By Barry Rubin
Every time I strongly criticize the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, there are those who think calling this president’s policy incredibly disastrous is an exaggeration. Within a few hours, however, this government proves my criticism to be accurate by still another astonishingly damaging, wrong-headed action . Here is the latest example.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced the establishment of a new Global Counter-terrorism Forum (GCTF). According to the statement, this initiative is the main activity in the administration’s effort to organize a framework for the international counter-terrorism effort. In other words, it is very important.
But when I read the announcement, I can’t help but think: there goes another several hundred million dollars. Is this group actually going to do something that cannot be done by existing organizations? Is the best way to fight terrorism to create new bureaucracies with office space, high-paid staff, international travel, more useless documents, and expensive conferences?
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The statement explains the purpose of this new organization:
“To address the evolving terrorist threat…by helping front-line countries and affected regions acquire the means to deal with threats they face. It is based on a recognition that the U.S. alone cannot eliminate every terrorist or terrorist organization. Rather, the international community must come together to assist countries as they work to confront the terrorist threat.”
The language is, of course, that of Obama Administration multilateralism. Yet what is the motive of a country to help eliminate terrorists? Self-interest because those countries or their interests are being attacked by those groups. And when do they not do so? When they support the terrorists’ aims. Thus, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan are not going to be allies in the battle against Hamas, Hizballah, and radical Islamist groups generally. Will more American-sponsored training increase Pakistan’s effectiveness when corruption and political policy makes its military protect, even help, al-Qaida?
Inasmuch as the plan for the group expresses any real-world purpose, it is to help the countries most targeted by terrorism. There are 30 founding members. Most of them—I’d say two-thirds—face no serious terrorist threat today. The Middle East members include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
Switzerland is a mmber; Pakistan and India, despite the former’s sponsoring terrorism agianst the latter, are members; Israel is not. Remember that not only is the country in the world most threatened by terrorism but also the one with the most experience and greatest expertise in fighting terrorism. Of course, the eight Arab states—along with founders Indonesia and Pakistan—would not participate in programs alongside Israel. But this problem could easily have been managed in a number of ways, as it has been done before in many such groups, for example by creating regional sub-sections.
Finally, among the new organization’s plans is the “first-ever multilateral training and research center focused on countering violent extremism, which would be based in the Gulf region.” Note that by siting it in the Gulf region, as opposed to all of the other places it could have been done, ensures that no Israeli will ever be an instructor or a student there. The center easily could have been put in the territory of more than twenty other non-Arab members.
But there’s more. The United States is not leading this new organization alone. It has a co-director. That co-director is Turkey.
Certainly, Turkey has faced terrorism in the past. While one has great sympathy for it in that battle, the Turkish government has also used methods involving death squads and human rights’ violations far worse than those methods condemned loudly by the United States when done by other countries.
Unfortunately, too, the Turkish regime is now is a major supporter of such terrorist groups as Hamas and Hizballah. In addition, the Turkish government is closely aligned with the IHH, an Islamist terrorist group which the Turkish government backed in the Gaza Flotilla in order to create an international crisis.
At the very moment when the U.S. government is making the Turkish government its partner in fighting terrorism, that same government is turning Turkey into a dictatorship. Every day, military officers are being arrested on ridiculous charges. Freedom is steadily contracting.
On the international level, the Obama Administration is rewarding a government that opposed U.S.-backed sanctions on Iran and stabbed the U.S. government in the back by trying to push a separate deal with Iran to subvert the sanctions effort. And it is also rewarding the Ankara government by making it the U.S.-appointed mediator over the future of Syria, despite the fact that the Turkish regime is favoring a future Islamist government in Damascus, as Syrian oppositionists complain bitterly.
The “Turkish model,” which the U.S. government often champions for the Arabic-speaking world, means in reality the creation of Islamist, anti-Western, regimes that at home seek to transform their societies at home into Islamist dictatorships and their foreign policies into supporting terrorist groups, fighting Israel, and undermining other U.S. allies. This is not, to say the least, a brilliant idea.
But what transforms this from the absurd and bizarre to the truly dangerous is the fact that the U.S. government is once again raising the status of Turkey at a time when its prime minister is openly talking of war with Israel and acting in a more reckless, shortsighted manner than any Turkish government has since 1914.
As a matter of history, that government mistakenly entered World War One on the German side. Within four years the result was the Armenian massacres, total defeat, the loss of the country’s empire, horrendous disease and death that wiped out twenty percent of Anatolia’s population, and the occupation by foreign armies of large parts of Turkey.
Reacting to this experience, Kemal Ataturk, who founded the republic, wisely expounded the dictum that directed Turkey’s foreign policy for eight decades: peace at home; peace abroad. That is no longer the guiding concept of the Islamist regime’s foreign policy.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). GLORIA Center site is http://www.gloria-center.org.His articles published originally outside of PajamasMedia are at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com>