Erdoğan calls Bernie

Erdoğan calls Bernie

Imagine a year from today when there is a new president in the White House. That person’s name could be Hillary, Bernie or even Donald. But for the sake of argument and coherence in this scenario, we will imagine Bernie Sanders is in the White House. Now, let’s imagine a hypothetical telephone call 
between the White House and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

- Good morning, Mr. President.

- Good morning, Mr. Erdoğan.

- We have a PYD (Democratic Union Party) problem; I mentioned this before you took office. U.S. President Barack Obama ignored it.  

- They are almost like the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) in northern Iraq, self-sufficient and secular with no intention of independence. Why are you unhappy?

- Because they are linked to the PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party). 

- But your government has also talked to the PKK leader. You were on the verge of a peace deal. We support your brave decision. We would encourage the Kurdish parties to stand with you in the talks. 

- But we need more armed drones to kill the rest of the PKK first. There should be no military arm of this organization. Your congress is not approving the sales.

- Neither am I. 

Again, this is an imaginary scenario, but one should not be surprised if one year from today we are still battling PKK terror, juggling to find a way to solve the refugee crisis and struggling inside an economic crisis. Because despite all the good-willed efforts, the wheels in Ankara seem to not be turning. 

On a standard day, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu makes at least three TV appearances. President Erdoğan, not to be left out of the TV circuit, makes at least two speeches. One cannot help but wonder when they actually read reports, sign decrees or get briefings. PM Davutoğlu gets a briefing once a week from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) undersecretary and the country’s military chief, and they only last about one hour. When do they really make decisions anyway?

So in the end, they end up reading a columnist who writes that U.S. presidential candidate Sanders is a “marginal Jewish leftist” or Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who likens Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to real estate empire mogul Donald Trump.

Sadly this mediocracy and ignorance will not bring us to a better place. While Ankara is locked up in its obsession with Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the rest of the world is getting ready to do business with Iran, witness a historic election in the U.S. and maybe much more. “They are trying to lock us inwards,” said President Erdoğan on Feb. 10. Who are “they?” 

President Erdoğan would probably have a lot in common with Sanders on issues like immigration, health care and taxing Wall Street. Sanders would most likely support a foreign policy to balance Palestinians against Israel in the Middle East. He would be less interested in military intervention and maybe more inclined to let NATO allies take initiative. But he would be more aggressive in pushing freedom of the press and expression in Turkey. He would be more willing to talk to Turkey’s opposition groups. Hey, he may even make reference to the Gezi Park protests.

Time is running out. Ankara should start getting to know the candidates as soon as possible. 

(Next week: Erdoğan calls Trump)