Since the Trump administration’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been ramping up his anti-Israel rhetoric, calling the country “a state of occupation and terrorism.”
This is worse than ironic. The Jews are not “occupiers” in their ancient native homeland, where they have lived for more than 3,000 years. Turks, on the other hand, 3,000 years ago were most likely in Central Asia, nowhere near the area that is now Turkey. To add hypocrisy to injury, Erdogan also said about his own country, “Let it be known that there has never been any holocaust or genocide in this nation’s past. There’s no campaign of ethnic cleansing, massacres, persecution, or torture in this nation’s history.”
The cities in today’s Turkey — most of which are in Anatolia (Asia Minor) and the Armenian highlands — were actually built by Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians; and Jews have lived there since antiquity. Turkic jihadists from Central Asia invaded and conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire in the eleventh century, thereby paving the way for the gradual Turkification and Islamization of Anatolia and Armenia. The Ottoman invasion of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the fifteenth century brought about the complete destruction of the Byzantine Empire.
A Turkish court on Monday refused to release two Greek soldiers who strayed across the border into Turkey last week. Turkey accuses the soldiers of being spies. Greece claims the border crossing was accidental due to heavy snow and fog. This is just the latest example of Turkey threatening its neighbors under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.
A Turkish government spokesman said Monday the soldiers were being held because they wandered into the military zone. He denied they were being held as a bargaining chip to exchange for eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece following the 2016 coup attempt as some press reports speculated. Erdogan repeatedly demanded the soldiers be returned to Turkey.
The Greek soldiers told Turkish prosecutors they were “following footprints in the snow in an attempt to stop migrant smuggling.” Turkish authorities remanded the soldiers into custody because they aren’t resident in Turkey and could flee the country. They also noted they planned to examine the soldiers’ digital data.
This latest action risks inflaming tensions between Greece and Turkey. The two NATO allies have become locked into a war of words in recent weeks, starting last month when a Turkish vessel rammed a Greek ship off a disputed island in the Aegean Sea. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias warned that the Turks had “touched on the red line and in some sense it overstepped it.” Greece would meet any Turkish “aggression” with an equal response.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Erdoğan prepares to launch his campaign for presidential elections scheduled for November 2019. At a time of rising xenophobia and anti-western sentiments across Turkey, his campaign will undoubtedly target the “evil powers of the West,” adding to the isolationist Turkish psyche. Russian President Vladimir Putin could not have possibly found a better partner for his attempts to divide and weaken NATO.
The West’s self-imposed Pollyanna game over Turkey a decade or so ago seemed delusional to most Turks who knew the true nature of the Islamist politician lauded as a pro-reform, pro-West democrat. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, western leaders argued, would consolidate Turkey’s democratic system, bring the country closer to its western allies and even win a historic membership in the European Union. Erdogan’s Turkey would be a perfect bridge between western and Islamic civilizations, thus being a role model for less democratic Muslim nations.
A decade later, obliviousness has turned into bitter feelings, but Pollyanna is still out there, all smiles. In the words of Fabrizio F. Luciolli, president of the Atlantic Treaty Organization: “Since sixty-five years, a mutual commitment binds Turkey and NATO, which can hardly be scratched by contingent interests or frictions, or replaced by new strategic directions. In its dialogue with Turkey, NATO once again reveals its unique role as transatlantic forum for political consultation on security issues.”
US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has unveiled multiple hypocrisies that sadly capture the minds of Islamist leaders and their willing choruses of jihadists.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, not surprisingly, champions the global Islamist war on Trump’s move. In a latest show of “solidarity with the Palestinian cause,” Turkey spearheaded efforts at a summit of Islamic nations in Istanbul to declare “eastern Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine under occupation”.
Erdogan’s argument is too weak and unconvincing from the beginning. He has simply chosen to attack Israel although what has newly entered the political equation on Jerusalem was a sovereign U.S. pronouncement. The pragmatist in Erdogan wanted to ignore that simply because the U.S. is too big to bite for him.
Erdogan said of Jerusalem: “Al-Quds [Jerusalem] has been viewed as the prayer place of Muslims and Christians and, partially … as if it is the prayer place of Jews”. Partially? It is elementary history that Jerusalem’s pre-Islamic period of 3300-1000 BCE appeared in the book of Genesis — the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — when Erdogan’s ancestors were probably hunters in the steppe of Central Asia. The years 1000-732 BCE marked the period of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Simply put, Jerusalem’s Judaic history dates back to thousands of years before the birth of Islam. By rejecting Jerusalem’s Judaic history, in fact, Erdogan is ironically denying that his holy book, the Quran, recognizes the Land of Israel. The Quran does not say that the Israelites originated in Alaska.
Turkey’s announcement over the summer that it had signed a deal with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) — of Hillary Clinton’s Uranium One stardom — to begin building three nuclear power plants in the near future is cause for concern. The $20 billion deal, which has been in the works since 2010, involves the construction in Mersin of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant — Turkey’s first-ever such plant — will be operational in 2023.
ROSATOM already has nuclear cooperation deals with Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. Turkey is just the latest to benefit — possibly along with Iran and North Korea, both of which have been openly threatening to destroy America — from Moscow’s play for power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is also a source of desperately-needed revenue for Russia, hurt by sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
End of August, Madrid: At the Turkish government’s request through Interpol, Spanish police arrested a famous Turkish writer, Dogan Akhanli, who was on vacation in Spain. A few days earlier, in Barcelona, Spanish authorities had arrested the Turkish writer, Hamza Yalcin, a reporter for the left-wing newspaper Odak. Meanwhile, in Turkey, another writer, Ahmet Altan was on trial. Turkish authorities prevented yet another Turkish novelist, Asli Erdogan, from flying to Europe to receive the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize in the German city of Osnabrück.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey has already made headlines for jailing dozens of journalists in a round-up that has transformed Turkey into “the world’s biggest prison for reporters”. Perhaps even more objectionable is Turkey’s persecution of novelists who do not even take part in the political debate. They are hated by Erdogan’s Islamist government simply for conveying Western ideas and fighting for freedom of speech. What is happening in Turkey is even more urgent than what is happening in Iran and Saudi Arabia, two other Islamic countries that persecute and jail writers: Turkey is, at least rhetorically, a democracy as well as the Islamic world’s purported bridge to Europe.
In theory, Turkey and the United States have been staunch allies since the predominately Muslim nation became a NATO member state in 1952. Also, in theory, the leaders of the two allies are on friendly terms. President Donald Trump gave “very high marks” to Turkey’s increasingly autocratic, Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Turkish leader’s recent visit to Washington when his security detail attacked peaceful protesters.
It is puzzling why Trump gave a passionately (and ideologically) pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist leader “very high marks.” But in reality, the Ankara-Washington axis could not be farther from diplomatic niceties such as “allies” or “very high marks.”
This is a select (and brief) recent anatomy of what some analysts call “hostage diplomacy” between the two “staunch NATO allies.”