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Turkey: Worst Ally Ever

An anti-government protester holds a Turkish flag as police officers take position during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Authoritarianism, crackdowns on the press, human rights abuses, increased belligerence towards its neighbors Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, its assault on the Kurds in Syria, and its turn away from West toward Russia make it increasingly evident that the “Turkish model” has failed. As a result of its actions, Turkey has drifted away from NATO, the EU, and the United States, becoming an ally in name only.

Turkey is an authoritarian state where democracy is dying

Turkey’s democratic backsliding under President Erdogan has seen the government crackdown on civil liberties and democratic institutions across the board. Erdogan has stepped up government efforts to stamp out any criticism. Turkey is currently one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, and Erdogan’s government has shut down or taken over more than 100 news outlets. Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, about 80,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. 

An ally in name only

There is ample evidence proving that Turkey is not and does not want to be a strategic partner of the United States. Erdogan’s authoritarianism at home is paired with his decisions to undermine the NATO alliance and cause trouble for its neighbors, the EU, and the US. The purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system designed to shoot down U.S. aircraft demonstrates the degree to which Turkey has drifted away from the West and toward Russia. Turkey’s assault on the Syrian Kurds – the most reliable partner of the US in the fight against ISIS – has hampered efforts to wipe out ISIS. Additionally, Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank is charged with helping Iran evade sanctions in what is the biggest sanctions-evasion scheme in recent history.

Destabilizing the Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey continues to destabilize Eastern Mediterranean, threatening its neighbors and infringing on their sovereignty. Turkey’s recent maritime boundary deal with the Tripoli-based government in Libya is the latest in a series of provocative actions. It follows in the footsteps of its continued illegal exploration of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and its continued belligerence against Greece. As the Eastern Mediterranean comes together on energy, security, and other issues, Turkey is trying to scuttle any consensus and write its own rules. Ankara seems to think the Eastern Mediterranean is its terrain and wants to assert itself like China does in the South China Sea.  

The United States must re-examine its relationship with Turkey 

Turkey has repeatedly demonstrated that it is an unreliable ally that often actively works against US interests in the region. Over the past few years, Turkey has enabled ISIS, attacked the most effective American allies in the war on ISIS, threatened American allies and strategic partners in the Eastern Mediterranean, put NATO at risk by purchasing Russian S-400 missile systems, jailed American citizens in Turkey, conspired to kidnap a legal resident on US soil, and has physically attacked American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights in Washington, D.C. The time for a thorough review of U.S. policy on Turkey that includes sanctions is now.


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