Washington must recognise Turkey is ‘no ally’ of the United States - JINSA head

Turkey’s attitude towards the recent diplomatic accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates offers insight about who America’s true allies are, said Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, in Newsweek.

“The UAE-Israel deal not only advances U.S. interests and values, but offers a rare clarifying moment about who are America's partners – and who aren't, and don't deserve to be,” the former Pentagon official wrote in an op-ed published on Thursday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to sever diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates on Friday, after the Gulf country signed a U.S.-sponsored normalisation agreement with Israel.

Makovsky called Erdoğan’s “vehement” response a concern for the United States, which is allied with all three regional players Turkey, Israel and the UAE. “Erdogan's denunciations confirm his place among the Middle East's anti-Israel, anti-American, Islamic extremists and revisionists.”

The JINSA president cited numerous cases in which Turkey’s foreign policy contrasted with U.S. and Israeli interests – including supporting the pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, arming and protecting jihadists in Syria and allowing them to use Turkish territory, stonewalling U.S. attempts to use Turkish military bases to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), attacking U.S.-backed Kurdish forces fighting ISIS and Erdogan’s history of rhetoric and threats against Israel.

“This track record, and especially his purchase of Russian S-400 ground-to-air missiles, has made U.S. policymakers increasingly wary of Erdoğan,” Makovsky said, referring to the ongoing spat between United States and Turkey over the S-400 purchase.

Washington says Turkey’s purchase jeopardises NATO’s defence systems, allowing Russia to study them. U.S. lawmakers have called for sanctions against Turkey over the matter, however, U.S. President Donald Trump, who maintains warm relations with Erdoğan, has pushed back.

“Yet the instinct to treat Erdoğan as a trustworthy partner persists. Turkey remains a member of NATO and hosts an important U.S. military base,” Makovsky wrote. “U.S. presidents have repeatedly turned to Erdoğan for assistance, most recently to counter Russia and Iran.”

Makovsky suggested the United State should break the “old habit” and recognise that Turkey is “no U.S. ally”, denying the country special consideration, collaborating only when Turkish and American interests align and make efforts to check Turkey’s influence.

He also recommended Washington strengthen ties with Syrian Kurds and the UAE-backed, self-styled Libyan National Army, led by rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who is fighting against the Turkish-backed Islamist government in the capital Tripoli. The United States has maintained a backseat role in Libya’s conflict to date.

Makovsky also suggested Washington move U.S. military units to the eastern Mediterranean to support Greece in its latest territorial dispute with Turkey. Political and military tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece have surged in the past year after Turkey sought to explore for minerals in Greek and Cypriot territorial waters.

“The Pentagon should also reallocate some military assets from Turkey to Greece – also a NATO ally, and one that is democratic and has a pro-American prime minister – station more U.S. forces in Greece, bolster Greek defenses and support Greek claims against Turkey on behalf of its exclusive economic zone,” he said.

Makovsky also called for strong U.S. support for the Turkish people, “expressing hope for the resumption of a U.S.-Turkish partnership”.