ABDULLAH – ErdoIan plays ‘spoiler’ card against US

ErdoIan plays ‘spoiler’ card against USDiehard political Islamist leaders who have long harbored deep suspicions about the role of the United States in the Middle East but are extremely sensitive about how Washington views them seem to have given up on the improvement of Turkey-US ties. A bazaar-style trade and transactional relationship, which is largely hinged on preventing Turkey from being a andquotspoilerandquot of the USand#39s plans, defines the troubled line of communication between Ankara and Washington.

Both chief political Islamist President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and his caretaker and pan-Islamist prime minister, Ahmet DavutoIlu, have been signaling for some time that they can very well disrupt the USand#39s engagement in Turkeyand#39s neighborhood, unless they are provided with a carte blanche to do as they please at home and in the immediate neighborhood of Turkey. Perhaps this is the last remaining stake these politicians claim to have at their disposal to convince the policymakers in Washington to maintain by and large a measured and highly restrained approach to Turkey despite so many critical issues the US cares about, which have in fact gone from bad to worse.

From a serious drift on the European Union-related reforms, for which the US spent considerable political capital in opening up negotiations back in 2005, to the fueling of anti-Americanism in Turkey and its neighborhood from seriously undermining state institutions that act as a check against abusive government powers to the deterioration of the rule of law and fundamental rights including press freedom, the right to assembly and freedom of religion from polarizing Turkish society along ethnic, sectarian and ideological lines to overpowering the business community and overtaking civil society groups, the US has a long list of grievances about Turkey.All these problems highlight the governance crisis in Turkey, which is ruled by political Islamists.

The system is prone to produce further crises in the future because the leaders of Turkey would rather address symptoms than root causes. That obviously troubles the US, which has invested a lot in Turkey but understands it has to navigate carefully in order to prevent a further drift of the important and strategic ally away from the trans-Atlantic alliance and its values.

This presents a major predicament, however After so much incriminating evidence against ErdoIan and his allies in the government in corruption files as well as in clandestine and shady ties with Iran and radical groups in Syria and Iraq, there is almost no chance that the political Islamists will move on to improve problematic areas in Turkey, which, by extension, will not repair the ruptured ties with the US.Take the restoration of the rule of law in Turkey.

If the independent and impartial judiciary is established, several powerful political Islamists will have to go to court to give an accounting of what they have done in terms of violations of constitutional articles and the criminal code. On press freedoms, political Islamists will never cease exerting undue pressure on journalists and media owners to prevent their dirty laundry from getting exposed.

Healing the social fabric that was torn apart due to the political Islamistsand#39 hateful and stigmatizing discourse, as well as a lack of policy actions to address the root causes of social problems, is also out of question. Engineering exclusive rather than inclusive policies helped them consolidate their power and sustain their rule and has prolonged the life of political Islamists.

Therefore, many suspect that the driving force on the part of the current cadre of Turkish leaders is to blackmail Washington by signaling that they can undermine the US actions in Turkeyand#39s neighborhood if they are not satisfied with what they get. ErdoIanand#39s controversial remarks over the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and his disclosure of a private conversation he had with US President Barack Obama last week have meant to discourage the US from going against himself and his associates.

Talking to the pro-government-mouthpiece journalists on the return plane from Estonia, he explained how it was utterly wrong for Obama to order the three C-130 cargo planes to airlift ammunition and weapons from northern Iraq and drop them over Kobani to replenish the Kurdish fightersand#39 depleted arsenal. He accused Obama of arming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) albeit inaertently both in Kobani last week and in Mosul in June where the US weapons ended up in the hands of ISIL.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Why has ErdoIan kept elaborating on the ground options in Syria? Why is he so keen to provide little details of the US operation to the public? Why does he butt heads with even the US Department of Stateand#39s spokespeople when they are not his counterparts? No doubt he wants to elicit a response from US officials to fire up his own constituency.

But more importantly, ErdoIan is telling the US that he canand#39t be easily sidelined and blindsided by US actions. Similar traces can also be found in the thinking of his prime minister, DavutoIlu, who vows to place Turkeyand#39s allies and partners in an uncomfortable position by continuing with policies that draw much criticism from the West.

This is hardly surprising at all considering how ErdoIan and his political allies think of the West in general and the US in particular The leaks from the hushed-up investigation into the Iran-backed Tawhid-Salam (aka Tevhid-i Selam or Jerusalem Army) terror investigation reveals how ErdoIan contemplates his actions with the US. The documents provided by the wife of Huseyin Avni YazIcIoIlu, a key suspect in the investigation, exposed confidential information on public officials including some about ErdoIan.

According to the notes YazIcIoIlu picked up from the conversation he had with two ruling party lawmakers, SK and H, in October 2010 in Istanbul, ErdoIan was an unwilling partner on the NATO early warning radar system that was deployed in Malatyaand#39s Kurecik district as part of NATOand#39s missile defense system It says ErdoIan is no longer allowing the Iranian border to be used as a garrison for the US, Israel and Europe and is resisting efforts to that end by Turkeyand#39s allies. ErdoIan was said to be in favor of strengthening political, economic and military ties with Iran and sees the radar system as a trap to derail that process.

ErdoIan was also described as harboring a view that NATO and the US are terrorists just like Israel and that he will know what to do with them when he gets the chance.The damage inflicted by ideological zealots, who seized power in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and who have developed a strong distaste for the US, has unfortunately contributed to the dismal picture of current Turkish-US bilateral ties.

I think the verdict is already rendered in terms of making clear that Turkey under the current leadership will never really invest in any robust ties with the worldand#39s only remaining superpower Ankara may perhaps continue to work with the US on a tactical basis on different issues to a varying degree of cooperation but will never commit to working with the US strategically. There is a fundamental trust issue between the two sides now that overshadows any cooperative scheme and hinders the progress on deliverables.

Since ideology plays a major factor at the core, the political Islamists will continue to seek alternatives (rather than a complementary role especially for business ties) to trans-Atlantic ties by investing in relations with Russia and Islamic countries. Ironically, neither Russia nor the Islamic countries have any particular affection for Turkeyand#39s current leadership.

That will not dissuade the political Islamists to keep on dreaming, howeverIn the meantime, ErdoIan and DavutoIlu will play the andquotspoiler cardandquot to keep the US engaged with their administration in Turkey given the constraints on credible and viable alternatives in the domestic political landscape. How long Washington can let its strategic interest in Turkey be held hostage at the hands of a bunch of ideological zealots is an open question.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

Related Post
STUTTGART, Germany, Nov. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — After making an equally thrilling entrance as the
Premium Models from China’s Elite Auto Brand to Be Showcased at Leading Economic Forum GUANGZHOU,
يتم عرض موديلات راقية من سيارات الشركة النخبوية في الصين في المنتدى الاقتصادي الرائد غوانغجو،