Obama and the 'new Turkey'
TOLGA TANIŞThe first message came with the formation of the presidential delegation for the oath taking ceremony of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The White House said Jess Baily, the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires, would represent the United States in the ceremony. No special envoy, not even one single member of Congress, was sent from Washington.
The Turkish side says: “We sent the invitation to the president, vice president and foreign minister. We had closed the doors to others.” But read the news article in daily Hürriyet about the list of foreign dignitaries who attended the ceremony. There are many countries represented at the ministerial, even parliamentarian level.
The U.S. side says: “If the U.S. ambassador’s appointment to Ankara had been approved by the Senate, we would have had a two person-strong delegation.” But look at the presidential delegations sent from the White House during the summer to other similar ceremonies for other countries’ heads of state, you’ll see this is not true.
- An eight member delegation headed by Vice President Joe Biden went to the ceremony of Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine on June 5.
- A four member delegation headed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went for Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez's ceremony in Panama on June 25.
- A three member delegation headed by Kerry’s advisor Thomas Shannon went to newly-elected Juan Manuel Santos' ceremony in Colombia on Aug. 6.
What does all this mean? Well, it indicates a problem, at least.
The same discord exists in the program of the NATO Summit that will take place this week in Wales. Erdoğan will represent Turkey at the summit. The Turkish side will work for Erdoğan to meet Obama during the summit. Ankara says this meeting will definitely take place. Washington is not making the meeting public.
According to Michael Werz from the American Progress Center, “Washington is seeking ways to give the message that in Turkey, the Constitution gives the executive authority to the prime minister.”
Turkey will be discussing this issue in the upcoming period. Washington is looking for ways to stay out of this discussion. At least it does not want Erdoğan to give the message that he has the executive power via the relationship he establishes with Obama.
All of this aside, there is obvious business to be dealt with. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s visit to Ankara right after the NATO Summit is one of them. The agenda? “ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], ISIL, ISIL,” as put by my American news source.
When you consider the uneasiness of U.S. military intelligence about the logistical support that ISIL members receive from Turkey, the visit is going to be quite challenging for Ankara. And it will also be determinant on the critical decision that the U.S. will make soon. Kerry recalled in the article he wrote for the New York Times the other day that the U.S. will start an effort to establish a global collation against ISIL. The United Nations Security Council, presided over by the U.S., will be at the center of these efforts.
Ankara is competing with Spain and New Zealand for one of two non-permanent Security Council seats for the period between 2015-16. It is almost clear now that Spain will receive more than 129 votes, which is necessary to win one seat. The real competition will take place between Turkey and New Zealand. The problem is that the "new Turkey" has not been able to find sufficient support from European and Middle Eastern countries, due to its controversial regional policies.
Likewise, Washington has not given its support. I asked an American expert about possible consequences of the current negative mood in Washington regarding Turkey; he answered bluntly: “Turkey will not be elected to the U.N. Security Council.”
Obama’s "new Turkey" period has started.