Obama’s immunity from the Turkish PM’s scolding campaign

Obama’s immunity from the Turkish PM’s scolding campaign

Ever since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan scolded Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2009 and was declared a hero on the Turkish and Arab streets, it looks as though he has never stopped finding an occasion to lambast someone or other on any given day.

Most recently, it was the turn of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee for having awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei, who after being appointed as deputy president by Egypt’s military coup leaders, resigned later in protest at the violence.

“Heyyy, Nobel, how could you award a peace prize to a man who was to become the deputy president of a military coup eight years later?” said Erdoğan, chiding the Norwegians for lacking “vision.”

I wonder if he was aware of the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, the year he made his first trip to the Middle East as president. Visiting Egypt, Obama spoke of a new approach to relations with the Islamic world.

“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said in a speech at Cairo University.

The Arab Spring could have provided this new beginning. But we are back to square one.

The Turkish government is right to blame the West when it comes to Egypt. Indeed; the West did not want to take a risk with “political Islam,” avoiding making a bet about whether it would divest itself of its radical elements while becoming mainstream.

But when we talk of the West, aren’t we also talking of Washington? Then how come Obama escapes any scolding from Erdoğan?

Perhaps one could explain this with pure realism or pragmatism, which dictates avoiding contention with a superpower. Yet, how come the government, which is so pragmatic when it comes to the U.S, seems to be more emotional and ideological than rational when it comes to other issues?

Could it be that actually sometimes the rhetoric is disproportionately exaggerated by the actual policies?

“We stand in the same place with the West when it comes to principles. Both we and the West want a quick restoration of the parliamentary, democratic order in the country, with the release of prisoners and the holding of elections that should be open to the participation of all political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” a Turkish official told me.

The difference appears on the terminology and the rhetoric, according to that official. While Turkey calls a cat a cat, the West refrains from calling it a coup. This difference leads to more divergence among the two on the future of Egypt. While both want the restoration of the democratic order in Egypt, what this means for Turkey is a comeback for the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the same is not valid for the West. And it is precisely the West’s allergy to political Islam that angers the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Yet the anger control that becomes possible when it comes to the U.S. needs to be applied toward other players, especially regional ones. After all, being on good terms with the U.S. does not suffice, especially when one thinks that Americans will be less and less present in the region.