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Op-Ed: Obama and Erdogan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
December 17, 2009—No. 89 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: Obama and Erdogan

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI Founder Gene Rossides appeared in The National Herald 12-03-09, The Hellenic Voice 12-09-09, the Greek News 12-07-09, and The Greek Star 12-10-09.

Obama and Erdogan

By Gene Rossides

December 1, 2009

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on December 7, 2009. Unfortunately, President Obama is following the flawed and failed policies of the Bush and Clinton administrations towards Turkey.

Obama has watered down his campaign statements and those of Vice President Joe Biden. He has not ordered a critical review of the United States-Turkey relations. He keeps talking as if Turkey is a loyal, reliable ally of substantial importance and a bridge between East and West and between Christians and Muslims. The facts are otherwise and Obama’s rhetoric on Turkey is inaccurate, misleading and omits important items.

Turkey and Iran

Obama has failed to state that Turkey is giving full support to the Iranian government and its tainted re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Erdogan and Turkey’s president were among the first foreign leaders to call and congratulate Ahmadinejad which was a deliberate act against the opposition movement in Iran which movement supported by most of the world community in its denunciation of the election of Ahmadinejad as fraudulent.

Turkey opposes U.S. and Western policy towards Iran. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2009, pointed out that Turkey, “NATO’s only Muslim member is undermining Western efforts to keep nuclear weapons from Iran by expanding trade ties.”

The editorial points out that while “Congress pushes legislation aimed at punishing foreign companies that sell petroleum to Iran, and the United Nations prepares to consider sanctions against that country if an ongoing round of nuclear talks fails, Iranian leaders this week were elated over plans to treble trade ties” with Turkey from $7 billion to $20 billion by 2011.

The Turkey-Iran trade deals and Turkey’s support of the Iranian Muslim dictatorship “are fueling worries that Turkey…is turning its back on the West to embrace Islamist regimes to the east.”

The editorial refers to Turkey's “newfound self-confidence. Its economic clout and geopolitical importance have put it in a position to realize long-held desires to be a major player on the world diplomatic stage. Flirting with Iran is a way of asserting independence from the global powers that be.”

The editorial concluded: “That self-confidence will probably be on full display Dec. 7, when Erdogan heads to Washington to visit with President Obama. He is expected to be assertive. But Obama needs to do some lecturing of his own. A nuclear-armed Iran is not in Turkey's interest, and Erdogan's frequent assurances that Tehran is solely interested in an energy program are either laughably naive or dangerously cynical.”

Turkey and Israel

The Turkey-Israel military arrangement, initiated in 1996 during the Clinton administration by Vice President Gore’s office, was not in the interests of the U.S. It provided jobs for Israel’s defense industry and arms enhancement for Turkey according to Professor Amos Perlmutter. The Cold War was over. We did not and do not need a militaristic Turkey.

The military arrangement should be ended for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was harmful to Greece, Cyprus and Armenia. In effect, it demonstrated support of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus; support of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocides; support of Turkey’s violations of the human and political rights of its Kurdish minority; and support of Turkey’s numerous violations of religious freedom.

Turkey’s military arrangement with Israel and relations generally have worsened in recent years because of Erdogan’s insulting attack on Israeli President Shimon Peres at Davos and Erdogan’s rhetoric against Israel generally and particularly after Israel’s 2008 Gaza attack.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover institution of Stanford University, in a Jerusalem Post article, Oct. 28, 2009, pointed “to the profound change of orientation by Turkey's government—for six decades the West's closest Muslim ally—since Erdogan's AK party came to power in 2002.” That orientation has shifted to Muslim nations and the East, particularly Iran and Syria.

Pipes refers to Turkey as “an ally no more” and cites three recent examples in his article. The first was on Oct. 11, 2009, when the Turkish military “abruptly asked Israeli forces not to participate in the annual ‘Anatolian Eagle’ air force exercise.”

Secondly, Pipes cites Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s announcement on Oct. 13 that Turkish and Syrian forces had just "carried out maneuvers near Ankara."

Thirdly, “ten Turkish ministers, led by Foreign Minister Davutoglu, joined their Syrian counterparts on Oct. 13 for talks under the auspices of the just-established ‘Turkey-Syria High Level Strategic Cooperation Council.’ The ministers announced having signed almost 40 agreements…and that the two countries' leaders would sign a strategic agreement in November.”

Pipes points out that Turkey’s strategy “to enhance relations with regional and Muslim states” comes from the strategy “enunciated by Davutoglu in his influential 2000 book, Strategic Depth: Turkey's International Position.”

Pipes also cites Barry Rubin of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya that "the Israel-Turkey alliance is over," and that “Turkey's armed forces no longer guard the secular republic and can no longer intervene if the government becomes too Islamist.” Also Rubin notes, "The Turkish government is closer politically to Iran and Syria than to the United States and Israel.”

Pipes further cites Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post columnist, who “goes further: Ankara has already "left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.”

Turkey and the Kurds

Turkey still denies its 15-20 million Kurdish minority (20%) full human and political rights. Turkey has committed outrageous crimes against humanity in the treatment of its Kurdish minority: 3,000 villages burned to the ground; 3,000,000 refugees; 30,000 Kurds killed by Turkey’s military; 17,000 Kurds assassinated by Turkey’s para-military squads. (See Eric Rouleau, “Turkey’s Dream of Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2000; pp 100-114.)

Obama should insist on full human and political rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority and compensation for the victims and their heirs.

Turkey-anti-Christian

Turkey was founded on the ashes of Turkey’s genocides against its Armenia, Greek and Assyrian Christian minorities in the 1920’s led by Kemal Ataturk. Turkey was the leading anti-Christian nation in the world in the 20th century, killing over 2,500,000 Christians. And today it violates the religious freedom of the tiny Greek Orthodox Christian minority of 2000 and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Turkey-anti-Semitic

Turkey is also a leading anti-Semitic nation. The Erdogan government has increased the anti-Israel rhetoric considerably over the past several years.

Turkey’ Denial policy

Turkey continues to deny its genocide history against the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians and its founding on the bodies of its genocides. Turkey, in my view, will never be fully accepted as a nation until it recognized its genocides and provide compensation as Germany particularly and Japan have done for their horrendous crimes.

Obama’s Need to Act

Frankly, President Obama needs to do more than lecture. He needs to consider putting U.S sanctions on Turkey and the withdrawal of existing benefits if Turkey does not meet specific conditions regarding Iran and the Greek American core issues of Cyprus, the Aegean, FYROM and religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which are based on fundamental U.S. principles of the rule of law, democratic norms and religious freedom.

Get Active

The Greek American community needs to act vigorously, forcefully and respectfully in calling and writing to President Obama to support the rule of law, democratic norms and religious freedom regarding Turkey and to support sanctions if Turkey does not meet specific conditions. Call the White House Comments line at 202-456-1111 and write: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500. Act today, it does help.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.