In a 1996 Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies paper prepared for Binyamin Netanyahu, the authors—including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, now, respectively, chair of the Defense Policy Board and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy—advised Israel to “shape its strategic environment by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria,” and to “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq–an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” It’s all heady stuff, but perhaps the most interesting parts are references to realizing the “new strategy for securing the realm” by “working closely with” or working “in cooperation” with Turkey.
Not only have the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP) been enthusiastic boosters in the service of assuring a constant flow of US military aid to Turkey, but JINSA/CSP advisers Perle and Feith have spent the past fifteen years–in governmental and private capacities–working quietly and deftly to keep the US arms sluice to Turkey open, as well as drawing both Turkey and Israel and their respective American lobbies closer together.
To Perle, Feith and other hawks, the importance of Turkey not just to the United States but to Israel is self-evident. As a secular Muslim state, Turkey has always been an attractive political and military ally to the Israelis; respectful of the close relationship between the US and Israel, over a decade ago the Turks began to appreciate the value for Turkish-US relations in being close with Israel, and have also grown to appreciate how useful an ally the American Jewish lobby can be against the Greek- and Armenian-American lobbies.
In fact, the idea of a strong Turkey-Israeli-US trifecta is nothing new. It was a cherished idea of Perle mentor and Committee on the Present Danger principal Albert Wohlstetter, the University of Chicago mathematician and RAND consultant who was key in drawing up the Pentagon’s strategic and nuclear blueprints during the cold war. In classified studies written at the Pentagon’s behest over the years, Wohlstetter was a serious Turkey booster; when Perle ascended to his post in the Reagan-era Pentagon, he began implementing Wohlstetter’s vision, conducting regular meetings in Ankara and, in 1986, closing a deal for a five-year Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement with Turkey which the Financial Times characterized as “something of a personal triumph” for Perle. It wasn’t so bad for Turkey, either: After Israel and Egypt, Turkey became the third-largest recipient of US military aid, and got a nice break on debts owed to the United States.
Perle left government service in 1987. In 1989, various Turkish press outlets reported that he had quietly started lobbying in Washington on behalf of Turkey. In short order, the Wall Street Journal confirmed it, reporting that he had “sold the idea for the new [lobbying] company to Turgut Ozal, Turkey’s prime minister, at a meeting in New York last May,” but that Perle wouldn’t be registering as a foreign agent because Perle was merely “chairman of the firm’s advisory board,” which, the Journal noted, only consisted of one person: Perle.
Perle responded to the Journal revelation with a bizarre letter, on the one hand claiming that–despite years of media reporting on his Pentagon Turkey initiatives–he had had no responsibility for Turkey while he was a Pentagon official, but that he had, nonetheless, advocated for Turkey in the Pentagon; now in private life, he was going to do something about it–but only so much, as Doug Feith would be taking point, and Perle would simply be in the “advice business.”