Five Troubling Statements By Erdogan, Turkish Officials That Call Into Question Turkey's Status As An Ally Of The West, Despite Its NATO Membership

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Turkey Prime Minister
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara June 25, 2013.

As a NATO member, Turkey is seen by the U.S. as a strategic ally to the West and a crucial liaison to the Arab and Muslim world. In fact, on President Barak Obama’s first major foreign policy tour, he stopped in Ankara, in part to affirm the closeness of the bond.

“Our focus will be on what we can do in partnership with people across the Muslim world,” Obama said to the Turkish parliament in 2009, “to advance our common hopes and our common dreams.”

Sometimes, though, statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) call into question the notion that the West and Turkey have "common hopes and ... common dreams."

Here is a sample of some of the more provocative statements that have come out of Ankara recently. 

1. "What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not the ballot box. Who is behind this? Israel is. We have the evidence in our hands. That's exactly what happened." -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, August 20, 2013.

Erdoğan's comments came shortly after violent protests swept across his country. It appeared to many observers that Erdoğan was cynically using the Jewish state as a distraction from the social upheaval he faces back home.

2. "There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey's growth … They are all uniting, and on one side is the Jewish Diaspora. You saw the foreign media's attitude during the Gezi Park incidents; they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing a [proper] evaluation of the [situation.]." -- Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, July 2, 2013.

Invoking the spectre of Jewish domination of the global media may be unseemly in the West, but it's standard fare among Turkish leaders.

 3. "We will make you pay the price of this move by saying that we no longer recognize you as a credit rating agency … Moreover, you cannot convince anyone to believe your analysis is correct because everything -- work, production, exports, etc. -- is clearly out there for all to see." -- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, May 3, 2012.

The comment came after Standard & Poor’s, the global credit ratings agency, cut Turkey’s BB sovereign debt credit rating and said that risks to Turkey’s creditworthiness reflected its high debt and poor terms of trade as demand for its exports weakened. 

4. "Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. They will see what our decisions will be on this subject. Our navy attack ships can be there at any moment." -Recep Tayyip Erdoğan September 15, 2011.

Erdoğan was responding to the recent discovery of an offshore natural gas find in the Eastern Mediterranean that Israel discovered and is working on in cooperation with Cyprus and Greece, two nations that also happen to have problems with Turkey.

5. "The press wants to throw mud to see if it sticks. The Times is renting out its own pages for money. This is the Times' failing. We will pursue legal channels regarding the Times." -- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, August 22, 2013.

Erdoğan was threatening the prestigious British newspaper The London Times for publishing an open letter criticizing the Turkish government for excessive use of force against protesters. Erdoğan said, "If they truly believed in democracy, they couldn't have displayed such a lack of character to call the leader of a party that won 50 percent of the vote a dictator.” Erdoğan's distinctly non-Western view of journalism and press freedoms was further illustrated when he jailed 64 journalists

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