Turkey Is No Longer America’s Ally

Nov. 21 2018

Both Presidents Obama and Trump made efforts early in their presidencies to establish warm relations with Turkey’s authoritarian and Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, only to find themselves frustrated by his uncooperativeness in several key areas. Among these are Erdogan’s effective sinking of the once-strong Turkish-Israeli military alliance, his support for Hamas (which maintains a headquarters in Turkey), his sponsorship of blockade-running flotillas to Gaza, and his involvement in fomenting violence and rioting in Jerusalem. While it is easy to blame the growing gap between Ankara and Washington on Erdogan’s personal and ideological proclivities, Steven A. Cook argues that the two nations no longer share the common interests they did during the cold war, and that the U.S. should act accordingly:

[American] policymakers should regard Turkey as neither a friend of the United States nor an enemy. In many areas, Turkey is a competitor and antagonist of the United States. As a result, American officials should abandon the intensive and often fruitless diplomatic efforts to convince Turkish policymakers to support the United States. Instead, the United States should not be reluctant—as it has been in the past—to oppose Turkey directly when it undermines U.S. policy. In practical terms this means the United States should develop alternatives to the Incirlik air base [used by American troops in Turkey], suspend Turkey’s participation in the F-35 jet program, and continue, [over Ankara’s objections,] to work with the [Kurdish] People’s Protection Units (YPG) to achieve its goals in Syria. . . .

[Some] analysts discount Turkey’s growing commercial ties with Iran and periodic high-level visits of Iranian and Turkish officials to one another’s capitals, arguing that historical, cultural, and geostrategic factors will always render Turkey an important counterweight to Tehran. Turkey has partially proved this by continuing to host a U.S. radar installation in southeastern Turkey. [But this fact] should not obscure Ankara’s consistent willingness to weaken international pressure on Iran. While Turkey has decreased the amount of Iranian oil it imports, Ankara has signaled that it will continue to purchase gas from Iran after November 4, 2018, defying U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran after the Trump administration withdrew from the [nuclear deal]. . . .

[Moreover], U.S. officials should take a stronger public stand on Turkish policies that undermine U.S. policy. . . . Records from the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations indicate that remonstrating with Turkish officials in private and publicly praising them has little, if any, effect on the policies that Ankara pursues at home and abroad. . . . The Trump administration’s own experience indicates that public pressure on Ankara is effective.

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


“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen