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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Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

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

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror