Erdoğan has to see this movie
WASHINGTONTurkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has not sent any of his ministers to this year’s American-Turkish Council (ATC) conference; no such thing has happened in many years.
The highest government official – other than newly appointed Turkish Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kılıç – is Dr. İsmail Demir, the newly appointed Undersecretary of the Defense Industry (SSM), which is still negotiating with the United States’ Raytheon and Europe’s MEADS over revising the choice of a Chinese company for Turkey’s first anti-missile system.
Well, the feelings are reciprocal; no minister from U.S. President Barack Obama’s Cabinet moved to attend this year’s ATC, despite the weeks-long efforts of Frank Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara.
The obvious reason for this situation on the diplomatic backstage is commentary criticizing the Turkish government following the corruption probe of Dec. 17, 2013. And because defense and energy companies are the major sponsors of the ATC, Erdoğan is getting upset when they press for major tenders in Turkey.
James Holmes, chairman of the ATC, announced his resignation as a result of this tension on the first day of the conference.
There might be a deeper reason for why Erdoğan would like to give a lesson to the ATC and to whom else it may concern. Erdoğan might think that those energy and defense companies could drop the intermediaries and that the lobbies (seeing the ATC as one of them) should come directly to the Turkish government, himself, as the holder of political power. This is a part of the “New Turkey” Erdoğan had mentioned in Germany the other week.
This is the strong language of a charismatic leader who wants to say, “I am here; you cannot ignore me if you want to play in my neighborhood.”
Watching the right direction
But there are a few other big brothers in the neighborhood who keep giving the same message.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, for example, is one. In one move, he delivered a fatal blow to the Muslim Brotherhood with the coup in Egypt. (A number of Turkish businessmen who want to close deals in Saudi Arabia are not happy to be put on hold.) Hassan Rouhani of Iran is another example. He saw Obama’s extended hand toward him and responded for the good of his country. A statement by NATO on Sunday, June 1, said Iran’s nuclear program was not as dangerous as North Korea’s, which is a first.
And Vladimir Putin of Russia, of course.
Putin hit three birds with one stone with the de facto annexation of Crimea.
1) Obama’s determination to not get into another war, or even conflict with Russia, was confirmed in the Ukrainian situation in the wake of Syria;
2) The EU’s warnings about not buying Russian gas have proven hollow. Sanctions on certain bank accounts are laughable, as long as gray accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere are there;
3) Turkey has been hoping to host another Black Sea pipeline for Russian gas bypassing Ukrainian territorial waters to provide Russian gas to Europe from a southern route. But with the de facto annexation of Crimea, the territorial waters across the Black Sea could be redefined and Russia might not need Turkey’s cooperation any longer.
And the movie
Now guess which project might annoy Putin regarding Russia’s energy interests in this region.
Yes, it is TANAP, the pipeline project to carry Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe through Georgia and Turkey. This project might bother Iran, in addition to Russia, like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project years ago.
Now Erdoğan is allowing Turkish ports and territory to transport Kurdish oil from Iraq, despite a disapproving Baghdad.
The probabilities of connecting Kurdish gas to TANAP, and perhaps Israeli and Cypriot gas – if peace is achieved – might further annoy Moscow.
A new movie uses this picture as its motivating theme, of course not with those details.
It is the latest in the Jack Ryan series, created by American spy novelist Tom Clancy: “Shadow Recruit.”
I’m not going to tell you the finale, but the plot of the movie is based on Russians getting upset with energy lines across Turkey supplying Caspian resources to Europe and deciding to hit the U.S. in order to keep oil and gas prices high and destroy the U.S. dollar.
And a surprise for the Turkish audience: The attack is being prepared in a suburban house in Pennsylvania! When Pennsylvania is mentioned, many people in Turkey recall the suburban house in which Gülen lives.
Watching the movie may help Erdoğan to look where the real threat might come from.