Besides Iran developing nuclear weapons, the biggest story in the MIddle East is the abandonment of Western values by Turkey and its embrace of political Islam.
While still giving lip service to the EU (in hopes it will be admitted as a member, which would be a disaster economically, culturally and ideologically for the EU) and the U.S. (so as to continue to be a recipient of aid and military technology and information), it has clearly joined Iran (and Saudi Arabia) in the goal of Islamic supremacism.
The Erdogan government has steadily stoked anti-American sentiment -- and anti-Israel attitudes -- during its eight years in power. What had been the most pro-American Muslim country is now the least. The close ties with Israel built up over decades have been torn to shreds.
The latest Erdogan move was to orchestrate the Gaza Free flotilla which set sail from the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus with the express intent of breaking the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza set in place to prevent the supply of weaponry to Hamas. Israel had offered to allow the flotilla to dock at an Israel port and to transport to Gaza all of the humanitarian cargo once it had gone through security inspection. The Turkish-led fleet refusal of that offer left Israel no choice but to take control of the ships and steer them to an Israeli port. A confrontation was just what the Erdogan government was hoping for; it knew Israel could not allow its blockade to be broken.
Israel's failure was its naivete in assuming the ships would be filled with peaceful, do-gooder activists. All but one of the ships allowed the Israelis to board peacefully and take control. The leading and largest ship flying a Turkish flag was another story. As the Israeli commandoes descended on drop ropes from helicopters they were immediately attacked. Only armed with paint ball guns, the commandoes were outmatched as they were attacked with metal bars, clubs and knives and mob violence. As they were being overwhelmed they were given radio permission to use their handguns to protect themselves.
Even though al Jazeerea TV was onboard and recorded images of the commandoes being attacked as they descended onto the deck, those pictures were ignored as the pre-planned Turkish, Hamas and other Islamist crticism rolled in, soon joined by the usual European charges of "disproportionate" response by Israel. At least the U.S. response was measured, calling for a full and thorough review of the incident.
Erdogan immediately accused Israel of "inhuman state terrorism" and his UN representative charged Israel with an "act of barbarism."
The public relations disaster for Israel the Erdogan government planned and hoped for was a smashing success. The facts didn't matter. The PR avalanche carried the day.
What the U.S. should learn from this is that Turkey is no longer a fit member of NATO. It has switched to the other side and should be now treated as the enemy of the West it has become. Denial and wishful thinking will not chage reality.
Erdogan had long planned to return Turkey to its Islamic roots and to overturn the secularizing by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. As mayor of Istanbul, he acknowledged that the route to the power to do that was in the democratic process itself. His words foretold what he was to do: "Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it to your destination and then get off." Erdogan is dismantling the Ataturk safeguards and installing like-minded Islamists in all positions of power as his political party's domination steadily accumulates more autocratic power. High level military, judicial and academic opponents to his plans have been rounded up and charged with
treason against the state. All the while, his supporting media outlets inflame the population against the West, particularly the U.S. and Israel.
Ralph Peters in the New York Post is at least one writer who got the story right. So did the editors of the Wall Street Journal. Here's what Peters had to say:
By RALPH PETERS
June 1, 2010
June 1, 2010
Yesterday's "aid convoy" incident off the coast of Gaza wasn't about bringing humanitarian supplies to the terrorist-ruled territory. It wasn't even about Israel.
It was about Turkey's determination to position itself as the leading Muslim state in the Middle East.
Three ships of that six-ship pro-terror convoy flew Turkish flags and were crowded with Turkish citizens. The Ankara government -- led by Islamists these days -- sponsored the "aid" operation in a move to position itself as the new champion of the Palestinians.
And Turkish decision-makers knew Israel would have to react -- and were waiting to exploit the inevitable clash. The provocation was as cynical as it was carefully orchestrated.
The lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, just happened to have an al-Jazeera TV crew on board to film Israel's response. Ironically, the early videos would've been counterproductive, had world leaders and journalists not been programmed to blame everything on Israel.
Those videos showed Israeli commandos rappelling onto the ship with both hands on the rope (making it rather hard to use a weapon), yet activists claimed the Israelis opened fire as they descended.
Purely by coincidence, dozens of "peace activists" waited with sharpened iron bars, clubs, slingshots -- and rifles. Of course, the nine dead in the melee were all Israel's victims.
The first wave of Israeli commandos reportedly were armed only with paintball rounds for crowd control. Inspect those videos of maddened peaceniks assaulting the soldiers as they landed on deck. You don't see any Israelis pointing rifles -- they're fending off blows.
But the claims of pro-terrorist "peace advocates" are given instant credence.
The US government's initial response was restrained, but Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understandably canceled his meeting with President Obama, scheduled for today. Bibi's got an emergency on his hands back home, as well-organized protests sweep the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the Europeans and UN bonzes rage at Israel with unseemly relish, but ignore the luxury lifestyles of Gaza's insider elite and the fact that no Palestinian's going hungry. The Israelis had even offered to transfer the aid aboard those ships to the Palestinians -- as long as they could inspect it.
But neither the activists nor the Turkish government wanted a negotiated outcome. This was a stunt from the start.
Now, as we wait to see if Hamas and Hezbollah up the ante, the world ignores Turkey's decisive role in this fiasco.
The US and the European Union cling to the fiction that Turkey's a "westernized Muslim democracy." But Turkey's moving to the east as fast as the Islamist leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) can drag it there.
Turkish leaders visit the West and sing, "Democracy, democracy, democracy!" We coo and clap. Then they go east and cry, "Islam, Islam, Islam!" And we insist they don't mean it.
Then there's Turkey's unfortunate NATO membership. Since the rise of its Islamists, Turkey has been a Trojan horse, not an ally. What happens now if Ankara provokes a military confrontation? How would we respond, given NATO's mutual-defense agreements?
The madcap agenda of Turkey's current rulers is to create a 21st-century version of the Ottoman Empire. Turks even mutter about the caliphate -- headed for centuries by the Turkish sultan. This is explosive stuff. And the Turks are playing with matches.
But we've obstinately ignored every warning sign. First, our "ally" stabbed us in the back on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, denying our troops their planned routes into Iraq. Then the Turkish media intensified its anti-American fantasies.
Headscarves became de rigeur for the wives of top officials in Ankara as the Turks made mischief in Iraq. Emulating the history-obliterating Saudis, the Turks began work on the vast Ilisu Dam -- which will permanently submerge pre-Islamic and Kurdish archaeological sites of incalculable value. (The Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban were of comparatively minor interest to researchers.)
Then, just last month, the Turks moved to provide the Iranian regime with cover for its nuclear program. And we still didn't get it.
The most dramatic transformation in the Middle East since the fall of the shah is playing out before us. And we can't see behind the mask of the "plight of the Palestinians" (a key Obama administration concern).
In yesterday's confrontation, Israel behaved clumsily. The peace activists behaved savagely. The Turks behaved cynically. The world reacted predictably.
And Washington scratched its head.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."
Footnote: Here's the text of the Israeli exchange with the lead Turkish ship on which the only violence occurred, precipitated by the people on the ship.
Israel Navy: "Mavi Marmara, you are approaching an area of hostilities which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area coastal region and Gaza harbor are closed to all maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the Ashdod port. Delivery of supplies in accordance with the authorities' regulations will be through the formal land crossings and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports on the vessels on which you have arrived."
Response: "Negative, negative."