While the "Turkish model" has been heralded in the past as a blueprint for democracy in the Middle East, Turkey is exhibiting some disturbing trends in both its foreign and domestic policy. Crackdowns on the press, rampant human rights abuses and increased belligerence towards Israel, Greece and Cyprus -- three key allies of the United States -- are prompting many to ask whether the "Turkish model" has failed.
1. Turkey is an authoritarian state where democracy is dying: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is acting like a sultan, not a democratic leader.
The 2013 protests in Turkey and the government’s deadly response is the latest evidence of Turkey’s turn away from Western democratic ideals. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously heralded on the world stage as a moderate Islamic leader keen on modernizing Turkey, has over the last several years laid waste to any theory that Turkey is still a model for moderate, stable Middle Eastern democracies. Turkey continues to be the world's worst jailer of journalists, bans websites, arbitrarily detains citizens and visitors, and otherwise evidences its disdain for democratic values.
2. Turkey destabilizes Southeastern Europe by continuing its illegal occupation of Cyprus, provoking in Cyprus's EEZ, and threatening Greece's sovereignty in the Aegean Sea: Turkey could cause a war within NATO.
The illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus, which began in 1974, continues unabated. Turkey is also single-handedly exacerbating tensions in the Southeastern Mediterranean by trying to forcefully interfere with Cyprus’s right to exploit natural gas reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone. And on an almost daily basis, Turkey violates Greece's sovereignty in the Aegean. In regions where the U.S. needs stability, Turkey threatens American allies and thus American interests.
3. The United States must re-examine its relationship with Turkey
Turkey has repeatedly demonstrated that it is an unreliable ally that often actively works against US interests in the region. Over the past few years, Turkey has enabled ISIS, attacked the most effective American allies in the war on ISIS, threatened American allies and strategic partners in the Eastern Mediterranean, jailed American citizens in Turkey, conspired to kidnap a legal resident on US soil, and has physically attacked American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights in Washington, D.C. The time for a thorough review of U.S. policy on Turkey is now.
- Turkey’s Elections: Partially Free, Fair, and Fake, Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations, June 25, 2018
- Committee to Protect Journalists - Turkey Data