A Turkish Islamic group — the “Humanitarian Relief Foundation,” often associated by Western intelligence agencies with terrorist sponsorship — orchestrated the recent Gaza flotilla. It was hoping for the sort of violent, well-publicized confrontation with the Israeli navy that later followed. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately issued veiled threats to Israel. He then badgered the United States, Turkey’s NATO patron and ally, to condemn the Israeli interdiction.
While the world piled on in its criticism of Israel, there was also a sort of stunned silence over the actions of Turkey, without whose help the blockade-running flotilla would never have left a Turkish port.
Erdogan’s hysterics emphasized the Islamic transformation of a once secular Turkey that has been going on for well over a decade. In 2003, Turkey forbade passage to U.S. troops in their efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq. State-run Turkish television instead aired virulent anti-American dramas, such as Valley of the Wolves, in which our soldiers appear as little more than blood-crazed killers who dismember poor Iraqi civilians.
Lately, Turkey has reached out to Iran and Syria. Both habitually sponsor Mideast terrorist groups and have aided anti-American insurgents in Iraq. Turkey and Brazil recently offered to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, sidestepping American and European efforts to step up sanctions to stop Teheran’s plans for a bomb.
Erdogan’s anti-Israel attacks often match those of his newfound friends, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah’s Hasan Nasrallah. Former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, remember, once blamed the Jews for starting the Crusades, and for instigating World War I to create Israel. He also described them as a “disease” that needed to be eradicated.
What is behind Turkey’s metamorphosis from a staunch U.S. ally, NATO member, and quasi-European state into a sponsor of Hamas, ally of theocratic Iran, and fellow traveler with terrorist-sponsoring Syria?
The Cold War is over. Turkey no longer guards the southeastern flank of Europe from the advance of Soviet Communism, lessening its importance within NATO. Its Anatolian Muslim population grows, while more secular European and Aegean Turks have lost influence. Turkey senses a growing distance between Tel Aviv and Washington, and thus an opportunity to step into the gulf to unite Muslims against Israel and win influence in the Arab world.