Turkey has been a proactive member of Nato since 1952 and is considered a strategic asset due to its East-West location as well as its proximity to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Image Credit: Illustration: Bhooma Srirangarajan/Guillermo Munro/Gulf News

Washington is heaping pressure on Ankara to choose sides. US State Department official Philip Gordon recently indicated that the US expects Turkey to prove that it remains fully committed to Nato, the European Union and the United States, else risk losing America's support on certain issues.

Cutting through the diplomatic-speak his words constitute a threat: Turkey will face repercussions if it continues allying itself with Iran and stirring up problems for Israel.

Ankara has been recently criticised by members of Congress for voting against additional anti-Iranian sanctions in the United Nations Security Council and for blessing a Turkish flotilla that was intent on breaking the siege of Gaza.

In reality, it's about time that Washington and Brussels showed their commitment to Turkey, which tilted its axis westwards when Mustafa Kamal Ataturk threw the fez off his people's heads. Since the end of the Second World War, Turkey has done its utmost to curry US favour and integrate with its European neighbours.

Turkey was the first predominately Muslim country to recognise the Jewish state and consistently maintained a cordial relationship with Israel until the winter of 2008 that marked the start of Israel's onslaught on Gaza. To the Muslim world, Turkey and Israel were odd bedfellows. Whereas Ankara's dealings with Arab nations were sparse, Turkey and Israel enjoyed military, trade and economic cooperation for decades.

Strategic asset

Moreover, Turkey has been a proactive member of Nato since 1952 and is considered a strategic asset due to its East-West location as well as its proximity to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

It has also actively partnered the US-led occupation of Afghanistan and has shared intelligence with the United States and Israel.

As you are, no doubt aware, Turkey has hosted a US Air Force base at Incirlik since February 1955, which has latterly served as a hub for US military and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan and is believed to be one of the sites used by Washington to store nuclear bombs.

Philip Gordon and whoever is egging him on are in urgent need of a refresher course in history. Turkey has proved its commitment to the West for more than a half century and for what?

Turkey applied to join the EU as long ago as April 1987 and had to wait until December 1999 to have its candidacy approved. It was then hounded to get rid of the death penalty, improve its record on human rights, modernise its infrastructure and boost its economy — all of which it has done.

But instead of being welcomed into the European fold it was left hanging until October 2005 to begin pre-entry negotiations when it was told that the process could take ten years or more. One former European Commission President warned that Turkish membership wasn't feasible before 2021.

Such blatant foot-dragging on the part of the EU, which rushed in former Soviet states at the speed of knots, has little to do with Turkey's eligibility but rather the country's predominately Muslim status. Some EU member states would prefer to keep the EU as "a Christian club". Other, such as France, say Turkey belongs in Asia Minor.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently reiterated his country's wish to join the EU but is it any wonder that Turkey has been casting around for new friends and partners?

Ankara has made it clear that it wants to be on good terms with every nation and to this end it has mended bridges with Russia, attempted to normalise relations with Armenia, improved its relationship with Greece and has forged close ties with Syria, Iran and Brazil.

Such diversification has paid off big time in terms of tourism, joint governmental projects and trade and, according to the International Monetary Fund the country's economy is set to expand by 5.2 per cent this year.

Apparent duplicity

In recent weeks, Turkey has received a succession of slaps from so-called friendly countries. The initiative it took with Brazil to facilitate an Iranian uranium swap was dismissed by President Obama as a time-wasting ploy even though the US leader had given his backing to this plan as evidenced by a letter he wrote to the Brazilian president.

Then Israel attacked a Turkish aid vessel in international waters killing nine. Not only has the White House refused to condemn this illegal act, it is blessing Israel's façade of being its own judge and jury.

And now, according to Turkish sources, Ankara's former best friend Tel Aviv is paying Kurdish militants to renew their attacks on the Turkish army. The Jordanian daily Al Majd reports that Turkish intelligence has foiled a Kurdish-Mossad plot to assassinate Erdogan and is in the process of investigating whether Israel is behind an attack on a Turkish airbase.

It seems to me that Turkey is getting the short end of the stick in its dealings with the West. For Europe, Ankara is like a wealthy aunt that it wants to keep happy while hoping she doesn't come to stay while America treats Turkey like Israel's poor relation whose opinion doesn't really count.

How long will Turkey submit to such discriminatory treatment? That's anyone's guess!

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com Some of the comments may be considered for publication.