Under the administration of George Bush, there was scant interest in building a coalition of Muslim nations to combat extremism in the Middle East. In particular, Turkey was not actively involved in developing policy regarding how best to handle Saddam Hussein, instead, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld proceeded on their mad campaign to create radical Islamic groups in the region. Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Turkey to meet with its military leaders as well as Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. Turkey disagreed with US proposals in the United Nations to impose strict economic sanctions on Iran in order to curb its drive for an atomic bomb. Erdogan believes quiet diplomacy can best ensure Iran will not develop an atomic bomb. Mullen made clear in visiting with Turkish General Isik Koaner that he was not there to “question or rebut” Turkish policy, but to uncover ways of working in an alliance to end the Iranian nuclear threat.
Perhaps, the Mullen trip will not be successful, but it marks the importance of respecting Turkish diplomacy. Turkey for years was the only Israel friend in the region, but the disastrous decision to invade Gaza turned Turkey against Prime Minister’s policies and relations were even more disturbed by the fiasco in halting the flotilla. It is time to include Turkey in Middle East planning.