SILENCE BEFORE THE STORM IN TURKISH-US RELATIONS?
Hurriyet Daily news, Turkey
Feb 17 2015
Whenever you ask diplomatic sources about U.S.-Turkey relations, the
kind of answer you get is usually about the “absence of any problems.”
Relations between Turkey and the United States seem to work well at
the bureaucratic level on matters of daily needs between diplomats,
intelligence officers and soldiers. The fact that the Commander of
the Turkish Land Forces General Hulusi Akar received a Legion of
Merit medal from the U.S. Department of Defense is an indication of
close cooperation in action.
However, it is difficult to say the same at the political level
nowadays. For example, cooperation at the bureaucratic level did
not help Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Volkan BozkÃ„Â±r,
a former diplomat himself, get political appointments suitable for
his position when he was in Washington DC earlier this month.
The last telephone call made public between Turkish President
Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama was on Oct. 18
(Oct. 19 in Turkish time), 2014. That conversation was mostly about
the predominantly Kurdish-populated Syrian border town of Kobane,
which was at the time under attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL). Obama was telling Erdogan about the U.S. air drop
that was due to start the next morning in support of the Kurdish
fighters resisting against the ISIL advance.
With the help of that air drop and with Turkey’s opening of its
territory for the passage of fighters from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) to Kobane, the ISIL attack was beaten back.
But since that call there have been a number of rows between the
Erdogan and Obama administrations, usually triggered by a remark from
Erdogan himself, and usually on matters related to Western hypocrisy
about Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rule in
Egypt, Israel, or Islamophobia. The most recent example was Erdogan’s
slamming of Obama for not reacting to the recent killing of three
Muslim students in North Carolina. “If you don’t, you won’t have
the right to criticize ISIL,” he said. Obama condemned the killings
the next day, but in the meantime the State Department had issued a
strongly worded statement against Erdogan’s words.
When you scratch the surface a little, you find “long-term stress”
infecting Turkish-U.S. relations. By that expression, what is meant
is a close cooperation between the two that started with Turkey’s
entrance to NATO in 1952.
The reason for this stress is not only about Syria, Egypt, Israel,
and the fight against terrorism exercised by certain radical Islamist
groups – but rather Russia. Nobody talks on-the-record about it,
but Turkey’s stance regarding its northern neighbor on the Ukraine
crisis seems to be a source of problems.
Relations between the Erdogan and Obama administrations are also
heading to another test on the Armenian issue in April. There is
almost no lobby left in Washington DC to work on Turkey’s behalf on
the issue – not even an Arab lobby, let alone a Jewish one.
As you can read in Burak Bekdil’s piece in the Hurriyet Daily News
today, the Turkish government has postponed its decision on a strategic
anti-missile system until after April 24, a critical date for Armenian
lobbying moves in the U.S. Congress.
And still no high level political link can be observed between Turkey
and the U.S. Is this a silence before a storm in relations? Or is it
worse, a silence before an even deeper silence?
From: A. Papazian