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Sunday, June 20, 2010

What to do about Turkey

Tom Friedman files his second report from Istanbul and comes up with the following advice to the United States (Hat Tip: Memeorandum):
So Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees himself as the leader of a rising economic powerhouse of 70 million people who is entitled to play an independent geopolitical role — hence his U.N. vote against sanctioning Iran. But how Turkey rises really matters — and Erdogan definitely has some troubling Hugo Chávez-Vladimir Putin tendencies. I’ve never visited a democracy where more people whom I interviewed asked me not to quote them by name for fear of retribution by Erdogan’s circle — in the form of lawsuits, tax investigations or being shut out of government contracts. The media here is rampantly self-censored.

Moreover, Erdogan has evolved from just railing against Israel’s attacks on Hamas in Gaza to spouting conspiracy theories — like the insane notion that Israel is backing the P.K.K. terrorists — as a way of consolidating his political base among conservative Muslims in Turkey and abroad.

Is there anything the U.S. can do? My advice: Avoid a public confrontation that Erdogan can exploit to build more support, draw U.S. redlines in private and let Turkish democrats take the lead. Turkey is full of energy and hormones, and is trying to figure out its new identity. There is an inner struggle over that identity, between those who would like to see Turkey more aligned with the Islamic world and values and those who want it to remain more secular, Western and pluralistic. Who defines Turkey will determine a lot about whether we end up in a war of civilizations. We need to be involved but proceed delicately.
Of course, the real advice for the United States would be to close the vacuum that is allowing Erdogan to presume to play a significant geopolitical role. But Friedman won't say that and Obama wouldn't listen anyway.

But Israel cannot avoid public confrontations with Erdogan because those confrontations are exactly what Erdogan wants. And other countries - Lebanon and Iran for starters - are copying Turkey and presenting Israel with challenges that it has no choice but to meet. So what should Israel do about Erdogan?

The first thing I would do is suspend all weapons sales. Second, thus far the Israeli government has taken the position that we should not withdraw our ambassador although the Turks have withdrawn theirs. At some point, the Turks must be forced to fish or cut bait. Third, Israelis should be encouraged to maintain an unofficial economic boycott of Turkey, as has already happened with the tourist industry. No need for official government support. Just advertisements from the hoteliers association about how vacations in Israel are cheaper and more comfortable ought to be enough. Israelis will get it. Finally, Israel should tell Erdogan that if he continues to provoke us, we really will start helping the Kurds, because it's the right thing to do.

Read the whole thing.


At 9:07 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

Bulgaria and Romania have replaced Turkey within a month

At 9:37 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel can start by helping Armenia to break Turkey's blockade with an "air bridge." Let's see how much Ankara likes it to find its own confrontational strategy turned back on it. What comes around goes around. Its about time.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Hatfield said...

The Kurds and the Armenians. But do you think Israel should withdraw its ambassador?

The Israel should raise the issue of the mass deaths due to Turkey's attacks on the Kurdish areas; of Turkey's prohibition of teaching in Kurdish and so forth; also Northern Cyprus should be brought up again and again. This can be done both officially and unofficially, i.e., in newspapers and television.

I'm sure there are lots more areas like, perhaps, the 2007 Pew survey showing how much Turks hate Christians and Jews (16% and 15% positive rating respectively).


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