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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Turkey Looking Like The Next Iran

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads an Islamist party, recently ripped into Shimon Peres, President of Israel at the Davos forum, telling Peres "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” Peres gave it right back to Erdogan, accusing Erdogan of ignoring the long history of Arab violence against Israel, causing Erdogan to storm off the stage. The video is here (Peres' response starts at 39:25). Erdogan was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Turkey. (h/t Little Green Footballs and IsraellyCool)

Perhaps it's time to talk a little Turkey. First, let's talk Kurds. The Turks have killed an estimated 20,000 Kurds, attempted to destroy Kurdish language and culture, launched invasions of Kurdish northern Iraq, and denied to the millions of Kurds within and without Turkey's borders the right to an independent state. In fact, the Kurds outnumber the Palestinians several times over, yet because the Kurds have not spent the last 50 years demanding the destruction of Israel, the cause of Kurdish independence has not caught the fancy of the Western media and political elites. Now that Prime Minister Erdogan has expressed such profound sympathies for suppressed national movements, perhaps it is time that Erdogan put his actions where his mouth is, and free the Kurds.

Next, let's talk Armenians. Since Erdogan wants to right historical wrongs, why doesn't Erdogan apologize for the genocide the Ottoman Empire committed against the Armenians. Since the first step in recovery is acknowledgement of a problem, at least stop the denials that it happened, even if you won't apologize.

Many people in Turkey and elsewhere feared what would happen if an Islamist party took over the helm of a secular state. You are beginning to see the results as Erdogan whips up popular support at home by joining the anti-Israel cause.

My prediction: Turkey is the next Iran, unless Obama stops blaming the U.S. for Islamist aggression and gives support to Turkey's secular institutions, including the Turkish army. Jimmy Carter tried the blame America first tactic; it didn't win us any friends and led to 30 years of tyranny and human rights abuses in Iran. Don't repeat the same mistake in Turkey.
UPDATE 2-2-2009 - I am not alone in my concern with the Islamist drift of Turkey under Erdogan:
After six years of AKP rule, the people of Turkey are less free and less equal, as various news and other reports on media freedom and gender equality show. In April 2007, for instance, the AKP passed an Internet law that has led to a ban on YouTube, making Turkey the only European country to shut down access to the popular site. On the U.N. Development Program's gender-empowerment index, Turkey has slipped to 90th from 63rd in 2002, the year the AKP came to power, putting it behind even Saudi Arabia. It is difficult to take seriously the AKP's claim to be a liberal party when Saudi women are considered more politically, economically and socially empowered than Turkish women....

But Erdogan's recent anti-Israeli statements -- he even suggested that God would punish Israel -- have made normal relations a thing of the past. On Jan. 4, 200,000 Turks turned out in freezing rain in Istanbul to wish death to Israel; on Jan. 7, an Israeli girls' volleyball team was attacked by a Turkish audience chanting, "Muslim policemen, bring us the Jews, so we can slaughter them."
Contrary to what one of the Comments to this post suggests, the problem is not that people outside Turkey are pushing Turkey away; the problem is that people outside and inside Turkey are making excuses and apologizing for Erdogan.
UPDATE 2-8-2009 - Good article at American Thinker, Turkey's Prime Minister Leads His Country Down a Destructive Path


  1. Re: Turkey is the next Iran

    I believe you're going over the top there. Cool it.

  2. Counselor,

    It's really simple: Because you are forgetting that Turkey is a nation ally of NATO and has been one for decades and decades now.

    And NATO nations will be doing something (despite or thanks to the Obama presidency) before anything remotely resembling the Iranian regime even begins to go into play.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not the greatest admirer of the govt of Turkey; in fact I resent their continuing denial that the Armenian genocide took place. That said, without sounding the "pacifist" that I am not, I do believe that it's imperative that we in the West not alienate a nation member/ally of NATO, particularly one that has remained loyal to the West, particularly to the US.

    Their societal structure is far from that of Iran but if we cave in to our primal instinct of bashing the Turks for their sympathy towards their Muslim brothers, we risk alienating them completely and throw them to extremism.

  3. Thanks for your explanation, but you misread my post. I didn't say Turkey was the next Iran, I said it is looking like it will be. Remember the Shah was our ally, but the pressure Jimmy Carter put on the Shah to allow Islamists a greater voice led to the overthrow of the Shah and the current regime. Now the Shah was no great lover of freedom, to put it mildly, but the alternative was worse. And that's my point, a relatively stable NATO member like Turkey is not immune to what happened in Iran. Remaining silent to the inclination of the current Prime Minister to whip up anti-Israeli feelings (which are a proxy for anti-Western feelings) inevitably will embolden the Islamist elements, and at a certain point, there is no turning back. I don't bash the Turks because of their Prime Minister, but rather, call for support of the seculare elements in Turkish society without fear of "offending" the Islamists.

  4. Here's a good example of what is happening in Turkey as a direct result of Erdogan's rhetoric: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304654435&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

  5. Counselor,

    My previous or my initial reaction to your column was based on what you wrote towards the end of your article: "My prediction: Turkey is the next Iran, unless Obama stops blaming the U.S. for Islamist aggression and gives support to Turkey's secular institutions, including the Turkish army."

    But doesn't matter now, if you say you didn't write it, then it's fine with me.

    With regard to: "I don't bash the Turks because of their Prime Minister, but rather, call for support of the seculare elements in Turkish society without fear of "offending" the Islamists." I fear your "call for support of the secular, etc." in such a way that you predict Turkey is the next Iran seems confrontational. In my opinion, it's the wrong way to go about it. Offering solutions to those secular elements in Turkish society will go a long way, perhaps far better if we could only (as a lawyer, I'm absolutely certain, you have what it takes to promote solutions to problems) present things positively.

    That said, I appreciate where you are coming from. If you don't mind my saying, your going about it is so like the way John Hutton, UK defence minister, is going about getting support for defence spending for Afghanistan; he's conveying the wrong message; effectively, he says, "we need to quash terrorism in Afghanistan, hence we need to increase defence spending." Wrong message, bad result.

    I'm sorry to be so direct but that's what your arguments remind me of.