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Turkey is changing before our eyes

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One of the United States’ oldest allies in the Middle East has become increasingly dangerous as Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries to build a new Turkish empire at the expense of his neighbors, armament the Syrian refugee crisis to threaten Greece and support Azerbaijan’s aggression against the small Christian country of Armenia. And all of that is just over the past few weeks. Our response to Turkey’s growing aggression must be measured but bold, nuanced but proactive, and could begin with the evacuation of US troops from the country before things get worse.

It is undeniable that the Republic of Turkey has been a reliable secular democracy for much of the last century, faithfully serving NATO’s mission as a strategic bulwark against Russia to the north and unstable Arab and Persian regimes to the south and to the East. The U.S. Air Force Base at Incirlik, located a few miles from Tarsus, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, has been the geopolitical hub of Eurasia for nearly 70 years.

It is for this reason that American presidents usually look the other way when confronted with Turkey’s more erratic behavior. not so democratic democracy; his aggression against The Greeks, Armenians, Syriacs, and Kurds; his current occupation from Cyprus; his deletion religious freedom at home; his support of Islamist groups abroad; and it’s more and more anti-western words and deeds. It doesn’t even mention the fact that Turkish regimes, including the current regime, may have done more to harm Christians over the last century and a half that all the Arab and Persian states put together.

Things have changed since the Cold War. If Turkey may not be an enemy, it is not a friend either. Erdogan has distanced his country from its pro-Western roots and launched wars in ancient ottoman lands with the approach of the centenary of the collapse of the empire in 2022. Its objective is to revive an extended version of Turkish domination across the region to restore the prestige and prosperity of his country.

Erdogans approval rating has tumbled at home in an economic context collapse. Its thirst for conquest combined with Turkey’s fragile political environment heading for national elections in 2023 is a recipe for disaster, which is why the United States should act before it’s too late.

One of the best arguments for a strong relationship between the United States and Turkey is that it prevents Turkey from adopting an even more conservative Islamic policy. But this change has already taken place for two decades. In the meantime, the region has been blessed with new alliances between Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, and among the Arab states of Gulf Cooperation Council and the Abraham Chords. This growing collaboration between predominantly Jewish, Christian and Muslim countries makes it unnecessary for the United States to continue to tolerate Turkey’s bad behavior.

A better policy might be to evacuate American forces from Turkish soil, to double new friendships that link the Mediterranean to the Middle East, and to draw moral and political red lines that can help us navigate the crises to come.

The centerpiece of this policy, the dismantling of the Incirlik base, would be in line with the Biden administration’s harsher line on Turkey and, if the base were moved to Greece Souda Bay, would give even more weight to the new Mediterranean-Middle East alliances. Michael Rubin, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, makes a convincing case why the closure of Incirlik would in fact improve the position of the Americas in the region, as the others. In any case, the humiliating exit from Afghanistan this year offers a good opportunity to reassess America’s military footprint in the Islamic world.

There may also be domestic advantages to relocating the base, as Turkey’s withdrawal would be welcomed by many Democrats and Republicans, and not just because both want to cancel their military commitments abroad. Lawmakers have given overwhelming bipartisan support to recent invoices to acknowledge the Armenian-Greek-Assyrian genocide and the blocking of the acquisition by Turkey of S-400 Air Defense Systems and F-35 and F 16 fighter.

Things in Asia Minor will get worse before they get better. We have no reason to make Turkey a bigger enemy than she is; nor can we prevent the Turks from moving towards a more religious view of society and politics. What we can do is protect ourselves and our allies as much as possible from unnecessary diplomatic difficulties which are sure to intensify in the years to come.

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