Turkey is critical to a more moderate Islam
Turkey is a successful example of a non-Arab land where Islam and democracy coexist and the economy prospers.
(Page 2 of 2)
With the election of Mr. Obama, and his early visit to Turkey for a key outreach speech to the Muslim world, the US-Turkey relationship regained warmth.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Obama termed Turkey a “critical” ally, declared that the US was “not at war with Islam” and concluded his speech in parliament by kissing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on both cheeks – a sign of friendship. US support for Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU also did not hurt. Turkish officials were careful to explain at that time that their renewed interest in the Muslim East did not mean a chill toward the West.
Since then things have changed remarkably. Israeli military actions in Gaza, and the recent questionably organized Israeli commando action against a Turkish-flagged flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, have threatened Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Israel, and strained Turkish relations with the US.
Middle East expert Steven Cook wrote in Foreign Policy magazine that Washington and Ankara share the same goals: peace between Israel and Palestinians; a stable, unified Iraq; an Iran without nuclear weapons; stability in Afghanistan; and a Western-oriented Syria. But, he added, “when you get down to details,Washington and Ankara “are on opposite ends of virtually all these issues.”
One example of this is the latest Turkish-Brazilian effort to defuse Iran’s nuclear ambitions, counterproductive to US diplomatic efforts.
The Rand Corporation’s Stephen Larrabee, in an interview with Bernard Gwertzman of the Council on Foreign Relations, cautions that US and Turkish interests “only partially coincide” in the Middle East. “It does not mean that Turkey is turning its back on the US or the West. It does not mean that its policies are becoming Islamized. The real issue is to manage those differences.”
US management of such differences will require acute sophistication.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, writes a biweekly column.