Suffice it to say that Matthew Lee is not Ashleigh Banfield. US ally Turkey has taken this moment in history — the US facing a fiscal cliff which would slash the world’s most powerful military to the bone while sending the world’s largest economy deeper into recession; Hamas terrorists uncrating their thousands of rockets and firing them at Israeli civilians; Egypt sounding more and more like mini-Iran; Jordan and Syria both engulfed in the kind of domestic turmoil that authoritarian regimes might seek international distraction from; and Iran biding its time in the background — to announce that Israel is a “terrorist state.” The United States has chosen to remain silent, neither condemning the Turkish PM’s remarks nor backing Israel except in its right of self defense directly against Hamas and its inaccurate rockets. Israel is spending about $40,000 per shot to knock those cheap but deadly rockets down. President Obama still has not visited and has no plans to visit Israel, by the way.
To understand just how significant Erdogan’s statement is, Turkey has spent the past several decades as Israel’s lone friend in the region. Secular Turkey sold arms to Israel and served as a lynchpin to the West’s strategies in the restive Middle East. As a non-Arab majority Muslim state with a significant Christian population, Turkey was the shining example of secularism in an increasingly Islamist region, and a shining example of responsible forward-thinking behavior in a region of oppressing and state-sponsored terrorism.
All of that is gone now, or going away. Turkey complicated the US war in Iraq by disallowing our troops a northern thrust against Saddam Hussein’s forces, it assisted the Gaza flotilla against Israel, and Prime Minister Erdogan has now declared that its ally Israel is itself a “terrorist state.” To those of us who thought the best case outcome for the new Islamist Egypt is something like Islamist Turkey, well, that’s not a lot to hope for anymore.
Matthew Lee of the AP apparently had all of this and more in mind when he questioned State Departement podium occupier Victoria Nuland on Monday afternoon.