Turkey’s Slide into Islamist Militarism Threatens Its Alliance with the U.S.

March 7 2018

At a recent rally, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made headlines by telling a terrified, crying six-year-old girl—in military uniform—that if she died a martyr her coffin would be draped in her country’s flag. To Eric Edelman and Merve Tahiroglu, this incident exemplifies the growing Islamist and militaristic messaging emanating from Ankara, alongside large doses of anti-American rhetoric:

Erdogan has done his best to promote militarism among the populace, including by openly encouraging the formation of civilian militias claiming to defend his government—and the Turkish nation.

Children have not been immune to these efforts. Over the last year, the Turkish government sent ministers to facilitate militaristic student parades, while Turkey’s state-run religious affairs directorate has been publishing its own propaganda materials to “teach” Turkish children about the grandeurs of martyrdom. Turkish students, including kindergarteners, around the country have been made to conduct military marches and recite ultranationalist poems at schools. . . .

U.S. officials are watching with growing concern. The Turkish government has stirred and sponsored anti-Americanism. . . . Ankara blames Washington for both the failed putsch [in 2016]—which has all but become the founding myth of Erdogan’s new Turkish republic—and the rise of Kurdish self-rule in northern Syria. Erdogan’s ministers and media continuously slander American citizens as coup-plotters and depict the Turkish war against Kurdish militants in Syria as a fight against pro-Kurdish Americans. Most Turkish people, opinion polls show, now consider the United States the top threat to their national security. . . .

The challenge for the U.S.-Turkish relationship is that it cannot survive in the long run if the bulk of the Turkish population sees the United States in such adversarial terms. Moreover, the importance of Turkey to the United States has long been as an exemplar of a majority-Muslim society that was making its way along a long road of democratization and meeting the standards of rule of law and human rights that are associated with the European Union and NATO. . . . American officials who write off Erdogan’s anti-American rhetoric as pandering to his base fail to understand that demonizing the United States is an integral part of Erdogan’s agenda. Only “tough love” will put the U.S.-Turkish relationship on a steadier long-term course.

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More about: Islamism, NATO, Politics & Current Affairs, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war