Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently met with the Prime Minister of Japan to discuss the construction of four nuclear reactors in Sinop. The $22 billion deal would allow Turkey to enrich uranium and extract plutonium, two processes needed for nuclear weapons creation.
Reports that Erdogan’s government was debating building nuclear weapons, or at least the capacity to quickly produce them, began surfacing in September 2008. International relations analyst Mehmet Kalyoncu wrote in Today’s Zaman that Turkey is “intensifying its lobbying in Western capitals, most notably in Washington, to get the green light to develop nuclear weapons.”
The Global Information System reported in July 2010 that Erdogan’s party was debating whether to move forward in developing a nuclear weapons program. It said that secret nuke research was already in progress, but uranium-based nuclear reactors would have to be constructed if the green light was given. That’s exactly what Japan just agreed to help Turkey build.
The reports indicated that Erdogan was driven by a desire to counter the nuclear ambitions of Iran, but he has been moving his country closer and closer to that terrorism-sponsoring regime. Erdogan traveled to Iran this week as part of the two countries’ efforts to get past their differences in Syria. He said that Iran “feels like a second home.” A deal regarding natural gas was also announced. Iran and Turkey are hoping to form powerful energy partnership.
In September 2012, Erdogan gave an interview to the Washington Post where he claimed that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons but expressed sympathy with why Iran might want to.
“But let’s say a country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons gets involved in building them, then they are told by those that already have nuclear weapons that they oppose [such a development]. Where is the justice in that?” he asked.
The Erdogan government seems to get immunity because it’s a member of NATO and official U.S. ally. No diplomat will crave confronting Turkey over its drift towards Islamism, crackdowns on freedom, possible nuclear weapons drive and support for terrorist groups and regimes.
The argument against confronting Turkey is that it will push the country away from the West geopolitically—but that argument is about delaying the inevitable. Erdogan isn’t being pushed away from the U.S.; he’s pulling away from the U.S.
It’s time to reconsider our relationship with Turkey. Being called an “ally” is a privilege and not something to be taken for granted.