LET’S STOP JOKING ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY

Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy     We can hope the reporting was just an April Fools joke, but is there really a possibility that President Obama is considering sending Caroline Kennedy as American Ambassador to Japan?  Has she had some related experience?  How good is her Japanese?  Would she like to join the ranks of those who, for no substantive reason, are charged with representing the USG and the American people in countries of great importance to the US and its national security?  Has she contributed money to Democratic candidates -Obama or others – or is she expected to do so in the future, or is it a question of family name and reputation?  Let’s hope it was a joke, but the matter of political appointments to ambassadorships abroad is not funny.

     It was also reported recently that Hillary Clinton is for the moment not accepting donations to the presidential campaign she is widely expected to conduct as 2016 draws near.  Now, then, is the time to extract promises in advance from potential or declared successors to Obama that professionals, i.e., experienced foreign service officers with proven expertise, will be assigned to run our embassies and conduct relations at the highest level in foreign capitals.  Obama has outdone his predecessors in rewarding big donors with nice embassies in glamorous capitals or sunny climes, continuing the practice of hampering the conduct of foreign relations and insulting our friends abroad in the bargain.  Our recently departed Secretary of State, who is surely aware of the problem, should be bombarded now with pleas that she should discontinue this disgraceful, purely American, sale of our embassies to the highest bidders.

NOTHING IS EASY: ISRAEL, TURKEY, RUSSIA, CYPRUS, THE EU (AND US NATIONAL SECURITY)

  The heralded and most welcome rapprochement between American friends and allies Turkey and Israel will need, as is normal, some time before it bears fruit.  As reported from Ankara by the Associated Press on March 24, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been cautious in presenting his agreement with Israeli counterpart Netanyahu to his domestic constituency, along the lines of “actions speak louder than words”.  (At the same time, Netanyahu has been sharply attacked for apologizing for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla by his former Foreign Minister Lieberman.)  There is nothing remarkable about a leader protecting himself at home from charges of weakness in dealing with “the enemy”, and Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza and the West Bank in the near future need not upset the substance of the agreement.  Let us hope that is so but not disregard the warning signals in the AP report, worth repeating here in full.

          QUOTE:  Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.

Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.

But in a public address Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.

“We have said: ‘an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”

The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.

During Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as “calm prevailed.”

But Israeli military officials have taken to punishing Gaza residents for breaches of a November truce. Since Thursday, in response to militant rocket fire from the territory, all movement through a civilian crossing between Gaza and Israel was cancelled, except for humanitarian cases. Gaza fishermen had their permitted fishing territory restricted and a commercial goods crossing was shut down, according to Israeli rights group, Gisha.

Netanyahu said Saturday concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile were the motivating factor in restoring ties with Turkey. He said the two countries, which border Syria, needed to communicate with each other over the issue.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he plans to travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “within the month, in April.”  END QUOTE

     Where do the other parties named in the title of this post fit in?  Turkey has occupied some 40% of Cyprus going on 40 years, proclaiming the existence of a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.  Such an entity has never been recognized by any country in the world, Israel, Russia, all EU members and the US prominent among those that have refused.  In May 2012, Turkish jet fighters challenged an Israeli plane hovering near a gas and oil exploration region off of Cyprus, a challenge based on Turkish defense of the “rights” of the fictional republic.  A year later, Turkey continues to challenge the right of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to explore for energy resources in its exclusive economic zone, an exercise it has been conducting in cooperation with American, Israeli and other partners.  Moreover, it has been reliably reported that Russia, which currently supplies EU countries with well more than a third of their gas supplies, has been pressuring the Cypriots to let the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” into the bidding as the price of helping Cyprus out of its desperate financial dilemma.  Figures indicate that the exploitation of Cypriot gas by, among others, French and American companies could potentially reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian supplies.

     According to the French newspaper Le Monde of March 23, the Russians have been making another, equally important, proposal to the Cypriots in exchange for Russian financial help: the provision of a naval base for Russian warships.  With continued use of Syrian port facilities out of the question, Russia will be left with no berthing or basing rights in the Mediterranean, leaving Cyprus as the only feasible option.  (This scenario was hinted at, perhaps foreshadowed, in a post of July 23, 2012 headlined “Cyprus, Russia, Syria, America, the EU, Turkey et al”, which reported the docking of two Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Cypriot port of Limassol – and not, it must be mentioned, in the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta.)

  NOTHING IS EASY.

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Turkey and U.S. National Security

The combined weight and importance of Turkey’s political, military, economic and geo-strategic circumstances in the consideration of American national security interests require the most serious attention, and one must assume that fact escapes nobody’s attention in Washington.  By way of illustration, Turkey is the only Islamic country that is both a member of NATO and a candidate for accession to the EU; it fields more than twice as many active-duty military personnel than does France, the UK or Italy; its potential role as a conduit for oil coming from various directions is clear; and its neighbors, by sea and/or land, include Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cyprus and Greece.

Surely that abbreviated description puts Turkey in a class with Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the EU/Germany/France with respect to key political entities always prominent on our horizons and in morning briefings.  Full treatment would require a book and more expertise and experience than is readily available.  Deserving brief mention here, however, are recent developments in two areas requiring only attention to the daily press: Turkey’s role in the Middle East; and a shift in the prospects for eventual Turkish membership in the EU.

Given Turkey’s attributes as outlined above, it would be well-nigh impossible for it not to play a prominent part in cascading events in its neighborhood.  It is no surprise, then, that the major outside actor in the ongoing conflict within Syria is its neighbor to the north.  The massive intake of refugees from Syrian President Assad’s murderous forces has both saved countless lives and earned the respect and gratitude of Western powers still in the throes of making decisions about whether and how and when to intervene.  (Turkish policy vis-à-vis Syria, humane and charitable though it may be, is surely motivated in large part by the growing national and religious enmity between Turkey and Iran, Assad’s principal outside champion.)

Still concerning the Middle East, Turkey’s growing animosity toward Israel ever since the 2009 Israeli killing at sea of nine Turks on their way to delivering non-military supplies to Gaza, and Israel’s stubborn refusal to apologize, has taken an ugly – if unintended – turn.  (One cannot but recall Turkey’s unrelenting refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide by its proper name.)  Last Thursday, February 27, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as telling a UN meeting in Vienna the following: “Just as with Zionism, anti-semitism and fascism, it has now become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”  Secretary of State John Kerry and others were swift to criticize Erdogan’s remark, clearly to protest the inclusion of Zionism in the list of evils.  Whether Erdogan himself or just his speech writer failed to understand the meaning of Zionism, roughly, the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel, and that condemning Zionism was itself anti-semitic has not been revealed.

As concerns the EU and Turkish prospects, ever since both French and German leaders made it clear that membership was not in the cards, the Turkish leaders themselves have hardened and public opinion polls show little enthusiasm.  Now, two recent developments have served to keep the proverbial foot in the door.  About to leave Berlin for a visit to Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, admitting her skepticism, nevertheless spoke of resuming stalled negotiations between Turkey and the EU.  At the same time, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was giving the same message to his Turkish counterpart.  Many years of talks lie ahead, several critical issues must be resolved, and Turkey must relent on some of the most difficult for Ankara, e.g., getting out of Cyprus and signing and ratifying the UN Law of the Sea Treaty.  But, the door is open once more, and US national security interests would be served by an eventual resolution of differences between key friends and allies.

 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!