Skip to main content

Truth Squad: NATO ally ruled by 'Islamic terrorists?'

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 12:35 PM EST, Tue January 17, 2012

Editor's note: Part of the CNN Republican debate fact-checking series

(CNN) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked if Turkey should remain within the NATO alliance, during Monday night's Republican presidential debate.

The statement: "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, during Monday night's Fox News-Wall Street Journal debate. Perry went on to put Turkey in the same league as neighboring Syria and Iran, warning that the United States needs to show Ankara "that we're going to have to be dealt with."

The facts:

Turkey is not ruled by "Islamic terrorists." It is led by a party with Islamist roots, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has ruled Turkey since 2002.

Its leader, Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, was once jailed for reading an Islamic poem in public in a country where the ruling establishment has long enforced a strict secularism. But Erdogan said the AKP was formed in an effort to create a new, centrist force in Turkish society.

The AKP's history and its appeal to religious supporters have unnerved many voters, but Turkey's economy prospered under its rule. Erdogan won a third term in June and appeared to come out on top of a confrontation with the country's powerful military, which staged coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

Ankara has maintained good relations with both its NATO allies and Iran, now the subject of intense international pressure to halt its nuclear fuel program. It refused to assist the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, its southern neighbor, in 2003. But Turkish commanders have led NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan four times since that war began in 2001.

In November, Erdogan has called on embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Iran's leading ally, to step down in the face of a 10-month-old revolt. He warned that al-Assad risked the same fate as slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi if he continued trying to crush his opposition.

The verdict: False. Perry is taking a broad swing at an ally he says is "moving far away" from an alliance with the United States and with Israel, which has seen ties with Ankara strained over a 2010 raid on a Turkish aid ship that attempted to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza. But the facts aren't in his corner.

CNN's Caitlin Stark contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT