Erdoğan should receive the wrath of the US, not its embrace

Erdoğan should receive the wrath of the US, not its embrace
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Even after doting on Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnBolton rips Trump administration's move to block UN meeting on North Korea South Korea: North tested rocket engine The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE or reaching out to the ayatollahs in Iran, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s “bromance” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is arguably the foundation of this administration’s most perilous and combustible foreign policy foray.

In other times, a leader who openly thumbs his nose at the U.S. on a semi-regular basis — including by purchasing Russian weapons in repeatedly expressed opposition to Washington and assaulting American partners and allies in Syria — would be kept far from the White House.

However, Erdoğan is not only welcome, he was openly feted this week. Less than a month after Trump warned his Turkish counterpart not to “be a fool,” it was all smiles and warm handshakes between the two leaders.

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Nevertheless, with all the well-known reasons to be wary of Erdoğan, there are many more — some even more insidious — bubbling below the surface.

At a National Press Club conference held by The Investigative Journal (TIJ), titled “Erdoğan's End Game: Turkey’s Long Arm in Syria and America,” major critics of the Erdoğan regime spoke about how, in recent years, Turkey has made a deliberate, steady drift away from the West and NATO and has entered into rapprochement with Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and other political Islamist movements.

Dr. Ahmet S. Yayla, assistant professor of homeland security, former chief of Turkish National Police Counterterrorism and Operations Division and fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, provided numerous polls to demonstrate how Erdoğan has moved his population, especially through the tightly-controlled state media, towards a dislike and mistrust of the U.S.

“If you look at the surveys, around 8 percent of the Turkish population supports ISIS. Around 10 percent believes that there should be a caliphate,” Dr. Yayla explained. “And now, according to Erdoğan’s media, around 97 percent believes that the United States is the enemy of the Turks. And, independent surveys indicate around 90 percent of the Turks consider the United States as their enemy and this is because Erdoğan’s has been pumping hate against the U.S.”

Other speakers told of how Erdoğan, rather than fighting terror, as he likes to tell the world, actually may have facilitated the passing of tens of thousands of foreign fighters through the Turkish border and how they smuggled thousands of trucks loaded with weapons that reportedly went to ISIS and al Qaeda militants, information verified in a leaked audio recording of the head of the Turkish intelligence approving the transfer of 2,000 trucks to the terrorists.

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Then, of course, there is the invasion and occupation of northeastern Syria and its killing and ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish population there. Leaving hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands forcibly displaced, Turkey, a NATO member, entered the sovereign territory of another nation for its own narrow geopolitical interests.

Moreover, Erdoğan uses extremist language to laud his war aims, tweeting in Arabic, “I kiss the foreheads of all the hero members of the Muhammadian army,” before they entered Syria for the battle.

Unfortunately, despite this and many other actions, there remains the belief that Turkey is still a vital U.S. ally in the region. That might have been true a number of years ago, but its authoritarianism, exponentially crude grab at regional power, its cozying up to America’s enemies, attacks on our allies and pivot back towards Neo-Ottomanism, means that Turkey should be placed on the list of opponents, if not enemies.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution recognizing the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as a genocide, followed by a bill to place sanctions on Turkey. This showed that most members, on both sides of the aisle, understand the direction Turkey has taken and undertook measures to express displeasure.

These are the type of steps that the White House should be embracing and enforcing. 

Erdoğan should not be a welcome guest in the U.S. His actions amply demonstrate that he acts against our national interests, and things look like they could get even worse. 

President Trump has shown throughout his term in office that he can change his mind about leaders around the world, as he has done with Erdoğan before.

It is hoped that in this latest meeting, behind closed doors at least, President Trump gave his Turkish counterpart a thorough dressing-down and a final warning about his behavior.

If this is not heeded, then most certainly this should be the last time Erdoğan receives a warm embrace and, instead, President Trump should back Congress in its attempts to rein in the despotic Mediterranean leader.

Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes American interests and Western values in the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter @MEForum.