US presidential hopeful Rick Perry said it was time to question whether Turkey should remain a member of NATO and to stop US aid to Ankara, calling Turkish leaders “Islamic terrorists.”
Perry, the governor of Texas, said in a debate with other Republican contenders in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Monday that Turkey was a US ally in the past, but not any more.
Perry made the remarks when he was asked by moderator of the program whether Turkey should still belong in NATO, given that “the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent, press freedom has declined to the level of Russia, Prime Minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey threatened military action against both Israel and Cyprus since the Islamist-oriented party took over.”
“Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then, yes, not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it,” Perry boldly claimed.
“And you go to zero with foreign aid for all of those countries. It does not make any difference who they are. You go to zero with foreign aid and you have the conversation about do they have America’s best interests in mind. When you have countries that are moving far away from the country that I lived in back in the 1970s as a pilot of the US Air Force, that was our ally, they worked with us. But today, we don’t see that,” Perry said.
Perry also criticized the US foreign policy under President Barack Obama, saying “it makes our allies very nervous and emboldens our enemies.”
“We have to have a president of the US that clearly sends a message, whether it is to Israel our friend, and there should be no space between the US and Israel. Period. We need to send a powerful message to countries like Iran, and Syria and Turkey that the US is serious and we are gonna have to be dealt with,” Perry said.
His campaign team later offered an explanation to the media about Perry’s remarks. Victoria Coates, his foreign policy advisor, said that some view the leaders of Turkey as Islamic terrorists due to their support of Hamas and the flotilla against Israel, according to ABC News.
“The governor was responding to the questioners references to violence against women and to association with Hamas, I think both of which are things that many people do associate as he said with Islamic terrorists,” Coates was quoted as telling reporters by ABC News. “He was referring to those things, and while he would welcome the opportunity to work with Turkey on regional issues like Syria or Iraq, this kind of behavior on the part of that country is disturbing and I think we should concerned about it.”
Asked if the leaders of Turkey have performed any actions which place them in the category of Islamic terrorists, Coates responded: “What he said was that many people associate that kind of behavior with that of Islamic terrorists. I think also their support for the flotilla against Israel this fall. It's deeply concerning, and I think it's something any future American president needs to be aware of."
She was referring to an international flotilla attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, in breach of an Israeli blockade, in May 2010. Eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish American were killed when Israeli commandos raided one of the ships in the flotilla, pushing Turkish-Israeli ties into a deep crisis.
Coates also said Turkey is an important country as it serves as a “hinge point between East and West,” and is a NATO ally. “It is certainly a topic he would cover in debate prep, particularly in terms of Syria,” Coates said.