Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is supposedly one of President Barack Obama’s best foreign friends. He epitomizes Obama’s ideal of an Islamist leader who adapts his politics to the needs of the global economy and the modern state–a model that failed to thrive in the Arab Spring and looks shaky in Turkey itself. Now, Turkey’s role in helping Iranian intelligence has placed the value of that friendship in doubt.
David Ignatius of the Washington Post has reported that Erdogan’s government identified ten Israeli spies inside Iran, helping the Iranian regime unravel an intelligence network that has likely monitored Iran’s secret nuclear program and perhaps helped slow it down. Not only is that a betrayal of Israel–once a close Turkish ally–but also of the United States, which benefits greatly from Israeli intelligence reports on Iran.
Yet Obama did nothing:
Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach.
It may be a “long-standing U.S. approach” to let intelligence issues slip by, but that tradition has no place in a confrontation as momentous as the Iranian nuclear standoff. Erdogan’s exposure of Israeli agents has not only hurt that country but has denied the West in general of eyes and ears behind the wall of Iran’s repeated deceptions. It is only the latest incident of Obama undermining a key U.S. ally–to our own detriment.