with reality. So was, incidentally, the incessant, obsessive accusation, voiced by Erdogan and some of his ministers back in June, that the Gezi Park protests were orchestrated by foreign agents.

Turks should open their eyes to the fact that Erdogan’s obsession with conspiracies are a reflection of a man who is incapable of seeing reality in the eyes–and the increasingly disastrous foreign-policy outcomes of his decisions are one with this mindset, to say nothing of the harm he has inflicted on Turkish democratic standards. Turkey’s decision to flirt with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, support Islamist rebels in Syria, throw the strategic relation with Israel to the dogs, and increase tensions over Cyprus are all backfiring.

It was easy to dismiss his anti-Israel posture as clever or eccentric when Turkey’s foreign policy appeared set to conquer one success after another. Now that it is all ending in failure, maybe Turkish society can see that a man who sees dark conspiracies everywhere will not serve his country well–and that the harm he did to the Israel-Turkey relationship is part and parcel of the damage he is causing to the country as a whole.

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Erdoğan’s Anti-Semitic Obsession

Presidents and diplomats have for decades described Turkey as a model. In 2004, for example, President George W. Bush stood before a crowd of journalists in Ankara and praised Turkey. “I appreciate so very much the example your country has set on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom.” After the Arab Spring, politicians began to suggest that Turkey—with its supposed combination of Islam and democracy—might be a model for the Arab states in which Islamist parties sought for the first time to compete freely in elections.

Last week at the Chautauqua Institution, I gave a lengthy address suggesting that the notion of Turkey as a model for the Middle East was both wrong and dangerous, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proven to be a model in other ways: He has single-handedly shown how even Islamist leaders embraced in the West as the most moderate harbor noxious anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories. Almost two years ago, I wrote here about how Turkey was embracing the crudest anti-Semitism. Then, earlier this summer as Turks across the political spectrum rose up against Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarianism, he lashed out at some mysterious “Interest Rate Lobby,” a not-too-subtle reference to international Jewry which Erdoğan believes controls the markets. Not to be outdone, he has now accused Jews of masterminding the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. That’s right: Those Jews control the Egyptian military.

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Presidents and diplomats have for decades described Turkey as a model. In 2004, for example, President George W. Bush stood before a crowd of journalists in Ankara and praised Turkey. “I appreciate so very much the example your country has set on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom.” After the Arab Spring, politicians began to suggest that Turkey—with its supposed combination of Islam and democracy—might be a model for the Arab states in which Islamist parties sought for the first time to compete freely in elections.

Last week at the Chautauqua Institution, I gave a lengthy address suggesting that the notion of Turkey as a model for the Middle East was both wrong and dangerous, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proven to be a model in other ways: He has single-handedly shown how even Islamist leaders embraced in the West as the most moderate harbor noxious anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories. Almost two years ago, I wrote here about how Turkey was embracing the crudest anti-Semitism. Then, earlier this summer as Turks across the political spectrum rose up against Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarianism, he lashed out at some mysterious “Interest Rate Lobby,” a not-too-subtle reference to international Jewry which Erdoğan believes controls the markets. Not to be outdone, he has now accused Jews of masterminding the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. That’s right: Those Jews control the Egyptian military.

Let’s be blunt: If Erdoğan is a model, then he is a model for bigotry. Turkey has an anti-Semitism problem, and it is personified by its leader. Any of those who still seek to embrace Erdoğan or see him as a friend through whom the United States can work are effectively endorsing a worldview that is little different from Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky or Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf Qaradawi.

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The Muslim Brotherhood’s Shameful Nobel Laureate

When Islamist radicals in Pakistan’s tribal territories shot 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai, the world condemned the senseless act of terrorism. The Pakistani Taliban had, like the Chechen Islamists who massacred children in Beslan nearly a decade ago, simply miscalculated that even those prone to support extremists and terrorists draw the line at targeting children (or, at least non-Jewish children).

In the wake of the assassination attempt on the young advocate for girls’ education, there was one so-called peace activist who was noticeably silent: 2011 Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman. Karman was selected not only because she was a Yemeni political activist—rising up courageously to challenge the dictatorship of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh—but also because she was affiliated with a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. The head of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee told the Associated Press, “Karman belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.’ He added that ‘I don’t believe that. There are many signals that, that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.’”

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When Islamist radicals in Pakistan’s tribal territories shot 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai, the world condemned the senseless act of terrorism. The Pakistani Taliban had, like the Chechen Islamists who massacred children in Beslan nearly a decade ago, simply miscalculated that even those prone to support extremists and terrorists draw the line at targeting children (or, at least non-Jewish children).

In the wake of the assassination attempt on the young advocate for girls’ education, there was one so-called peace activist who was noticeably silent: 2011 Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman. Karman was selected not only because she was a Yemeni political activist—rising up courageously to challenge the dictatorship of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh—but also because she was affiliated with a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. The head of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee told the Associated Press, “Karman belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.’ He added that ‘I don’t believe that. There are many signals that, that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.’”

Karman did not hesitate, however, to condemn the Egyptian government’s crackdown in Cairo—even before the recent violence. She found no time to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood’s targeting of Christians or ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s abuse of power, but violence perpetrated against Islamists was, for the Nobel Laureate, another thing entirely.

Herein lies the problem: For too many affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates, there exists different standards for Islamists and for non-Islamists. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—himself leading a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group—famously exculpated indicted war criminal Omar Al-Bashir because the Koran cleared the Sudanese Islamist president. Karman delegitimized herself when she refused to speak up for an innocent school girl targeted by militant Islamists. If she wants us to believe she is an honest broker and carries any weight in her support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood now, she should be quickly disabused of that notion.

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The Peace Process’s Turkey Problem

As Jonathan noted yesterday, Israeli pessimism about renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stems from certain important facts that Americans like to ignore but Israelis find impossible to forget. I’d like to add another fact to his list. You might call it the Turkey problem–specifically, President Barack Obama’s blithe disregard of Turkey’s violation of a deal with Israel that he himself brokered.

Any Israeli-Palestinian agreement would presumably involve certain American guarantees, particularly on security. Washington even assigned a very prominent retired general, former commander in Afghanistan John Allen, “to consult with the Israelis about how the United States can help them meet security challenges posed by a Palestinian state,” as the Washington Post’s David Ignatius put it. But America can’t offer this kind of guarantee anymore, because under Obama, U.S. promises to Israel have repeatedly proven worthless. The Turkish deal is a classic example.

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As Jonathan noted yesterday, Israeli pessimism about renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stems from certain important facts that Americans like to ignore but Israelis find impossible to forget. I’d like to add another fact to his list. You might call it the Turkey problem–specifically, President Barack Obama’s blithe disregard of Turkey’s violation of a deal with Israel that he himself brokered.

Any Israeli-Palestinian agreement would presumably involve certain American guarantees, particularly on security. Washington even assigned a very prominent retired general, former commander in Afghanistan John Allen, “to consult with the Israelis about how the United States can help them meet security challenges posed by a Palestinian state,” as the Washington Post’s David Ignatius put it. But America can’t offer this kind of guarantee anymore, because under Obama, U.S. promises to Israel have repeatedly proven worthless. The Turkish deal is a classic example.

While visiting Israel in March, Obama personally twisted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arm to get him to apologize and pay compensation for Israel’s 2010 raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Since the flotilla sought to break a blockade that even the UN recognizes as legal, and since the Turkish casualties occurred only because an “organized and violent” group of Turks attacked Israel’s boarding party with “iron bars, staves, chains, and slingshots” (to quote the UN’s report on the incident), wounding several soldiers and capturing and abusing three, most Israelis considered an apology unwarranted: The soldiers opened fire only in self-defense. Nevertheless, Netanyahu agreed, even making the telephoned apology in Obama’s presence.

In exchange, Turkey was supposed to return its ambassador to Israel, end its show-trials (in absentia) of senior Israeli officials, and otherwise restore normal relations. Five months later, not only has none of this happened, but Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc made clear last month that it never will, because Turkey has appended two new conditions that weren’t part of the deal: Israel must agree that it committed a “wrongful act” (in the original apology, whose wording was carefully negotiated, Israel acknowledged operational errors but not legal wrongdoing), and it must end the Gaza blockade.

Yet Obama hasn’t breathed a word of criticism for this new Turkish stance, much less exerted any pressure on his good friend Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to keep his side of the bargain. So Israel made concessions upfront, the other side pocketed them and then reneged on the promised quid pro quo, and Obama didn’t utter a peep. That hardly encourages Israel to do the same on the Palestinian front.

Clearly, this isn’t the first time Obama has broken a promise to Israel. He reneged on his predecessor’s oral agreement to let Israel continue building in the settlement blocs, outraging even leftists like Haaretz editor Aluf Benn by denying the agreement’s very existence; he reneged on his predecessor’s written promise that any Israeli-Palestinian deal must leave Israel with the settlement blocs and “defensible borders”–a promise Israel paid for by vacating every last inch of Gaza and evicting every last settler–instead publicly declaring that the border must be based on the indefensible 1967 lines; and he reneged on UN Resolution 242, which also promised Israel both defensible borders and the right to keep some of the territory captured in 1967, thereby abandoning the position of every U.S. government since 1967. All this taught Israelis that his successors might similarly scrap any promises he makes Israel today.

But in the Turkey case, he’s shown that he won’t even uphold his own promises to Israel. And that makes the conclusion inescapable: Any cession of real security assets like territory in exchange for American guarantees is a losing proposition for Israel.

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Rally Shows Erdoğan Doesn’t Get It

At a rally in Germany, Turkey’s Culture and Tourism minister Ömer Çelik sought to rally the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) masses:

“You brought the AKP [Justice and Development Party] to power in 2002 to establish your will and your vision. We have gone through junta plots and assassination plots against the AKP. But we all know: First God, then comes the nation,” Çelik said

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At a rally in Germany, Turkey’s Culture and Tourism minister Ömer Çelik sought to rally the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) masses:

“You brought the AKP [Justice and Development Party] to power in 2002 to establish your will and your vision. We have gone through junta plots and assassination plots against the AKP. But we all know: First God, then comes the nation,” Çelik said

There certainly is more to the story than the newspaper lets on. Germany castigated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the wake of his brutal and extra-legal crackdown on protestors in Gezi Park, a crackdown which continues to this day. Eighty thousand Turks rallied in Germany against Erdoğan, an important sign of how Turks feel considering Turks in Germany tend to be more religious than many of their counterparts inside Turkey. Erdoğan, true to his character, was defiant.

Erdoğan addressed the rally by video in which Çelik spoke. The implication of the rally was clear on a number of levels:

  • First, make no mistake: The AKP might embraces the wrappings of democracy, but it disdains any system which puts people above God.
  • Second, Erdoğan and senior AKP officials have on numerous occasions urged Turks not to assimilate into Europe. By rallying his supporters inside Germany, he is subtly warning German authorities that, should they not change their posture to him, he can mobilize his masses in other ways. The Germans may not want to admit that, but it is Erdoğan’s clear intention.
  • Lastly, it’s time to put any hope that peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will succeed. The AKP may believe they can overcome national animosity by putting Islam above nationalism, but there’s no indication that the Kurds are willing to stop embracing nationalism as their chief identity.

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Erdoğan’s Disdain Extends from Jews to Blacks

Every Tuesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his Justice and Development Party (AKP) cohorts. Speaking before a friendly audience, he often lets his guard down and lets the real Erdoğan shine through. Alas, increasingly it’s apparent that the real Erdoğan is not only an anti-Semite—ranting and raving about Jews or some amorphous “interest rate lobby”—but also a racist.

Criticizing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the center-left and secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP), Erdoğan declared, “Kılıçdaroğlu is striving every bit he can to raise himself from the level of a black person to the level of a white man.” The Turkish word—ZenciErdoğan used is often used in a derogatory way.

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Every Tuesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his Justice and Development Party (AKP) cohorts. Speaking before a friendly audience, he often lets his guard down and lets the real Erdoğan shine through. Alas, increasingly it’s apparent that the real Erdoğan is not only an anti-Semite—ranting and raving about Jews or some amorphous “interest rate lobby”—but also a racist.

Criticizing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the center-left and secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP), Erdoğan declared, “Kılıçdaroğlu is striving every bit he can to raise himself from the level of a black person to the level of a white man.” The Turkish word—ZenciErdoğan used is often used in a derogatory way.

President Obama has described Erdoğan as one of the few leaders with whom he has developed bonds of trust. On a policy level, Erdoğan has worked to undercut sanctions on Iran and has embraced groups like Hamas and Hezbollah designated by the U.S. government to be terrorists. On a personal level, he has exposed himself as an anti-Semite and now a racist. Perhaps it’s time for Obama to explain just what he sees in the Turkish premier. And perhaps it’s time for the Congressional Turkey Caucus—several members of which are also in the Congressional Black Caucus—to ask Erdoğan just what he meant when he described his chief political opponent in decidedly racist tones.

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Time for U.S. Jews to Take Action on Turkey

Two recent comments by Turks encapsulate everything that’s wrong with Washington’s Turkey policy. One is Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay’s astounding accusation yesterday that the “Jewish diaspora” is behind last month’s massive anti-government protests. The other is a protester’s tweet quoted by Istanbul-based journalist Claire Berlinski: “Let me take this opportunity to thank Erdoğan’s international cheerleaders for the monster they’ve co-created.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has many international cheerleaders, but the biggest has long been President Barack Obama, who famously declared him one of the five world leaders he trusted most. Obama repeatedly touted Erdogan as a positive force in the Middle East and an exemplar of how to combine Islam and democracy.

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Two recent comments by Turks encapsulate everything that’s wrong with Washington’s Turkey policy. One is Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay’s astounding accusation yesterday that the “Jewish diaspora” is behind last month’s massive anti-government protests. The other is a protester’s tweet quoted by Istanbul-based journalist Claire Berlinski: “Let me take this opportunity to thank Erdoğan’s international cheerleaders for the monster they’ve co-created.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has many international cheerleaders, but the biggest has long been President Barack Obama, who famously declared him one of the five world leaders he trusted most. Obama repeatedly touted Erdogan as a positive force in the Middle East and an exemplar of how to combine Islam and democracy.

This was always fatuous: Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are neither a positive force in the Middle East nor an exemplar of democracy, and Erdogan’s government routinely spouts anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bile. But as Atalay’s comment shows, the chickens are now coming home to roost: Lest anyone has forgotten, the largest Jewish Diaspora by far is in America. In other words, Ankara’s newest conspiracy theory is primarily aimed at U.S. citizens.

This is a well-known historical pattern: Anti-Jewish animus always expands to new targets if left unchecked. Thus by giving the Erdogan government’s venom a pass and praising the premier lavishly, U.S. policymakers simply encouraged the poison to spread. Now, Erdogan is biting the very hands that fed him, turning not just on U.S. citizens–and specifically some of Obama’s strongest supporters–but on the international media (which also numbered among his cheerleaders until recently) and various unspecified foreign governments that Ankara sees as part of the conspiracy.

Moreover, by encouraging these excesses, Washington alienated the many ordinary Turks who oppose their premier’s less lovable traits, and especially his growing authoritarianism: Not only does Erdogan’s government lead the world in jailing journalists; it just suppressed peaceful protests so brutally that more than 7,000 people were wounded, many seriously, along with four killed.

As the abovementioned tweet shows, most Turks believe this violence was enabled by Erdogan’s “international cheerleaders,” who led him to believe that anything he did would get a free pass. And as Berlinski noted, his Turkish victims won’t soon forgive America for this–meaning this policy has done incalculable damage to America’s long-term interests.

But while the protests forced many journalists and governments to finally recognize the truth about Erdogan, there’s been one glaring exception: America. As Berlinski noted elsewhere, other embassies in Turkey tweeted regularly about the protests, but the U.S. mission stuck to fatuous irrelevancies like “#SecKerry‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ on #LGBT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Pride Month: No matter where you are, and no matter who you love, we stand with you.” Worse, at the height of the crackdown, U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone even lavished praise on Erdogan’s government, declaring, “There is no difference between us and the government of Turkey” regarding “the principles that we share of freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly” (if that were true, American citizens should worry).

The message was clear: As far as the leader of the free world is concerned, Erdogan still has a free pass: His government is free to continue using massive violence against his own citizens, and free to spout anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against American citizens.

This should be a wake-up call for American Jews: They haven’t been trying to foment protests in Turkey, but it’s high time for them to start doing so in America. By pressuring the president they helped elect to finally stop encouraging Erdogan’s excesses, they would serve the long-term interests of America, Turkey and Jews everywhere. It’s hard to think of a bigger win-win than that.

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Awarding Olympics to Istanbul Would Discourage Reform

I have written before about the International Olympic Committee’s fast approaching decision about which city to award the 2020 Summer Olympics. There are three finalists: Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo. At the core of my initial criticism was that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was framing Turkey’s right to host the Olympics in terms of religion: Turkey would be the first Muslim-majority country to host the games. That would have set a negative precedent in which religious quotas rather than other host qualities become a predominant factor. Regardless, the point should be moot for other reasons: Dubai is the front runner for 2024 and is also majority Muslim, but unlike Turkey, its ruler has not framed the city’s bid in religion.

I also admittedly have been cynical about Erdoğan’s broader motivation: according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, the prime minister has used his position to amass great wealth. The billions in construction contracts that would accompany an Istanbul Olympics could propel Erdoğan—a man who already has more than a dozen corruption cases against him—into the ranks of the world’s richest man.

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I have written before about the International Olympic Committee’s fast approaching decision about which city to award the 2020 Summer Olympics. There are three finalists: Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo. At the core of my initial criticism was that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was framing Turkey’s right to host the Olympics in terms of religion: Turkey would be the first Muslim-majority country to host the games. That would have set a negative precedent in which religious quotas rather than other host qualities become a predominant factor. Regardless, the point should be moot for other reasons: Dubai is the front runner for 2024 and is also majority Muslim, but unlike Turkey, its ruler has not framed the city’s bid in religion.

I also admittedly have been cynical about Erdoğan’s broader motivation: according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, the prime minister has used his position to amass great wealth. The billions in construction contracts that would accompany an Istanbul Olympics could propel Erdoğan—a man who already has more than a dozen corruption cases against him—into the ranks of the world’s richest man.

When I criticized Istanbul’s case, however, on Erdoğan’s illiberal policies, correspondents pointed out that the International Olympic Committee has never associated the hosting of the Olympics with an endorsement of any particular country’s human rights situation. That’s true historically, as the 1936 Berlin, 1980 Moscow, and 2008 Beijing games demonstrate, and it is also the case with regard to the 2014 Sochi winter games and the Dubai 2024 bid. But in the post-Cold War era, there has also been an undercurrent that the Olympics might improve society or encourage continued liberalization. That certainly was a factor in the Beijing award.

Alas, as the IOC’s September 2013 decision looms about the 2020 Games, they should recognize that, in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests, confirming the 2020 Olympics on Istanbul could do serious harm to Turkey. Rather than recognize that the protests are largely a reaction to his own autocratic style, Erdoğan has doubled down on both his own intolerance, endorsement of police brutality, and bizarre anti-Semitic conspiracies. No longer, it seems, is the “Interest Rate Lobby,” as Erdoğan now labels his imagined Jewish conspiracy, just targeting Turkey. Rather, it has Brazil in its sites as well. Nor are the Jews the only conspirators with which Erdoğan now obsesses: On August 5, a judiciary whose independence Erdoğan has eroded will render judgment against dozens of former military officers, journalists, and other officials whom Erdoğan has patched together in a convoluted conspiracy that doesn’t pass the most basic of smell tests. To cap it off, rather than investigate the police abuse which helped sparked Turkey’s recent unrest, Erdoğan has endorsed it.

Turkey is in a fragile state: The Gezi protests have exposed long-simmering fissures which will only worsen if Erdoğan can use the 2020 Olympics as his excuse to bulldoze over political opponents and civil society. Nor are the Kurdish peace talks going well. While Turks celebrated a peace process announced with the long-outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) just two days before the International Olympic Committee’s official visit to Istanbul, both Turks and Kurds are beginning to recognize that the agreement was not just for the PKK to lay down its arms, but that the PKK seeks equally momentous decisions on Turkey’s end, including the release of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and eventual confederation between Turks and Kurds inside Turkey. If the Turks are not prepared to meet such demands, violence could return to Turkey in the run-up to the Olympics. Istanbul, after all, is now the city with the largest Kurdish population in the world.

Someday Istanbul will host the Olympics, and it will do so with a charm and a friendliness that few other cosmopolitan cities can match. That day cannot come during Erdoğan’s tenure, however, for should the International Olympic Committee choose Istanbul when they meet in Buenos Aires on September 7, they will ensure that the 2020 Olympics will be associated with strife, not celebration.

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