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.

Read more at Weekly Standard

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

The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy