According to the intrepid and well-sourced David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post, Turkey last year purposefully blew the cover of an Israeli spy network in Iran. He says the Turkish action was a "significant" loss of intelligence to Israel, and "an effort to slap the Israelis."
Unfortunately, this is no surprise. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led a major reorientation in Turkish foreign policy away from the West and towards the West's worst enemies, including Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Everyone knows that he has crashed Turkish-Israel relations, which, within the framework of the new Turkish foreign policy, are a burden. Erdogan hardly lets a week pass without disparaging or criticizing Israel or the Jews. This undoubtedly fits well with the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments prevalent in the Muslim world.
Erdogan has curtailed freedom of the press, the freedoms of academia and the independence of the judiciary in his own country, as he attempts to build a centralized, authoritarian presidential system to suit his ambitions. Human rights within Turkey have gone from bad to worse, according to every international index.
Turkey has become a very unreliable member of NATO. The AKP-led parliament (Erdogan's political party) denied permission to U.S. troops to use Turkish territory to open a northern front against Iraq in 2003. During the Georgian crisis in the summer of 2008, Ankara was slow in responding to American requests to send ships into the Black Sea via the Bosphorus Strait.
An even more flagrant deviation from NATO values has been the nascent military relationship and "strategic partnership" (Erdogan's words) between Turkey and China, including the unprecedented inclusion of Chinese warplanes in a 2010 Turkish military exercise that had previously included the U.S. and Israel. This month, Turkey decided to purchase a Chinese air defense system, despite Western objections.
Erdogan also defied American disfavor of Syria, conducting joint military exercises with Bashar Assad's regime and sending military personnel to train the Syrian military -- until Erdogan turned against Assad later in the game. Turkey further deviated from the Western consensus by hosting Sudanese Islamist President Omar Hassan al-Bashir twice in 2008. Bashir was charged with war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Since then, Erdogan has hosted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Ankara.
Erdogan has visited Iran numerous times since 2009 and has sided with Iran on the nuclear issue, declaring Turkish support for Tehran's "peaceful nuclear program" and voting repeatedly against American-initiated sanctions against Iran. In 2010, Erdogan cooked up an agreement with Brazilian then-President Luiz Inacio da Silva whereby Iran would send part of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for safekeeping in exchange for enough higher-enriched uranium to fuel an Iranian research reactor. The Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear fuel swap agreement was a blatant move against the U.S. push for economic sanctions against Iran. It was sticking a thumb in Washington's eye.
Since then, Erdogan has agreed to establish a $2 billion crude oil refinery in northern Iran in defiance of America, and voted against every attempt to censure Iran for building secret uranium enrichment facilities. Turkish banks openly cooperate with Iranian banks to circumvent Western sanctions.
When it comes to Israel, Erdogan is so unhinged that in 2009 he preposterously accused Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon. More recently, he has threatened Israel with war over gas fields in the Mediterranean, and blamed Israel and Jews for the recent anti-AKP riots across Turkey. In between, he has repeatedly accused Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians, walked out on our president, and backed our sworn enemies.
Remember: Erdogan launched into an ugly public tirade against Israel and accused -- to his face -- Israeli President Shimon Peres of barbarianism. Then, before the television cameras of the world, he offensively stalked off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
While most Middle East leaders privately, and in some cases even publicly, supported Israel during Operation Cast Lead, Erdogan (and his buddy, Iranian then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) sought to intervene on disputed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's behalf. Erdogan actively backed our sworn enemy in a war against us.
Erdogan abruptly and demonstratively canceled Israel's participation in the multinational "Anatolian Eagle" air exercise in Turkey in 2009, and has acted to cool and curtail the important Israel-Turkey military and strategic relationship. He has blocked Israel's participation in dozens of NATO exercises and forums.
In 2008, Turkey welcomed the irredentist president of Iran for a formal visit. No Western country has ever issued such an invitation to the Iranian leader. After Ahmadinejad rigged the June 2009 Iranian vote, Erdogan hurried to congratulate the Iranian dictator on his "re-election," while the rest of the world demanded that the election be investigated.
Erdogan refuses to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the latter's groveling (and in my opinion, mistaken) "apology" to Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara incident.
AKP-run Turkish state-controlled television has now run several inflammatory anti-Israeli drama series, including episodes that portray Israeli soldiers raping and massacring Palestinians, and Mossad agents kidnapping young Turkish women.
Turkey is an important country whose foreign policy reorientation changes the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the radical Islamist forces. It is negatively affecting the pro-Western orientation of the Central Asian republics. It is considerably weakening the Western strategic alliance, and working assiduously to undermine Israel's safety and security. Now it is literally handing Israeli agents over to the Iranians.
Still, President Barack Obama continues to coddle Erdogan, and Israel's leaders bow their heads in submission.