An Anti - American Islamist Obama's Favorite Middle East Leader / Prof.B.Rubin

Why Is an Anti-American Islamist Obama's Favorite Middle East Leader?
06 Jan 2012
For the first time in forty years,Israel is not the American president’s favorite Middle Eastern ally. Instead,that role is played by Turkey’s government.

This would not be such a bad thing if wewere talking about the “old” Turkey, the secular republic. Unfortunately, PresidentBarack Obama’s favorite advisor among the regional leaders is Turkish PrimeMinister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pretend all you want but Obama really dislikes—hates?—IsraeliPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and truth be told Netanyahu has done nothingto deserve that treatment.

The fundamental problem with Erdogan isdespite being embraced by the United States, he is an enemy of the UnitedStates, the West more generally, and Israel. He is on the side of radical,anti-American Islamists who want to wipe Israel off the map. So angry andpassionate is Erdogan’s loathing of Israel that the leader of the oppositionmockingly but pointedly asked if the prime minister wanted to go to war withthe Jewish state.

In contrast, the list of Erdogan’sdearest friends includes Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, the repressive Sudanesedictatorship, and Syria (formerly the regime there; now the Islamist portionsof the opposition). Erdogan would like to be good buddies with the MuslimBrotherhood forces in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, though they are suspicious ofhim.

Erdogan’s record at home andabroad shows what he and his regime are all about. Indeed, what is truly bizarre about Obama’sjudgment is that Erdogan has done nothing so beneficial to the United Statesand a number of things detrimental to it:

--Iraq war: Whatever you think of the Iraqwar, the refusal of the Turkish government to deliver on their promise to letU.S. troops cross into northern Iraq in 2003 was unfriendly and many Americanofficials and members of Congress were outraged at the time.

--Israel policy: Erdogan has gone to anextreme in attacking Israel and sabotaging any possibility of conciliation. Hisgovernment sponsored the Gaza flotilla knowing that a lot of the Turkishparticipants were violent Islamists who wanted to stage a confrontation.

--Iran: The Erdogan’s regime tried tosabotage sanctions against Iran in 2010. He has repeatedly defended Iran’sPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that Tehran is seeking nuclearweapons. While there have been some bilateral disagreements—the Turkishdecision to allow in NATO installations to watch Iran and backing differentsides in Syria, the two countries remain quite close and Erdogan is currentlyvisiting Iran.

--Lebanon and Palestinians: In oppositionto U.S. policy, Erdogan backs radical, openly antisemitic Islamist terroristgroups, Hamas and Hizballah. The leader of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Striphas just been received as a hero by Erdogan.

--Syria: While Turkey opposes thecontinuation of the Asad regime in Syria, this is not out of a love ofdemocracy but rather due to support for a Sunni Islamist takeover there. When Obamagave Erdogan the task of organizing a Syrian opposition leadership, the Turkishregime packed that leadership with Islamists.

--Worldview: Erdogan’s foreign ministerwrote a book in Turkish explaining the regime’s strategy of aligning with theIslamic world against the West. This is clearly what Erdogan has been doing.The bonus, however, is that he has been able to pretend otherwise and thus actwithout any real cost or pressure from the West. On the contrary, he can tellTurkish voter that Obama loves him.

Then there’s Erdogan’s domestic policy which grows worse with each day: increasing repression; massive arrests without trial; trumped-up phony charges ofterrorism and treason; intimidation of the media; constitutional changes thatgive him control over all institutions including the courts. The very real fear and despair within Turkeyis generally not reported in the West.

Now the former army chief of staff, retired General Ilker Basbug, has been humiliated and will be put on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the regime. One thing that's never explained is that if the hundreds of officers who have been arrested were working to stage a coup how come in ten years not the tiniest action was ever actually taken? Meanwhile, journalists are on trial for alleged terrorism and other crimes.

Wait a minute! Maybe that's what the "Turkish model," which the Obama Administration wants to spread to the Arabic-speaking world, is: an elected government that makes itself into a dictatorship.

Talk to almost any Turk, at least tothose who aren’t regime supporters, and they’ll tell you that the onlyexplanation they can figure out is a conspiracy in which the United Stateswants an Islamist regime in Turkey to prove its sympathy for Islam and possiblyaffect such groups elsewhere.

One thing that the regime has done verywell—or, at least, benefitted from conditions—is regarding the economy. Despiterecent claims that Turkey’s economy is in trouble, the country seems to beflourishing.

Soner Cagaptay, a frequent critic of theregime, describes Turkey as in an unprecedented “sense of global confidence”not seen for centuries; a “Eurasian China;” a country whose economy grew arecord 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Since 2002, he continues theeconomy has nearly tripled in size. Its trade is shifting from Europe toIslamic countries.

As one journalist putit: "After suffering through eight coalition governments and four economiccrises, the Turkish people have welcomed ten years of a stable…government evenif it has meant entrenched single-party rule"

Cagaptay argues that tocontinue this economic success the Turkish government must avoid “a belligerentforeign policy.” But that’s a bit misleading. Turkey can have a radical,pro-Islamist foreign policy that is objectively anti-Western at little cost. Itjust has to avoid getting involved directly in wars, which it can easily do.

Now with the Turkisharmy broken, Erdogan needs merely complete his control of the courts to be ableto do whatever he pleases within the country.

And with Obamafollowing Erdogan’s advice and trying to help spread the “Turkish model”—electingradical Islamist regimes that will be repressive at home and backing radicalsabroad—things look bright for Erdogan as he steadily consolidates control.

Barry Rubin is directorof the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor ofthe Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book,Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January.Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War forFreedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and TheTruth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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