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  • January 7, 2012

    Why Is an Anti-American Islamist, Obama’s Favorite ME Leader?

    By Barry Rubin, RUBIN REPORTS

    For the first time in forty years, Israel is not the American president’s favorite Middle Eastern ally. Instead, that role is played by Turkey’s government.

    This would not be such a bad thing if we were talking about the “old” Turkey, the secular republic. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s favorite advisor among the regional leaders is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pretend all you want but Obama really dislikes—hates?—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and truth be told Netanyahu has done nothing to deserve that treatment.


    The fundamental problem with Erdogan is despite being embraced by the United States, he is an enemy of the United States, the West more generally, and Israel. He is on the side of radical, anti-American Islamists who want to wipe Israel off the map. So angry and passionate is Erdogan’s loathing of Israel that the leader of the opposition mockingly but pointedly asked if the prime minister wanted to go to war with the Jewish state.

    In contrast, the list of Erdogan’s dearest friends includes Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, the repressive Sudanese dictatorship, and Syria (formerly the regime there; now the Islamist portions of the opposition). Erdogan would like to be good buddies with the Muslim Brotherhood forces in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, though they are suspicious of him.

    Erdogan’s record at home and abroad shows what he and his regime are all about. Indeed, what is truly bizarre about Obama’s judgment is that Erdogan has done nothing so beneficial to the United States and a number of things detrimental to it:

    –Iraq war: Whatever you think of the Iraq war, the refusal of the Turkish government to deliver on their promise to let U.S. troops cross into northern Iraq in 2003 was unfriendly and many American officials and members of Congress were outraged at the time.

    –Israel policy: Erdogan has gone to an extreme in attacking Israel and sabotaging any possibility of conciliation. His government sponsored the Gaza flotilla knowing that a lot of the Turkish participants were violent Islamists who wanted to stage a confrontation.

    –Iran: The Erdogan’s regime tried to sabotage sanctions against Iran in 2010. He has repeatedly defended Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. While there have been some bilateral disagreements—the Turkish decision to allow in NATO installations to watch Iran and backing different sides in Syria, the two countries remain quite close and Erdogan is currently visiting Iran.

    –Lebanon and Palestinians: In opposition to U.S. policy, Erdogan backs radical, openly antisemitic Islamist terrorist groups, Hamas and Hizballah. The leader of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has just been received as a hero by Erdogan.

    –Syria: While Turkey opposes the continuation of the Asad regime in Syria, this is not out of a love of democracy but rather due to support for a Sunni Islamist takeover there. When Obama gave Erdogan the task of organizing a Syrian opposition leadership, the Turkish regime packed that leadership with Islamists.

    –Worldview: Erdogan’s foreign minister wrote a book in Turkish explaining the regime’s strategy of aligning with the Islamic world against the West. This is clearly what Erdogan has been doing. The bonus, however, is that he has been able to pretend otherwise and thus act without any real cost or pressure from the West. On the contrary, he can tell Turkish voter that Obama loves him.

    Then there’s Erdogan’s domestic policy which grows worse with each day: increasing repression; massive arrests without trial; trumped-up phony charges of terrorism and treason; intimidation of the media; constitutional changes that give him control over all institutions including the courts. The very real fear and despair within Turkey is generally not reported in the West.

    Now the former army chief of staff, retired General Ilker Basbug, has been humiliated and will be put on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the regime. One thing that’s never explained is that if the hundreds of officers who have been arrested were working to stage a coup how come in ten years not the tiniest action was ever actually taken? Meanwhile, journalists are on trial for alleged terrorism and other crimes.

    Wait a minute! Maybe that’s what the “Turkish model,” which the Obama Administration wants to spread to the Arabic-speaking world, is: an elected government that makes itself into a dictatorship.

    Talk to almost any Turk, at least to those who aren’t regime supporters, and they’ll tell you that the only explanation they can figure out is a conspiracy in which the United States wants an Islamist regime in Turkey to prove its sympathy for Islam and possibly affect such groups elsewhere.

    One thing that the regime has done very well—or, at least, benefitted from conditions—is regarding the economy. Despite recent claims that Turkey’s economy is in trouble, the country seems to be flourishing.

    Soner Cagaptay, a frequent critic of the regime, describes Turkey as in an unprecedented “sense of global confidence” not seen for centuries; a “Eurasian China;” a country whose economy grew a record 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Since 2002, he continues the economy has nearly tripled in size. Its trade is shifting from Europe to Islamic countries.

    As one journalist put it: “After suffering through eight coalition governments and four economic crises, the Turkish people have welcomed ten years of a stable…government even if it has meant entrenched single-party rule”

    Cagaptay argues that to continue this economic success the Turkish government must avoid “a belligerent foreign policy.” But that’s a bit misleading. Turkey can have a radical, pro-Islamist foreign policy that is objectively anti-Western at little cost. It just has to avoid getting involved directly in wars, which it can easily do.

    Now with the Turkish army broken, Erdogan needs merely complete his control of the courts to be able to do whatever he pleases within the country.

    And with Obama following Erdogan’s advice and trying to help spread the “Turkish model”—electing radical Islamist regimes that will be repressive at home and backing radicals abroad—things look bright for Erdogan as he steadily consolidates control.

    Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com

  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 7:58 am | 16 Comments »

    16 Comments to Why Is an Anti-American Islamist, Obama’s Favorite ME Leader?

    1. Andy Lewis says:

      Because Obama’s an anti-American Islamist.

      This has been another in the series Simple Answers to Really Easy Questions.

    2. Bill Narvey says:

      Obama came into office, brimming with confidence that he could sweet talk and wow an anti-American Middle East (ME) as he did the American people. Whatever Obama lacked in experience and knowledge of world and ME history especially, he was more than confident his political acumen would carry him through.

      A good politician knows they must play to the audience they are trying to reach. That at least is the way things work in the West. Obama figured that’s the way it works everywhere.

      Obama thus adjusted his rhetoric to play to ME sensibilities and what he perceived as ME wounded pride and anger over America’s past actions in and relations with the ME. Israel was always a sore point with the ME and American support of Israel in helping her defeat Arab genocidal dreams, was an especially sore point.

      Obama, having settled on his rhetorical outreach strategy to the ME, premised on his ability to win people over by just his words and force of personality, proven in the cauldron of the American presidential race, embarked with unbridled confidence to reach out to the ME and Muslim world.

      It began with his Al Arabyya interview, followed by what has been dubbed, his Cairo apology tour where he gave credence to just about every accusation the ME had come up with against America, by apologizing for same without specification or qualification.

      As regards one of the sorest points of ME angst, he expressed great sympathy for the Palestinians, spoke in support of Palestinian rights and the like and began his dissing of Israel, but not dissing Israel to the point of of jeopardizing his own party and support base at home that generally at least, were pro-Israel.

      Fast forward to today and looking back at how well Obama’s outreach to the ME and Iran has worked including his efforts, being a mix of rhetoric, cajoling and pressing only Israel to force the 2 state solution into existence, it has not worked all that well.

      In spite of failures in winning over the ME, Obama has stayed his course which has been determined by his rigid ideology, his undeterred supreme self confidence that he is right and only needs time to prove that which many have characterized as narcisim and has implemented his ideologically derived ME policies, using his Chicago style politics.

      His rigid ideological thinking and confidence in his own abilities to win people over by mere rhetoric and his persona, has not only driven his ME policies, but has greatly influenced his words and deeds on the world stage as well as domestically.

      For Obama, he sees only a need to win over enemies for he assumes friends are already in the bag. It has led to some characterizing his foreign relations policies as amounting to embracing enemies and pissing on friends.

      We have seen this for instance in Obama’s outreach to Russia with his efforts at rapproachment, that he cornily dubbed re-set.

      Giving away the farm to Russia on its opposition to the strategic missle defence plans, threw America’s friends Poland and Czechoslovakia under the bus. The START treaty he entered into, though it hurt America and the West in a number of strategic ways and advantaged Russia, Obama glowingly held that up as evidence of his mastery in dealing with the Russians. As good as the START treaty was for Russia, Russia is already resiling from that agreement. Obama is not talking about START anymore.

      Failure for most folks who are dedicated to a particular goal, is instructive and what failure moves them to do is to change course.

      So what is Obama, the rigid ideologue who remains supremely confident that he is right and ultimately will be proven so, to do about forging ahead with his outreach to the ME to win it over?

      Ideologically and narcisistically blinded to lessons taught by his failures in the ME, Obama has chosen to pretty much stay the course that he first embarked on.

      Whether it be trying to win over the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) by bringing in some advisers into his administration that have had MB sympathies or claiming the MB has some good points, reminiscent of those who noted Hitler’s good points, like making the German trains run on time.

      Obama who sees opportunities through his ideological lens or seeks to create opportunities guided by his rigid ideology and implement them in his rightly maligned Chicago political style, sees an opportunity to achieve his goal of winning over the ME, by forging a relationship with Turkey’s Erdogan.

      Whether or not Obama sees and understands that Erdogan has moved to the Islamist dark side, is immaterial in his calculation. Obama sees that Erdogan is a rising player in the ME. That is all that is important to Obama. Obama this is playing Erdogan to forge an alliance of sorts between Turkey and America that will serve Obama’s outreach purposes and goals in winning over the ME.

      What Obama does not see, is that Erdogan is playing him as well, just as the ME did with Obama’s outreach efforts. The chances of Obama winning over Erdogan to be his ally and friend, which Obama figures would collaterally be good for America, has about as much chance of succeeding as his past efforts to win over the ME.

      Unless Obama somehow succeeds in his efforts with Erdogan and thus brings him and Turkey back from the darkness of Islamism and into the light, America, the West and Israel will be the ones that pay for Obama’s failure, just as they have been paying for his failures thus far.

      Things are not looking good at all as regards the chances of Obama succeeding to win over Erdogan and then the ME, but who knows? History has shown that unexpected stranger things have happened.

    3. Bert says:

      Once we connect all the dots with Obama we come to a chilling conclusion. Obama is a radical leftist supporter of radical Islam who became our Manchurian candidate president. As in those military action films like The Dirty Dozen Obama has become the powerful president of the “enemy” country, America. As in those movies he must work fast to do maximum damage before he is discovered and neutralized. As in those movies he may even pose as an enemy officer to fool people. More and more Americans are starting to realize that Obama is not simply making “mistakes”. He is attacking America itself from every direction that he can. And embracing Erdogen and Turkey fits completely into his master plan. Obama has another year to do even more damage.

    4. Ted Belman says:

      Obama isn’t winning over the MB. It is the MB that has won over Obama.

    5. yamit82 says:

      What is missing from your overview of Obama is what his ultimate end game is. On this minor topic you are silent. He is forcing Pakistan into the enemy camp and prodding them to react militarily. The only reason I can see thus far he has not employed the Libyan scenario is that Pakistan has about 100 nukes and delivery systems but he is doing everything to force a military reaction from Pakistan which might be considered the equivalent Sunni version of Shia Iran except they already have nukes.

      America through a combination of CIA and IMF have brought down or weakened every autocratic regime in the wider ME and Syria seems the next on the list. America has both partnered with AL-Qaeda (Libya and Yemen) and are fighting them in Afghanistan. America has supported and aligned with every radical Islamic group in the ME as a primary method for regime change.

      Turkey is not a new idea or pawn on the American chess board Bush tried his best to get the EU to approve Turkey as a member, even after turkey refused to help him in the initial phases of the war against Iraq.

      From what I can see Obama’s foreign policy is just a continuation of policies of Clinton and Bush with nuance.

      Two questions come to mind”

      What is the American end game?

      Who and what interests are driving the policy?

      I know this if the major export of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya was Broccoli, would America have gone to war against those countries?

      Whatever Obama intends; it’s obvious he needs another 4 years to accomplish them and it looks like he just might get them. The stupid American conservative right seems intent on giving Obama a 4 year extension.

    6. Jerry says:

      My wife believes that Obama will win re-election. She says that foreign policy never has much effect upon election outcomes. So he can do as he likes as long as money is changing hands in the American economy.

      Furthermore, she says that Obama will use guile to win since truth has no particular value for him.

      I say that he he easily fits the parameters for a psychopath. A key feature of such a personality disorder is that people do not recognize it as pathology until they are being eaten. Even then some would say, “I must have done something to deserve this treatment?”

      One of the ironies of human existence is that everything important is happening today. Yesterday is either unimportant or unknown in most considerations. Planning for the future is an iffy business. Better to deal with the here and now, most humans reason. This thinking tells us why in spite of all of Obama’s sins and disinterest in the future of America, he can win the election again.

      QED: The only way to beat Mr. Obama is to catch him in the act of defiling America and point it out. Since he does this on a daily basis through his narcissistic attitudes, he could be defeated easily, but only by someone who is adept at repartee in debate. That leaves Gingrich.

    7. Hizz says:

      You left out the part where the premise of this article is suggested by anyone, let alone substantiated.
      This claim doesn’t appear in any print media that google news can find.

    8. Nigel says:

      The Elite’s pro-Islamist agenda is safe and secure as long as its ostensible opponents continue to be hamstrung by absurdist personality politics – that is, maintaining the pretence that pro-Islamist policies of the US are about Obama and his personal politics.

    9. RD850 says:

      The Manchurian Candidate (Jon Huntsman)- Why do I think Angela Lansbury is at edge of the stage wearing a queen of hearts costum? nhdebate

    10. batya dagan says:

      Erdogan is a primitive ,wild and angry man.He wants so much to be a “somebody” in the world but it just does not work because he is
      actually a nobody.

      He is full of hatred towards the west ioncluding Israel that he finds himself doing unlawfull things like the involement in the idioyic flotilla.He lied to Israel about his ship not including terrorists and eventually caused the death of nine of them.

      He lies about what he does to the Kurds.He lies about what Turky did to the Arminians.He is a cruel and ugly man .He will end up destroying his country.

    11. yamit82 says:

      I read a report that he has cancer so his days may be numbered, That said, who is to say that whoever replaces him would be better.

    12. Mickey Oberman says:

      “The fundamental problem with Erdogan is despite being embraced by the United States, he is an enemy of the United States, the West more generally, and Israel.”

      This is a perfect description of Barak Hussein Obama.

    13. jrob says:

      “America has both partnered with AL-Qaeda (Libya and Yemen) and are fighting them in Afghanistan.”

      I’m unaware of any objective information sources making it clear that the US is fighting against ‘al quaeda’ (which was also supported in Yugoslavia), or even if ‘al quaeda’ is anything beyond a label used in US/NATO media designed to help tell a story, one where the US State Dept loves certain Muslims (the neo-nazi Muslim Brotherhood, who is really kind and gentle), yet hates other ones (‘al quaeda’, which is somehow different from the MB).

      Can anyone clearly state how AQ is different from the MB?? Ideologically, they seem to be identical.

      There is of course a third type of Muslim that the US State Department really hates, the ones that support people like Robert Spencer, the ones that aren’t genocidal Jewhaters, the ones that would actually be content to live in peace, the ones that it will not appoint to any type of leadership post whatsoever.

    14. yamit82 says:

      “The fundamental problem with Erdogan is despite being embraced by the United States, he is an enemy of the United States, the West more generally, and Israel.”

      This is a perfect description of Barak Hussein Obama.

      Yes but a perfect description if Bush and Clinton before him as well.

    15. batya dagan says:

      I allow myself to hope that the next guy in Turkey will choose to go back to Ata Turk and to democracy and freedom for all the people who live in this sad country including the Kurds.

      It will be nice to go back to have friendly relations with Israel too.Both countries benefitted form this .

    16. yamit82 says:

      Ah the stuff of dreams. What was, was; best to face reality and deal with it. Turkey even before Erdogan was coerced by the US into closer relations with Israel in hopes it would smooth the way into the EU. They haven’t changed their anti-Israel attitudes, it was always anti-Israel at it’s core and they were even worse before Islam. I served with Turks in Korea, even the Chinese were afraid of them because of their innate brutality.

      There are some countries by the very nature of who and what they are culturally and religiously are not compatible to have close relations with. Turkey is one of those nations. Best we can hope for is to increase non military trade with them, which we are and it’s even increased despite everything else.

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