Erdogan: The Necessary Evil of the Political World

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fall from grace one day may be as spectacular as his rise, as proven by last year’s coup attempt to unseat him. But for now he will bully his way through, as long as his administration lasts.

He understands well the forces that are reviving and feeding the new Cold War and he can exploit them to promote his country’s as well as his personal ambitions.

One thing he seems to ignore is that the policies he is pursuing domestically run counter to his global ambitions; by eliminating the academics, writers, judges, politicians, journalists and the entire intellectual classes, a group which would have created a common ground with Europe and the civilized world, and playing up his Ottomanist tendencies, he is furthering his nation’s withdrawal from the realm of the international community.

Erdogan’s friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the shooting down of the Russian warplane is as sincere as the relations he is trying to cultivate with US President Donald Trump.

The news outlet Reuters reports from Ankara that “US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Saturday and agreed to continue to work toward stronger ties and regional security. Erdogan’s office said, a day after he lashed out at US authorities for indicting one of his ex-ministers.”

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After flinging acrimonious accusations against the US on a number of political issues, it looks like the Turkish leadership realizes how far they have strayed from a strategic ally and political patron saint.

Relations between the US and Turkey have been strained over Washington’s support for the YPG Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey considers them terrorists, while the US has found them to be the most reliable fighting force in the battlefield against ISIS. Despite continued complaints, even some hostile provocations by Ankara in Syria, the US administration did not heed Turkey’s complaints, placing its bets on the winning horse on the battlefield. Washington also realized that Turkey is in the game for narrow, selfish interests rather than fighting for a common cause with the US and its allies. Ironically, the US found accommodation with its archenemy, Russia, rather than with Turkey, signing off on the policy of Assad’s survival instead of giving in to Turkish demands.

As far as Kurdish issues are concerned, Washington and Ankara are at odds; Ankara and Tehran have teamed up in opposing the Kurdish referendum scheduled for September 25 in Iraq, as they consider it a destabilizing move in the region, while Washington has given a green light to it, as far as we can tell from its benign negligence and the assurance of the Kurdish leadership.

Turkey’s relationship with Europe and especially with Germany, were strained to the breaking point, so much so that voices from various political quarters became louder to drop Turkey as a NATO ally. To compensate for its alienation from Europe, Erdogan’s government emerged as a candidate for the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), frustrating Armenia, which is a member of that body. To add insult to injury, Erdogan revived the Turkish Stream pipeline, to extend Russian gas delivers to the Balkans and by extension, against Europe, in Washington’s blatant attempts to wean Europe from Russian energy.

For Mr. Erdogan, thwarting domestic investigations into his and his family’s scandalous corruption is very simple; just replace judges on the bench and appoint his cronies to his kangaroo courts and the case is dismissed. But he is very frustrated when he cannot extend that dictatorial power to the US judicial system. Reams of documents from Ankara could not convince the US judicial system to extradite the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of being the mastermind behind last year’s coup attempt in Turkey.

And the other legal entanglements are piling up; a grand jury in August indicted 19 defendants, including 15 security officials, Erdogan’s bodyguards, on charges resulting from violent attacks on peaceful protestors in Washington, during the Turkish president’s visit. Erdogan was angered over the indictments and made some caustic remarks about judges in the US. As a warning against Erdogan’s upcoming visit to New York, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-NY) have sent a cautionary letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to allow any fresh violence when Erdogan arrives in New York later this September.

In the meantime, voices in the US political and military quarters have been requesting the removal of nuclear weapons from Turkish soil as a reaction to the latter’s erratic behavior and in his inability to protect them.

As if all these problems were not enough to drive a wedge between the two countries, now legal developments have further deteriorated those relations. Turkey’s former Minister of Economy Zafer Caglayan, and former head of the Turkish Bank were indicted in the US for conspiring to violate US sanctions against Iran. A Turkish government spokesman, Bekir Bozdag, complained about the indictment, stating that “Mr. Caglayan has protected Turkey’s interests as the Turkish economy minister, and he has acted within the laws of our country and international laws while doing it.”

Erdogan himself contracted that official statement, saying that Turkey had never agreed to comply with those sanctions on Iran. One would ask what kind of relationship and alliance are in place that the parties can cherry pick laws to abide by or to enforce?

The telephone call has set the stage for an upcoming meeting between Presidents Trump and Erdogan to iron out the burning issues dividing the two countries. That meeting may also serve as an opportunity for Mr. Erdogan to teach the American president on how to run a legal system. Mr. Erdogan’s comments on the US legal system are hilarious. His statement could be used as a cartoon legend: “You may be a big nation, but being a just nation is something else. Being a just nation requires the legal system to work fairly.”

After the Trump-Erdogan meeting, US citizens will find out how effective Mr. Erdogan’s judicial instructions have been to his American counterpart.

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