As other crises take center stage for the Trump administration’s national security team, the dangerous ambitions of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey have been spreading instability across the Mideast and North Africa (MENA).
For years Erdogan made no secret of his intention to restore the Ottoman Empire and become the sultan who will re-establish the Islamic Caliphate.
In Turkey, this goal has meant reinstating the dominant role of orthodox Sunni Islam in government as well as society.
Abroad, it meant launching Turkish troops and jihadist proxies to add to the chaos in places like the Iraqi, Libyan, and Syrian battlefields.
At sea, Ankara is alarming its Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with aggressive moves in waters around Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel.
After the last Islamic Caliphate was abolished by Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” in 1924, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or “the Diyanet”) was established as an official state institution.
Under Erdogan, the Diyanet has become a massive bureaucracy within the Turkish government, one with a budget of over $2 billion.
It is being used by Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to promote Islam domestically and, increasingly, abroad. That includes harboring HAMAS and other Muslim Brotherhood (MB) operatives in Turkey and establishing a military presence in several strategic areas across the MENA region. Erdogan’s regime even allows HAMAS to run espionage operations aimed at Israel from Turkish soil, and some of those HAMAS operations are providing intelligence to the Iranian regime.
As reported extensively by this writer, the Diyanet is closely involved with the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States, a collaboration that is managed by the large Diyanet Center of America in Lanham, Maryland.
The USCMO is the political umbrella group of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and includes key Brotherhood members like the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and many more.
Unfortunately, the U.S. national security leadership seems unaware that a hostile foreign power (Turkey) is operating on U.S. soil in collusion with a subversive entity (the MB) with the intention of undermining and collapsing our Constitutional Republic and subordinating it to Islamic Law (shariah).
And it is not only in America that Turkey threatens U.S. national security interests. Erdogan’s aggressive and criminal schemes have included:
- Ankara gold traders were key players in the illicit money laundering scheme that helped Iran evade United Nations and U.S. sanctions for years.
- Turkey set off alarm bells by sending thousands of Syrian rebel forces to fight as mercenaries for the jihadist regime in Tripoli, Libya.
- Years earlier, Ankara supported the Syrian rebellion against Damascus ruler Bashar al-Assad by allowing jihadi fighters and weapons from all over the world to use Turkish soil as a staging area and crossing point.
- Turkey’s MIT intelligence service openly assisted the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), including the oil-for-gold trade.
- Turkey used the excuse of defending its Syrian border against Kurdish incursions to invade Syria and ethnically cleanse Kurdish populations there and to establish a Turkish enclave, from which it appears to have no intention of withdrawing.
- Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel found common cause for alarm when Turkey deployed drilling ships and military vessels to seize and exploit oil and natural gas deposits under the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, including those in Cypriot and Greek Exclusive Economic Zones.
Additionally, Turkish ties with anti-Semitic and terrorist-supporting Qatar have blossomed since the 2014 signing of a military security agreement that includes the stationing of thousands of Turkish ground troops at a Qatari base in addition to hundreds in air, naval, and special operations forces.
Qatar, we will recall, is the site of al-Udeid, one of the largest U.S. military bases in the Mideast. And, as urged by this writer in her Nov. 24, 2020 article in Real Clear Defense, while the U.S. seeks to end the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, and Egypt, the location of the al-Udeid base must not be allowed to prevent clear-eyed and hard-nosed diplomacy from exerting pressure on Qatar to end its affiliation with terrorists.
Facing virtually no consequences for all these aggressions, Turkey set out to assist Azerbaijan in its September 2020 invasion of Armenian lands near Nagorno-Karabakh.
Once again, Ankara deployed thousands of Syrian jihadi fighters to the battlefield and even flew American-made F-16 fighter jets against the overmatched Armenians.
And regarding state-to-state relationships, the burgeoning ties between Turkey and China appear to have bought Turkish silence about Beijing’s horrific treatment of its Turkic Uyghur minority population.
Turkey’s open hostility to Israel’s expanding relationships with its Arab neighbors under the Abraham Accords is of a piece with the rest of its aggressive policies, from harboring Hamas, to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, ISIS, and Qatar, to military expansion across the entire MENA region.
To sum up this litany of ominous Turkish behavior, it’s time for the United States to re-evaluate Turkey’s place in NATO as well as overall U.S. policy towards Turkey, whether it is done by a Trump or Biden administration. Even European leaders like French President Emanuel Macron at the Dec. 10, 2020 meeting of the EU Summit in Brussels are calling for defending their sovereignty and discussing sanctions against Turkey.
At issue are Turkey’s immigration policies as well as its aggressive stance on drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Merely hoping that Erdogan’s Turkey will abandon its belligerence of its own accord is not realistic. Indecision on the part of the U.S. and other Western allies will only embolden Ankara to further abuses of human rights, trampling of democratic principles, and aggressive militancy. It is time to consider diplomatic measures, economic sanctions, and certainly an arms embargo. America should take the lead.
Clare M. Lopez is the Founder/President of Lopez Liberty LLC. She formerly served as Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy and was a career CIA operations officer.