Erdoğan calling Trump

Erdoğan calling Trump

Now that real estate mogul Donald Trump has won two very critical Republican primaries, we have enough reason to imagine a telephone conversation between him and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan one year from today. 

The centerpiece of this phone call will probably be Syria. But most likely, Trump’s presumed anti-Islamic rhetoric will be on the agenda as well. So here it goes: 

- Good morning Mr. President.

- Good morning President Erdoğan, how are you? Long time no see… Last time we met, it was the opening of our project in Istanbul.

- As you know sir, we have been very busy with the Syrian crisis. 

- I understand the PYD (Democratic Union Party), the Kurdish group, is no longer a problem for you. Have you been able to relocate the refugees? How can we help?

- That is the real issue. We need to secure the land the Syrian refugees will go back to. What if there are terrorist groups that infiltrate them? We need U.S. intelligence to help us filter the people; we also need our construction companies to be more active in the rebuilding of Syria. 

- I fully agree with you. That land is very valuable. And your TOKİ (Turkish Housing Development Administration) knows how to build. But no homes for so-called “moderate jihadis,” Mr. President. That becomes Pakistan y’know.

- But it is totally unfair to discriminate among Muslims like that Mr. Trump.

- Hey, I made a commitment Mr. Erdoğan. And by the way, I like your advisor. He looks a lot like me, except he uses too much hair gel.

- Have a nice day, sir.

Turkey has been living in a nightmare since July last year. There are at least 300 casualties among security forces in the clashes in the country’s southeast. After the Ankara attack, the government has come to a crossroads in terms of relations with the United States. Both Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu feel they are treated unfairly by democrat U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration. Some may even think a businessman like Trump in the White House may have a lot in common with the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) pragmatic and neoliberal policies. But that does not solve the security problem.

Trump is still a wild card in this race, but his approach to the region and the Middle East is more pro-Israel than any candidate so far. Ironically, he may feel more comfortable with a partner like Erdoğan in the region. Trump will be more active in terms of putting boots on the ground and military involvement in Iraq and Syria. But surprisingly, he may be even more supportive of a liberal, secular, independent Kurdish state.

During a conversation in Istanbul a couple of years ago, he was very impressed by the economic dynamism of Turkey. A lot like Erdoğan, he was complaining about the slowness of Europe to take action and be more businesslike. Trump was seeing Turkey more like Israel or Lebanon; multicultural, democratic and a little chaotic, unlike the United Arab Emirates or Iran.

AKP governments may also have a lot more in common with a Trump White House than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Neo-cons may come back to their offices in Washington. But a lot in the region has changed since 2003. Pro-AKP columnists do have a point. There will be a new architecture in the Middle East, and regardless of who gets elected in November, Syria and Iraq will be much different than today.

Some leaders may even hear the phrase: You’re fired! Who, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Not yet.