Turkey took another step away from democracy and closer to becoming an extremist Islamist state and patron of terrorists this week when Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the country's first elected president.
He has said he wants to build a "new Turkey" that will respect the diverse views of his nation, but he is the one most responsible for the deep divisions that plague it and damaging its international standing.
His "erratic and disconcerting behavior" over the past year "have called into question" his commitment to democracy, editorialized the Washington Post. He has "tattered the values of freedom of speech and association that underpin any democracy."
He also has carved out a reputation as one of the most virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic leaders world leaders today. The Washington Post has called his attacks on Israel, which reached new levels of ugliness in recent weeks, as "repulsive and unbecoming for a head of state."
There is nothing new about his bigotry and bitterness, but it reached new heights during the recent Gaza war when he repeatedly likened Israel and its leaders to Hitler and the Nazis, accused Israel of "barbarism surpassing Hitler" and of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has become Hamas's staunchest defender, and there are reports surfacing in the Turkish media and elsewhere that Turkey has provided funds and medical assistance for the Islamic State in Iraq and Lebanon (ISIL). The notorious terrorist group has reportedly also been actively recruiting fighters and followers in Turkey.
That should worry Washington. It already has the country's 17,000 Jews very nervous. Read more about it in my Washington Watch column.
Erdogan's visceral hatred of Israel – which predates the 2010 flotilla incident – led him to burn 10 Israeli intelligence assets in Iran, according to the Washington Post, which also reported his intelligence chief has close links to Tehran.
If he is willing to betray very sensitive secrets with one country, why not another when he has a burst of temper? Erdogan's disturbing behavior and increasingly autocratic leadership and his support for Islamist terrorists raise questions about his reliability as a NATO ally. It is time for the Obama administration and the Congress to undertake a serious review of the Erdogan government's trustworthiness for sharing U.S. intelligence, security and technology.
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