Friday, June 04, 2010

DC's Turkish denial

New York Post
June 4, 2010

As the Irish-flagged "aid" ship Rachel Corrie heads for Gaza and Act Two of this made-in-Turkey crisis looms, Washington still can't bring itself to accept that the entire script was written in Ankara.

Fourteen months ago, President Obama made his first stop abroad in Turkey, where he told his hosts that "Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership."

Now our "partner" has stage-managed a cynical -- but brilliant -- public-relations debacle for Israel. And Washington's hiding in the wings, unwilling to face an unruly global audience.

To his credit, Vice President Joe "Look, Ma, no hands!" Biden did come out to defend Israel's right to block the flow of arms to Gaza's terrorists. But our president only called for an Israeli investigation of Israel's guilt.

Nobody's asked for a study of Turkish involvement. But if the National Security Council won't do it, I will.

In underwriting a terrorist-linked Turkish NGO's mission to Gaza, the Turks had a strategic goal and a domestic goal -- both of which they accomplished.

In the foreign-policy sphere, where the Islamists in charge in Ankara have delusions of grandeur, the mission was to position Turkey as the new champion of the Palestinians.

The Turks never took the least interest in "Palestinian suffering" in the past. They regard all Arabs as fit only to be ruled by a Turkish hand. But the Palestinian cause is not only the tool of choice to harvest applause in the Middle East; it also plays well with the Islamist base of the Justice and Development Party.

Domestically, Turkey's devout Muslim premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanted to further isolate and reorient his country's military -- which, for all its faults, has for decades defended the secular constitution that was Ataturk's great legacy.

Since taking office in 2003, Erdogan has worked relentlessly to neuter the military, casting private conversations as coup plots and trumping up charges to arrest popular generals. Faced with an upcoming Turkish-Israeli-US naval exercise, Erdogan saw an opportunity to sever the long-standing links between his military and Israel's. The timing of that "aid" flotilla was no accident.

Erdogan anticipated the clumsy Israeli response. He immediately canceled the naval exercise and forbade all further cooperation with Israel. Expect "humanitarian" maneuvers with Iranian forces in the future. (Turkish troops have already exercised with Syria's.)

The Erdogan regime did a superb job of war-gaming how the Israelis would behave. Coordinating with Hamas to crowd Gazan waters with small craft to surround the blockade runners on arrival, they forced Israel to make its move in international waters -- to avoid a spectacle and needless loss of life.

For its part, Israel didn't do its own intelligence homework and expected to board those ships and round up a few hippies. Instead, the IDF encountered young, fit, armed and trained Turkish thugs looking for a fight.

The Turks got even more of a PR bonanza than they'd hoped for. While Israel acted lethargically on the public-relations front, Turkish officials were ready with angry statements for the waiting cameras. The IDF hadn't finished taking over those vessels before "outraged" Turks were condemning them as murderers.

Meanwhile, the White House would've had plenty of intelligence warnings on what the Turks were up to. The president must have been briefed. Yet we haven't heard a whisper of criticism directed toward Turkey.

Washington clings like an abandoned lover to its fantasy that Turkey is a model of how democracy and Islam can co-exist. Well, the Islamists were glad to use ballots to come to power, but they have no intention of relinquishing office. As fundamentalist Islam casts its lengthening shadow over Anatolia, democracy's light is dimming.

The Turks know which of our buttons to press, though. When Ankara's reps head west, they wage a charm offensive; when they go east, it's a harm offensive . . . from providing diplomatic cover for Iran's nuclear program to hosting strategy sessions for Iraqi extremists.

Flustered, Washington rationalizes that, gosh, Turkey's a NATO ally and our access to Incirlik airbase in southeastern Turkey (where our personnel are prepositioned hostages) is worth no end of forbearance.

As I wrote in Tuesday's paper, we're witnessing the greatest transformation in the Middle East in at least three decades, but our nervous leaders are bearing false testimony.

On Monday, Turkey turned its back on the West. History changed. Only the closed minds in Washington have not.

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