Europe

Following Threat from Erdogan, U.S. Must Counter Growing Danger from Turkey

Turkey is turning into a new Pakistan, “a perpetually failing state whose military leadership has tolerated and advanced a vision of political Islam deeply hostile to U.S. and Western interests”, Eli Lake warned in a column published by Bloomberg on Friday.

After the Trump administration warned in January that American troops would return fire if attacked in the Turkish ground invasion in northern Syria, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with a threat of his own.

“Those who say that they would respond if they are hit have never tasted an Ottoman slap,” he vowed. The country’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had warned that Ankara’s relationship with Washington would either be “fixed” or “totally destroyed.”

The U.S. Congress is currently debating plans to impose sanctions on Turkey in the wake of its attitude towards Washington, including visa bans on senior Turkish officials and prohibiting imports of Turkish-made handguns worth $100 million in annual revenue for Ankara.

In an interview, Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, voiced similar concerns. “Erdogan has taken the Pakistani formula of mixing hard-line nationalism with religiosity,” Haqqani said. “Zia imposed Islamic laws by decree, amended the constitution, marginalized secular scholars and leaders, and created institutions for Islamization that have outlasted him. Erdogan is trying to do the same in Turkey.”

According to Lake, Erdogan’s reputation in the West lies in shatters. He “has crushed peaceful protests at home and abroad, closed newspapers, threatened American soldiers, and collectively scapegoated Kurds.”

But Lake warned that “so far however the U.S. government has not shown Ankara the tough love necessary to stop Turkey’s slide.” The State Department under Rex Tillerson’s lead is still pursuing a policy of dialogue with Turkey.

State Department officials believe that despite Turkey’s threats, its cooperation in Syria is vital to American interests and sanctions would push Ankara even closer to Russia, a country allied with the Syrian regime and Iran.

According to Lake, “This kind of short-term thinking is understandable, but it doesn’t address the slow-motion disaster happening now in Turkey.” He believes that at the very least we must “draw some boundaries for Erdogan and convey that he cannot maintain the current relationship with the U.S. if he crosses them.”

“A good starting point,” Lake argued “would be to demand Erdogan stop threatening U.S. soldiers.”

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