ErdoIan ‘vs.’ the US?

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan’s chief aiser, YiIit Bulut, who infamously declared that there are only two-and-a-half leaders in the world — Russian President Vladimir Putin, ErdoIan and US President Barack Obama is the half because he is limited by checks and balances — declared last week that Turkey will discontinue its European Union accession process and will strengthen its ties with the US.
This suggests that ErdoIan espouses the Middle Eastern autocrats’ role model. In this model, the focus of the US is on security and stability, not democracy, the rule of law and human rights. I doubt very much that an authoritarian Turkey could be stable and secure after experiencing democracy for many decades. Just take into account the Gezi protests. Yet, drawing lessons from experiences is not the best trait of ErdoIan and his aisers. Thus, they can try to push for this Middle Eastern model that would also make Turkey an excellent candidate country for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that ErdoIan ostensibly desperately wishes to join. In such a group, nobody will criticize his Twitter or YouTube ban.

I was in Washington, D.C., last week and having spoken to a few experts there, I can presume that seeing that ErdoIan has been cornered and needs US help very badly, the administration may ask ErdoIan for a few favors! A Kurdish autonomous region, a solution to the Cyprus issue and the improvement of relations with Israel could be some of the things that ErdoIan may be asked to provide. In my dream world, I imagine that he is also sincerely and successfully asked to provide for the rule of law, the separation of powers, and checks and balances. But in our real world, realism reigns and the Turks have to sort out their problems on their own.

Even the EU’s leverage is quite limited, since very few of ErdoIan’s followers who believe in him religiously aspire to be part of the EU. The EU can only play an indirect role in this process by underlining very boldly that ErdoIan has been gradually establishing a one-man regime with the help and approval of President Abdullah Gul, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu, who seem to be more occupied with their personal fates. The EU’s stance will send clear messages to the credit rating agencies and investors all over the world. It seems that the economic dimension is the only remaining foreign leverage left against ErdoIan’s authoritarian, illiberal and nominal democracy where we are no longer even sure if electoral fraud has taken place or not.

Even if ErdoIan tries very hard to pretend that he doesn’t care about the Western perception of Turkey, as a matter of fact, he does. That is why his staunch and very devoted supporters have launched two new mouthpieces for ErdoIan in English, Daily Sabah and Turkey Agenda, that are at pains to convince the English-reading audience that Turkey is still a democracy and that the recent local elections have proven that authoritarianism does not exist in the country. They even publish news stories saying that ErdoIan will soon visit Israel. They must be thinking that foreign journalists in Turkey, the embassies, diplomatic missions and experts cannot follow or read the ErdoIan government’s anti-Western and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Otherwise, they would publish in English whatever the ErdoIan media publishes in Turkish and they would not be accusing Today’s Zaman of being traitorous just because it simply reports whatever the ErdoIan government says and does.

The ErdoIan government and its loyal supporters writing for the English-speaking audience at Daily Sabah and Turkey Agenda may either be thinking that they can hide things in the transparent global village or they are simply deluding themselves. What a pity!

IHSAN YILMAZ (CihanToday’s Zaman)