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Itís time to tame Erdogan

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Monday, 6 July 2020


Historically, Western democracies have held their moral values high, waged wars, and made painful and costly sacrifices to preserve human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and respect for international norms of conduct. While realpolitik governs relations between independent countries and compromises are often made to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, in dealing with Turkey's President Erdogan, the EU and the US have forsaken their values by allowing Erdogan to run wild with impunity.

He is violating every article of human rights in his own country, destabilizing other countries while exploiting their weaknesses and resources in order to promote his nationalist agenda. Sadly, Western powers have convinced themselves that Turkey remains an indispensable 'ally', and that Erdogan's transgressions and moral insolvency are the price they are willing to pay. They embrace the illusion that in the post-Erdogan era, Turkey will become a constructive player and a power of geostrategic importance, which outweighs Erdogan's transient outrageous behavior.

To understand the gravity of Erdogan's foreign transgressions and moral breaches, even a brief sketch would suffice to expose the magnitude of his culpability, which raises the baffling question: why do Western powers continue to indulge such a ruthless, unrepentant dictator-a despot who made it all but abundantly clear, as I was told repeatedly by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, that by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, Turkey will project its power and exert the influence once enjoyed by the Ottoman Empire in its heyday, which is a recipe for instability and violence. Erdogan's domestic and international forays offer a panoramic view of his menacing objectives.

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Erdogan's transgressions

Erdogan continues to commit gross human rights violations in Turkey by using the failed 2016 military coup as an excuse to silence the media. He has jailed over 150 journalists, incarcerated around 80,000 suspected of affiliation with the Gülen movement, purged 150,000 military officers and civil servants, and engaged in a systematic operation of ethnic cleansing against minorities in Turkey and northern Syria.

He systematically persecutes his own Kurdish community, continues a 50-year-old war against the PKK, which he views as a terrorist organization, and refuses to resume negotiations with the Kurds and end the carnage that has taken the lives of approximately 40,000 on both sides.

He invaded Syria to both prevent the Syrian Kurdish community from establishing autonomous rule, and to entrench for Turkey a permanent foothold in the country, which is bound to only prolong the conflict and further destabilize the region.

He purchased Russia's S-400 air defense system, which, once operational, NATO fears would seriously compromise the alliance's intelligence sharing and technology, apart from being fully incompatible with NATO systems.

He invested heavily in promoting his Islamic agenda by supporting anti-Western Islamist extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and even ISIS. He uses Islam as a political tool by building mosques and other Islamic theological institutions, and sends his imams to teach and preach his brand of religious nationalism in many countries in the Middle East and the Balkans.

He violated US sanctions against Iran by laundering up to $20 billion in an oil-for-gold scheme from 2012-2018, and continues to cooperate and trade with Tehran in defiance of Western interests.

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He made a deal with Putin in late 2019 to patrol northern Syria while working closely with Moscow and Tehran to delineate their spheres of influence in the country-thus leaving Syria de facto a divided state under their control, while significantly diminishing what's left of Western influence.

He sent troops to support Libya's Government of National Accord in an effort to establish a strong foothold in the country, exploiting its oil and gas and threatening the free flow of energy from the Eastern Mediterranean.

He violated a UN arms embargo while resisting NATO's peace plans in Libya, including exercising extreme aggression against NATO ally France's warship enforcing the embargo.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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