Once again Turkey has proved to be America’s, and NATO’s, least reliable “ally.”
When the United States and NATO asked Turkey to help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kobani, near its border, Turkey once again sat on its hands. The reason is obvious. The leaders of Turkey would like to see as many Kurds as possible massacred.
The Kurds of Turkey, Syria and Iraq have been seeking an independent state far longer than the Palestinians, and with a much stronger basis in law, diplomacy, morality and ethnic identity. Historically, the Turks have always had an answer to those who seek independence – massacre.
The Turks massacred the Armenians, though they still deny complicity in this well-documented genocide. Indeed they have made it a crime to admit that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. Now the Turks are facilitating the massacre of another one of their enemies, the Kurds. As one Kurd aptly put it: “They don’t want to help what they say is their enemy. That is why it is in Turkey’s favor that Kobani falls to ISIS.”
Even before this recent treachery, the Turkish government refused to allow NATO forces landing rights and other passive logistical support in the war against Islamic State, that is ISIS. What good is an “ally” when that ally refuses to help during times of crisis.
The Turks have also turned viciously against Israel, America’s most reliable ally in the area, using as an excuse that Israeli soldiers and sailors defended themselves against potentially lethal attacks by Turkish citizens, some of whom turned out to be terrorists, who were illegally trying to break an entirely lawful Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, designed to prevent importation of Hamas rockets. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used anti-Semitic tropes in his election campaign and has turned his country against Israel, which had previously been an important political and military ally of the nation-state of the Jewish people. The egomaniacal Erdogan demands abject apologies – from US Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – even when no apology is warranted. Then, after receiving the apologies, he breaks his words and persists in his bad ways.
But it is Turkey’s adamant refusal to satisfy its obligations as a NATO partner that has infuriated the Obama administration and American allies. This is the way one senior official in the Obama administration put it: “There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre, less than a mile from its border.
After all the fulminating about Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, they’re inventing reasons not to act to avoid another catastrophe. This isn’t how a NATO ally acts when hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border.”
Experts opine that Erdogan is holding the civilians of Kobani hostage in an effort to extort concessions from the United States and from Kurdish leaders. If his demands are not met, he will allow Islamic State to massacre thousands of Kurds. And massacre they will. There are 12,000 civilians in Kobani, which has been called “a bastion of democracy and secularism.” If the city is taken by Islamic State, it is likely that its residents will be put to the choice of conversion or death – if they are lucky. Other captured Kurds were not given any choice. They were simply beheaded or shot.
If Erdogan seem like a poor-man’s Vladimir Putin, it is because the Turkish autocrat has tried to model himself on the Russian autocrat. Both have become immensely popular at home by their take-no-prisoners, confrontational approach to foreign policy. They don’t give a damn what the world thinks of them or their tactics, while they hypocritically lecture other nations for not complying with standards and rules that they defy.
The only reason Turkey remains in NATO – and the reason it was admitted in the first place to an organization with “North Atlantic” origins – was its strategic location and powerful army. But these strengths have not been shared with their NATO allies, so of what benefit are they? There is, of course, another country in the region with a strategic location and a strong army that is a reliable ally of the United States, and would be a reliable ally of NATO.
That nation would never refuse an American request to help it defeat Islamic State or to help it prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. That nation is Israel, which has never been offered membership in NATO. The substitution of Israel for Turkey as NATO’s reliable ally in the region, would be a win-win. But don’t hold your breath.