Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian secretary general of NATO, has clarified — for any who harbored any lingering doubt – that if Iran were to attack Israel, NATO’s “security guarantee” does not apply to the Jewish State.
“This is not our job,” the Norwegian explained.
Israel has been an active “partner” of the NATO alliance for twenty years and even opened a mission in Brussels in 2016 when Stoltenberg said it was “essential” to step up cooperation to counter extremist violence in the region.
I mean, please. Would Israel have just made a preemptive decision to somehow secure some real estate in Brussels and open a NATO mission because it wanted to cozy up?
Well, sure, Israel would want to have the closest possible relationship with NATO, but one doesn’t open a mission without a very clear invitation to do so.
Alternatively, Jens Stoltenberg has no qualms about extending the security guarantee to Recep Tayyip Erdogan otherwise known as the Republic of Turkey.
The “Republic” of Turkey
Turkey joined NATO in 1952, but without going into needless history lessons, we all know that was literally a different world.
More importantly, it was a completely different Turkey. The government was largely secular, those interests insured by the military, no matter how you may feel about that. It was a bridgehead between the West, the Soviet Union and large portions of the Arab world which fell under the influence of the USSR and controlled the world’s oil.
Today, there is no Soviet Union. Turkey is an Islamic Republic in all but name.
Despite its short-lived alliance with Qatar and Saudi Arabia to unseat Bashar Assad, it quickly became apparent to Erdogan that the Russian Air Force, supported by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters on the ground whose sacrifice did not have to be rationalized in Moscow, was not a winning proposition.
Putin would have Tartus for his ships and Khmeimim for his fighters to wield some relevance in the Mediterranean and he had to have Assad in power to ensure that. There was nothing the Turks could do to “liberate” Syria from Assad.
But in the meantime, Erdogan has been on constant attack against Israel, defending Hamas in Gaza, saying he will “never accept” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that Trump’s recognition is “unacceptable”, that Jerusalem’s status is a “red line” for Muslims.
Turkey’s history is strong and it has played a crucial role culturally, religiously and politically in spreading Islam through the Euro-Mediterranean area. The Ottoman Empire at its peak of influence controlled an area from Morrocco through Egypt, held Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia through a vassal, reached north through Israel and Syria, east through the Tigres and Euphrates, and extended nearly to Kiev in Ukraine and wasn’t very far from Vienna.
It was an Islamic caliphate and Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no plans to take a back seat to Ayatollah Khameini or anybody else in the Islamic world in terms of confrontation with Israel or establishing control over the Temple Mount. He is certainly not prepared to confront the Saudis, but as he sees them drifting from the Palestinian cause and loathes the notion of Hamas becoming more deeply committed to the Iranians, I would expect him to become more belligerent and active in Gazan and Temple Mount confrontations.
So, why is the United States not undertaking an effort to expel Turkey from NATO? There is no rationalization for their continued membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which was formed as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. They are not insulating Western Europe from some ground invasion by the Red Army which wouldn’t happen in the 21st-century warfare anyway.
Incirlik Air Base
One of the primary reasons for Turkey’s inclusion in NATO was Incirlik Air Base. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1951 (gee, I wonder who paid for that?), and the US Air Force and Turkish General Staff signed a joint use agreement in 1954 (remember: they joined NATO in 1952 and were a country whose secular nature was guaranteed by their constitution). Incirlik became the base of operations for U-2 overflights in 1956 until 14 Soviet surface-to-air missiles brought down the aircraft operated by Francis Scott Powers in 1960.
We should have gotten a hint of things to come when the Turkish government pre-emptively assumed control over Incirlik in 1975 as retribution for a US arms embargo against Turkey when they invaded Cyprus in 1974. Of course, this was long before Erdogan and his neo-Ottoman dreamers assumed power.
And now we discover that Turkey has a very complicated defense arrangement in place which is placing the Trump Administration in a vice of its own design. Obviously, Trump wants to promote the protection and development of American industry.
But in this troubling case, the US has agreed to sell Erdogan the Lockheed Martin F-35, the single pilot, next-generation stealth fighter that will become a part of the IAF’s essential air superiority in the region.
Despite Turkey’s NATO membership since 1952, the country under Erdogan’s autocracy is a different place entirely. It would be a reckless act to permit this government to purchase F-35 aircraft given its recent history of supporting the challenge of the Gaza blockade by Israel and its brutal treatment of its Kurdish minority which has proven to be one of the only reliable allies of the US in the Syrian-Iraqi theater in its fight against ISIS.
Turkey is scheduled to take its first delivery of an F-35 Lightning II on June 21 in Ft. Worth, TX. A US Senate Committee is attempting to block the sale over the detention of Andrew Brunson, a US citizen Turkey refuses to release, and Turkey’s intention to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries which is an odd choice for a NATO member.
Given the recent announcement of Jens Stoltenberg and the historical behavior of Recep Erdogan, the US should immediately terminate any sale of the F-35 to Turkey unless Israel is extended NATO’s security guarantee or Erdogan cancels his orders for S-400 missile batteries.
His country may literally bridge the East and the West over the Bosporus, but Trump should force him to choose between his historic, secular alliance with NATO which he inherited and his new hegemonic ambitions to reestablish an Islamic caliphate with assistance from the Russians. He can’t have it both ways.