Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is reportedly worried that Turkey’s new intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, might transfer Israel’s defense secrets to Iran. Meanwhile, Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s president and an outspoken Islamist, has begun interfering in the promotion of generals (link in Turkish only; sorry) so that any the Islamist establishment believes to be too secular cannot assume command positions. Gone is the time when, regardless of the politics of the day, Washington could rely on the Turkish military as staunch, secular partners sharing common defense interests.
Nevertheless, President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, and Congress appear prepared to make the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, our most advanced aircraft and the technology upon which the U.S. Air Force will be based for decades to come, to Turkey without even reviewing the potential for technology transfer. Absolutely incredible.
Now Obama appears ready to compound the problem. According to the Washington Post, the administration will soon decide whether to put early-warning radar in either Turkey or Bulgaria. The early-warning radar is meant as a defense largely against Iranian ballistic missiles. But with Turkey so engaged commercially in Iran, can Obama really expect that Turkey is going to stand up to any Iranian demands that come greased with billions of dollars? One of the reasons why the Bush administration did not accept Russian proposals to put early-warning radars in Azerbaijan was because, under Russian pressure, the system could be turned off at any time. The same problem holds true in Turkey.
Turkey may be a partner, but it is not a reliable one. It is folly for the Obama administration to make U.S. national security more dependent upon a state which has become so hostile to the United States and whose leader bashes the United States but embraces Iran, Sudan, and Hamas.