President Trump’s Embrace of Erdogan Should End

6657 - Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF)

It must be bewildering to witness a true enemy of Israel received with such a warm embrace by President Donald Trump, who many consider the best friend the Jewish state ever had. However, the recent feting of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the White House should make us all shudder.

Erdogan has become a proud hater of Israel, likening defensive measures taken by the IDF in Gaza to Nazi actions during the Holocaust, and reportedly stating that “whoever is on the side of Israel, let everyone know that we are against them.”

We also know that Erdogan is true to his word, as Hamas has often used Turkey as a base of operations and has been cozying up to the ayatollahs in Iran in recent years, even though they are a regional competitor.

Erdogan’s recent invasion and occupation of northeast Syria has also demonstrated that he feels he has a carte blanche in the neighborhood, with hundreds killed and hundreds of thousands internally displaced.

The Turkish regime has no problem facilitating arms to ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region.

Erdogan has been emboldened by Trump’s kid-gloves attitude toward Turkey.

However, what should be most worrying for the State of Israel is that Erdogan has shown that he is no friend of the US, but is seemingly incentivized and emboldened by Trump’s kid-gloves attitude toward him, especially because all evidence indicates that the Turkish regime has made a conscious decision to distance itself from it.

At a National Press Club conference held by The Investigative Journal (TIJ) and its editor Mohamed Fahmy titled, “Erdogan’s End Game: Turkey’s Long Arm in Syria and America,” major critics of the Erdogan regime spoke about how, in recent years, Turkey has made a very deliberate and steady drift away from the West and NATO and has entered into rapprochement with Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and other political Islamist and terrorist movements.

Dr. Ahmet S. Yayla, assistant professor of Homeland Security, former chief of Turkish National Police Counterterrorism and Operations Division, and Fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, provided numerous polls to demonstrate how Erdogan has moved his population, especially through the tightly-controlled state media, toward a dislike and mistrust of the US.

“If you look at the surveys, around 8% of the Turkish population supports ISIS,” Yayla explained. “Around 10% believes that there should be a caliphate. And now, according to Erdogan’s media, around 97% believes that the United States is the enemy of the Turks. And, independent surveys indicate around 90% of the Turks consider the United States as their enemy and this is because Erdogan’s has been pumping hate against the US.”

Erdogan’s state-sponsored hatred of the West in general and the US in particular will have generational ramifications. If only two decades ago, Turkey was one of the West and Israel’s most dependable allies in the region and was even being vetted for entry into the European Union, it will now remain as one of its most implacable foes for some time to come.

Turkey appears to have its hand in some of the most insatiable conflicts in our region, and it is hard to see how any good has come out of Trump’s relationship with Erdogan.

In fact, judging by how easily he was able to convince his American counterpart to leave Syria and betray his Kurdish allies, Erdogan has shown that this burgeoning relationship is bad for the balance in the region.

While Israel has reportedly made its stance plain to the White House about Turkey, it is obviously not being listened to or taken seriously enough.

Turkey has arguably become one of the most destabilizing forces in the Near and Middle East, and its path toward neo-Ottomanism has been relentless.

Trump’s bromance with Erdogan could undo much of the goodwill Israelis feel toward him.

Trump has done a lot of good for Israel while in office, particularly moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights and withdrawing funds to the Palestinians, through UNRWA in particular.

However, his “bromance” with Erdogan, whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly called a “dictator,” could undo much of the goodwill Israelis feel toward him.

Turkey’s destabilizing role in the region is only going to get worse unless it is reigned in. It places the State of Israel in a geopolitical stranglehold precisely at a time when many former foes are warming up to it in the region.

Erdogan must be stopped in the memory of the Armenian genocide he denies, the Kurds and Christians in Syria he has killed, the minorities he oppresses in his own country, and the Israelis whose borders are regularly attacked by groups he supports.

If not for them, Trump should do it simply because it is in America’s national interest.

Originally published on Middle East Forum: https://www.meforum.org/59913/president-trumps-embrace-of-erdogan-must-end

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