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Op-Ed

Time to Get Tough with Turkey

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The Trump administration is trying to walk a fine line between Turkey, which it still refers to as a NATO ally, and our Kurdish allies on the ground in northern Syria, and it has become increasingly painful and disheartening to watch.

For the past two months, as Turkish troops have pounded civilians in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, Turkish President Recip Tayip Erdogan has verbally assaulted and taunted America.

After initially threatening to kill U.S. liaison officers working with the Kurds, Erdogan then warned the U.S. commander in Syria, LG Paul Funk, to beware an “Ottoman slap.”

The fact that U.S. commanders – undoubtedly under the direction of Defense Secretary Mattis – continued to avoid any direct contact with Turkish troops only emboldened Erdogan. Just before the final assault on Afrin last week, he taunted: “NATO members are not powerful enough to stand up to Turkey… [T]hey do not have the cheek.”

Once YPG fighters withdrew from Afrin on March 15, and civilians evacuated in the following days, Islamist militias backed by the Turkish army swooped into the city, destroying Kurdish cultural sites and plundering homes and businesses.

These were exactly the people the U.S. has been trying to defeat on the battlefield. And here Turkey has made them their allies and is training and equipping them.

As I argued in these pages two months ago, Turkey has long since stopped behaving like a NATO ally. It’s time that the Trump administration faced these facts and got tough on Turkey.

There can be no doubt that the appeasement policy carried out by the outgoing national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, and Rex Tillerson, has failed miserably. How deeply SecDef Jim Mattis buys into that policy could be a factor in his survival on the Trump team.

Erdogan is now threatening to unleash his Islamist allies on the remaining YPG strongholds further east, in Manbij, and even to push across the border into Mount Sinjar in Iraq to attack Iranian Kurds he considers to be allied to the PKK.

Earlier this week, General Mattis acknowledged that Erdogan’s blood-lust for the Kurds has brought coalition operations against ISIS strongholds along the Syrian-Iraqi border to a standstill, all the while he continued to call Turkey a “NATO ally” and spoke positively about “an open dialogue” with Turkey.

I’d call that surreal if it weren’t pathetic – and tragic.

The United States needs to stand by our allies. In this battle, there can be no doubt who they are: the Kurds, not Turkey. The Kurds have built a secular, pluralistic, democratic government in northern Syria, whereas Turkey has become an Islamist autocracy that compares itself increasingly to the Ottoman empire.

The Trump administration has much more leverage it can bring to bear against Turkey than the President’s generals would have us believe.

First, we can increase U.S. military support for the YPG, and draw clear red lines beyond which any advance by Turkey or its Islamist allies will mean a direct confrontation with the United States.

That is not a far-fetched proposal. After all, when a force of Russian mercenaries violated a similar red line near the Syrian-Iraq border last month, they were torn to shreds by U.S. artillery and aircraft, causing an estimated 300 Russian casualties. Since then, the Russians have kept their distance from U.S. forces.

Next, we can accelerate the disengagement from Incirlik airbase in eastern Turkey, as Germany has already done. This is the NATO airbase that Turkey refused to let us use in the first battle against Saddam Hussein in 1991, and again in 2003, and again more recently for strikes against ISIS. This is the base where Erdogan loyalists besieged U.S. Air Force personnel during the August 2016 coup, treating their NATO allies (us!) as a hostile, occupying force.

I have long argued we should withdraw from Incirlik and move those air assets to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Israel’s Debka.com believes such a move is already under way.

Next, the U.S. should go to NATO to seek sanctions against Turkey for violating the North Atlantic Treaty by conducting offensive operations beyond its borders without NATO approval and without having been attacked.

If Turkey does not withdraw from Syria and cease threatening Iraq within ten days, NATO should impose a series of increasingly severe sanctions against Turkey, starting with the suspension of all military cooperation and military sales to Turkey.

If Turkey still does not comply, NATO should suspend Turkey until it does.

After these NATO sanctions go into effect, and if Turkey remains defiant, the U.S. should seek United Nations sanctions against Turkey’s banking and defense sectors, neither of which is prepared for sanctions.

The U.S. can also unilaterally impose sanctions on Turkey as an ongoing money-laundering concern, based on the recent conviction of Turkish bank officials in New York for laundering money on behalf of Iran. (USA v. Zarrab et al).

Most powerful of all, however, would be for the U.S. to declassify intelligence information detailing the corruption of the Erdogan family, an investigation that proved so embarrassing to Erdogan that he launched a broad crackdown against judges and police investigators in December 2013 to shut it down.

The U.S. could also release intelligence information about the role of Erdogan’s son as a conduit for ISIS oil sales, and of Erdogan’s daughter role in setting up hospitals just inside Turkey’s border with Syria specifically to treat wounded ISIS fighters.

Put simply: ISIS would not exist, and never would have become as powerful as it became, without the active assistance of the Turkish president and his family.

Turkey is not behaving as a NATO ally, and is actively seeking to revive the Ottoman Empire and its Islamic Caliphate. With combined pressure from the U.S., NATO, Saudi Arabia and other allies, escalating pressure can be brought on Turkey to change its behavior or face the possibility of economic collapse. (Front Page Mag)

 

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Zazaki

    04/02/2018 at 12:28 pm

    I believe that the Jewish people deserve more than a country and world is incomplete without a Jewish state.
    Israel governments has not created friendships with the surrounding people and nations but has created friendships with the dictatorial governments in the region and the people hate these dictatorial governments and the people also hate Israel because they believe that Israel is supporting the dictatorial governments in the region, example Israel has no friendship relation with the Kurds but Israel has friendship relation a with a dictatorial Kurdish party and Kurdish people hate that party and unfortunately they hate Israel as well.
    Unfortunately not only some Muslims hate Jewish people but a lot of non Muslims hate Jewish people as well.

    Even the Israeli government let itself to be used by dictator’s example when Endogen insults the Israeli president Shimon Peres in the international event this creates hate toward Jewish people for long time even after Erdoagn is gone.
    Has the Israel government put the Turkish under pressure to cut economic and military support? Of course not. What kind of game is this?
    It is the Jewish people question the Israeli governments.

    I believe the most hate toward the Jewish has been generated by the Israeli government’s policies in the region.

  2. Ares P. Mazarakis

    04/03/2018 at 2:20 pm

    Turkey intends to “renegotiate” the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 – on the occasion of its centenary – and reestablish some parts of the former Ottoman Empire at the expense of Greece, Cyprus, Syria and Iraq. This is a naked territorial expansion urge ignoring the background and much longer History (and contribution to civilization) of the nations threatened. It prepares itself militarily, purchases Russian anti aircraft missiles (S400) and builds a nuclear installation in Southern Turkey without concealing its ambition to become a member of the nuclear club. Against whom ? against Israel?
    In the light of these developments, which are reminiscent of Mussolini’s ambitions to turn the Mediterranean Sea into an Italian lake (Mare Nostrum), Hitler’s nefarious dreams of Lebensraum in Eastern Europe and the tragic consequences of these inhuman aspirations, it is incumbent on the United States of America to take a bold and historically significant initiative to prove that it does not bear its responsibilities as the world’s ONLY superpower too lightly.
    The two World wars of the twentieth century could have been avoided or mitigated had the two great English speaking nations, Great Britain before WWI and the United States before WWII, been involved more actively in smothering the primitive imperial and territorial ambitions of the manifest and unmistakable antidemocratic forces of Europe.
    Such an initiative will also serve the true interests of the Turkish people who will be inveigled and forced, by their current antidemocratic leadership, into a disastrous and lamentable adventure the outcome of which will be catastrophic for Turkey, its neighbours and the world.

  3. steve

    04/03/2018 at 5:15 pm

    First I have to say that I totally agree with the points stated in the article regarding the current situation and the role of Turkey in the North Syria and general in Middle East.
    What I want to say is that in your article you are covering half of the role of Turkey in the region and you have to address what Turkey is doing in the South East Mediterranean Sea area and its relation with Greece and Cyprus. Are these two things related? To my opinion, yes 100%.
    Turkey has escalated its verbal claims against the territorial integrity of Greece, in the Aegean Sea, to everyday events such as Violations of the Greek airspace and the Greek Sea Borders. In Cyprus, on top of the occupation of 40% of Cyprus since 1974 and the presence of over 30,000 Turkish occupying army, very recently they violated the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, with six war ships which are still there, and they did not let the Italian company ENIE to proceed with their scheduled exploration for hydrocarbons. Also, they threatened the US EXON-Mobil to do the same, but they chicken-out after the presence of the Air Courier USS IWO JIMA came into the area.
    How are these two situations related? In your article you mentioned the “Ottoman slap” that Turkey will give to USA if USA stands on Turkey’s way going against the Kurds. This “slap” is a part of a major strategic plan of Turkey named as “The two and a half Wars” which is necessary for the “resurrection” of the Ottoman Empire. “The two and a half Wars” is One war against Syria, One war against Greece and what they think half war against the Kurds.
    Again, I agree that the appeasement policy of the US government towards Turkey, “has failed miserably”. The US Government makes the same mistake as the Greek Governments are doing for the last 30 years. Also, as a Greek-American US Citizen, I was disappointed with the way the US Government treated the Kurds. It left alone its only Ally in the war against ISIS. When others, Turkey, were doing business and supported ISIS, the Kurds were the only ones fitting ISIS. The same disappointment is expressed also by the US troops in Manbij.
    The main idea of your article is “Time to get Tough with Turkey”. The question is, is this the right Time? YES, BEFORE IS TOO LATE. Erdogan is not expediting his own plan for the “Neo-Ottoman Empire”, but the Turkish plan for it. The only thing he does, even more dangerous, is to add to the name and plan the word “Islamic”.
    Yes but, can the US give up on an ally like Turkey? Yes, because besides the fact that Turkey is not a sincere ally, it is obvious that Turkey has decided to cut any bounds with the Western World and what it does is to work to their strategic plan to become a Region and world super power, which the US will find it in front of it in the future. Turkey, for many years, is working for the establishment of a Muslim Arc starting from Bosnia / Albania-Kossovo / FYROM / Areas of Greece and Bulgaria with Muslim (Not Turkish) minorities / Turkey / North Syria / Irak and ending up in Iran. Also, hey are working towards the creation of an common army of the 70 plus Muslim countries.
    Yes, but who is going to fill the gap Turkey will leave, although practically is not there? There are sincere allies in the region. Kurds and eventually Kurdistan, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece can be sincere and strong allies in the region and they have proven themselves. The last few years Israel, Cyprus and Greece they are building a strong alliance working together, they meet twice a year in the highest level(Netaniahu, Tsipras and Anastasiadis are meeting frequently in Athens, Tel Avid and Nicosia). Common military exercises and plans about the hydrocarbons found in the South East Mediterranean Sea has build a strong alliance.
    Finally, if the US lets the Turks to succeed with their extortionate plans to put their hands on the hydrocarbons belonging to Cyprus and Greece, in the future the US will have to deal not with a strange ally but with a strong enemy and maybe will have to face the F-35 which US is planning to sold to them.

  4. Arthur Manolopoulos

    04/05/2018 at 5:20 am

    Well written article!

    Turkey is drifting slowly from being a westernized sort of democracy into a full scale radical advocate of islamic fundamentalist state with Ottoman aspirations, whatever that means.

    True democracy practicing countries in the region, such as Israel and Greece, will have to re think their relationship with this new form of behavior in the region. I fear Erdogan with his irresponsible actions is no longer an asset to NATO or the western alliance and, western leaders will have to re consider their attitude toward Turkey.

  5. Haris

    04/09/2018 at 7:34 pm

    What needs to be done is for Israel to stop behaving erratically towards Turkey and only according to Israel’s perceived interests. Befriending them, pampering them or “apologizing” is a losing formula. Turkey is and has always been a toxic and ruthless bully nation of radical muslim mentality and must be treated consistently in a brutal manner. They only understand violence. Turkey does not have a history, but a criminal record spanning over a millennium.

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