There is mounting evidence that longtime U.S. ally Turkey has gone soft on terrorism since the rise to power of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan, whom President Obama claims is a close “personal friend” and “outstanding partner,” has turned a blind eye to the activities of terrorists who support the same Islamist causes that he does.
Although Erdogan continues to take a hard line against terrorists that target Turkey, particularly Kurdish terrorists, he has ignored and sometimes even aided and abetted terrorists that target Israel or the United States.
For example, Erdogan has publicly praised Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist extremist organization that has launched terrorist attacks that have killed many Israelis and Americans. Even worse, Erdogan’s government has allowed Hamas leaders, including the leader of Hamas terrorist cells on the West Bank, to travel and operate within Turkey.
But even more disturbing is the recent news that Erdogan has given special treatment to a Saudi man who is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” list. Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, whom the U.S. government has identified as an al-Qaeda financier, has repeatedly been allowed to travel to Turkey where he was escorted by Erdogan’s personal security detail. Al-Qadi was reportedly allowed to enter Turkey illegally at least four times without using a passport or visa through a VIP section of an airport that had its security cameras blacked out.
Al-Qadi has been implicated in a Turkish corruption scandal concerning the sale of publicly owned land in Istanbul. He is reported to be close to a circle of Islamic businessmen who support Erdogan and is considered to be a friend of the prime minister. Turkish opposition leaders have asked for an official investigation of allegations that the Saudi terrorist financier met with Erdogan’s son, Bilal.
Erdogan has dismissed allegations that Al-Qadi was involved in terrorism, despite the fact that the Saudi’s Muwafaq charitable foundation was identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as an Al-Qaeda front and placed on a terror list in October 2001. Erdogan told a television news station in July 2006: “I know Mr. Qadi. I believe in him as I believe in myself. For Mr. Qadi to associate with a terrorist organization, or support one, is impossible.”
Erdogan has also denied that Hamas is a terrorist group, despite its many terrorist attacks.
He has also gone out of his way to boost Turkish ties with Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, despite Western efforts to isolate and sanction Iran. Last month he led a huge trade delegation to Tehran, where he signed three trade deals that will bolster Turkish–Iranian trade and undermine U.S. efforts to enforce sanctions against Iran.
Erdogan’s latest escapades are further evidence of Turkey’s strategic drift away from the West under his leadership. “It looks like you’ve got a guy that’s off the rails there,” warned Jonathan Schanzer, a veteran terrorism analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Yet this is the man that President Obama claims as one of his top five friends among world leaders. Perhaps it’s time for President Obama to reconsider his choice of friends.