Forget chess, Turkey is failing at geopolitical checkers. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By LEE SMITH
A recent spate of newspaper articles suggests a concerted media campaign targeting Turkey’s foreign intelligence service, the MIT, its director, Hakan Fidan, and almost surely his boss as well, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a piece published by the Wall Street Journal and another by the Washington Times, Fidan is said to be supporting al Qaeda affiliates in Syria fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Then David Ignatius, in his column for the Washington Post, showed Fidan to be playing for the other side, passing sensitive information to Assad’s ally Iran about 10 agents working for Israel inside Iran.
Who is behind the campaign remains unclear, though many suspect the White House or CIA. Also unclear is the purpose of the leaks. And staring at the details—trying to discern, for instance, whether Fidan backs al Qaeda or Iran—only makes the landscape hazier. From the big picture, two main points emerge: Though a NATO ally, Turkey under Erdogan is not to be trusted. And the Obama White House is incapable of managing its allies.
The Ignatius piece is resonating around the region. Ankara denies shopping Mossad assets to the Iranians, and pro-Erdogan media blame Israel for blackening Ankara’s reputation. Israel has declined to confirm the story officially—“Israel doesn’t want to have a public argument with Turkey,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor. Nevertheless, ex-Mossad chief Danny Yatom, apparently convinced the story is true, said betraying Israeli spies to Iran “brings the Turkish intelligence organization to a position where I assume no one will ever trust it again.”
Israel has good reason to be angry at a country with which, until recently, it enjoyed a strategic alliance. Political fissures became apparent in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish nationals aboard a flotilla trying to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza. The Turkish press reported last week that it was in response to the flotilla affair that Fidan exposed the 10 agents to the Iranians. Before that, says former Mossad combatant Michael Ross, the MIT and Mossad had a working relationship, “and no matter how sour it may get at the political level, intelligence services continue working together unless directed otherwise. What makes this case so execrable is that intelligence cooperation always transcends politics, and the Turks broke that unwritten rule.”
Making matters worse, they sabotaged an operation countering Israel’s top strategic threat. “Iranian recruitments would be considered extremely sensitive and very high-priority,” says Ross. And it’s not the first time Fidan is said to have acted in the interests of Tehran. According to Turkish press reports, it was the Turkish intelligence chief who counseled former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to make his first foreign trip a visit to Iran to cozy up with the Islamic Republic. More damning still, the MIT shared American intelligence with Tehran. Last year, the United States was set to ship 10 predator drones to Turkey when the deal was postponed out of concern that the MIT was giving Iran intelligence collected from U.S. predator drones. This suspicion was confirmed by Turkey’s deputy prime minister in August 2012. Last week, Congress reportedly canceled the sale entirely.
The fact that Fidan’s MIT plays such a large role in Turkey’s political life, replacing the armed forces as the country’s consummate national institution, is bad news, say some Turkish commentators. The problem is not just that Fidan may be close to Iran, but that in running much of its foreign policy through the clandestine service, the troubled Turkish democracy is starting to acquire the habits of an Arab regime. “It’s time for people to take another look at what’s going on in Turkey,” says Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and a frequent critic of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP). “I hope this is a wake-up call.”
Edelman and another former American ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, have just co-authored a paper for the Bipartisan Policy Center, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Reframing U.S. Turkey Policy,” that points a way forward for the two NATO allies. One problem, as the paper makes clear, is that the incoherent policies of Erdogan’s Turkey have dragged it into conflict with virtually everyone in the Middle East and beyond.
“It has called for the ouster of Syria’s Assad,” write Edelman and Abramowitz,
3:29 PM, Aug 22, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The anti-Christian violence in Egypt is "a modern pogrom," David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel, says in a statement.
"Events in Egypt this week highlight yet again the tragedy facing the Christians of the Middle East. Once again, Christians are being targeted for murder. Once again Christian schools, businesses and churches are being attacked. And once again, the world is largely silent," Brog says.
According to the press, Jerusalem goes against the White House and stands with the Egyptian army.7:02 AM, Aug 21, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is gung-ho for the Egyptian army’s bloody campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. This, the Journal reports, “has pulled Israel into ever-closer alignment with those Gulf states.” Yes, concurs, the New York Times, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE support “the Egyptian military and sought to push back against Western entreaties that it temper its actions against the Brotherhood and the ousted government of President Mohamed Morsi and his supporters.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:23 PM, Aug 20, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith about ongoing crisis in Egypt.
7:11 AM, Aug 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The boss joined This Week on Sunday to discuss Egypt, law and order, and politics:
Who is Maurice Bonamigo?4:46 PM, Aug 15, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
Earlier this week, Maurice Bonamigo had strong words for the White House on its Egypt policy. “The Obama administration failed to assess the situation in Egypt,” Bonamigo told Egypt’s flagship English-language media organ, the Egypt Independent. “It did not appreciate the power of the Egyptian people calling for freedom. I am surprised by Obama’s stance.”
Yesterday's confrontation between Egypt's army and the Muslim Brotherhood may only be the beginning.4:01 PM, Aug 15, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
This morning President Obama announced that he is cancelling this year’s joint military exercise with Egypt, Operation Bright Star. It’s a symbolic gesture intended to show that, should the army continue to pursue its present course, the White House may eventually decide to suspend military aid. But cancelling Bright Star also underscores American impotence. The administration reportedly warned Egypt’s military regime against a violent crackdown, an admonition to which, with 638 now confirmed dead after yesterday’s nationwide confrontations with Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the army obviously turned a deaf ear.
11:19 AM, Aug 15, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama delivered about an 8 minute statement on Egypt this morning, then went straight to the links. Via the pool report:
10:42 AM, Aug 15, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama delivered a short audio-only statement on Egypt this morning, from his rented-vacation home on Martha's Vineyard:
In the statement, President Obama cancelled a planned joint U.S.-Egypt military exercise and called for "Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who protest to do so peacefully."
Obama did not say that U.S. aid to Egypt would change.
The president answered no questions.
12:24 PM, Aug 14, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest released this statement on the ongoing violence in Egypt:
Egypt’s descent into chaos Aug 5, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 44 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
For most of those who were so hopeful when the Great Arab Revolt downed the dictator Hosni Mubarak two years ago, the travails of Egypt’s fledgling democracy have been depressing. Many in the West expected the country’s hodgepodge of secularists—the young men and women who were the cutting edge of the demonstrations, first against Mubarak, then against his freely elected Muslim Brotherhood successor, Mohamed Morsi—to do better than they did at the ballot box, where Islamists so far have triumphed.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:35 PM, Jul 22, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on Secretary of State John Kerry's peace tour, Egypt, Syria, and Iran.