Turkish PM’s support of Obamacare or deep-running friction with the US

Turkish PM’s support of Obamacare or deep-running friction with the US

Facing a Republican-led impasse and a partial government shutdown over his controversial health care program, U.S. President Barack Obama has seen unexpected, or even strange, support from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said late last week that “to tell the truth, Obamacare should be supported.”

How the Turkish prime minister’s remarks would be echoed across domestic U.S. politics is a source of huge curiosity, since the actual messages in the Turkish prime minister’s comments were not necessarily about Obama’s health law or the ensuing U.S. controversy over it. The U.S.-Turkish relationship has for long experienced an untold chill particularly on regional issues regarding the Syrian Civil War, the Egyptian coup or no coup and Turkey’s ties with Israel. 

The deep-running friction was not intentional for the Turkish part, with many senior officials finding themselves in an odd spot after not predicting opposing or disputing comments from their U.S. counterparts. Amid the tension over Turkey’s uphill relationship with Israel, the military intervention in Egypt exacerbated on Ankara’s ties with Washington until the former decided to shelve the issue and skip an open confrontation with the United States over the coup. But that does not mean an end to Turkey’s anti-military campaign for Egypt, as the Turkish officials linked the coup to Turkey’s military-dominated past. It was a somewhat safe zone for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in terms of relations with the United States, which did not mind about the “coup-victim” linkage between Turkey and Egypt. 

But the chemistry between Ankara and Washington was spoiled once and the strain still continues to linger on, over another regional flashpoint and it’s Syrian Civil War. Defiant on its call on the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to step aside and even leave the country to its “new future,” Turkey has failed to understand the changing dynamics of both regional and international diplomacy over Syria. As the United States and Russia inched toward a deal on Syria amid the fears of a rising al-Qaeda-linked threat, Turkey still kept its now outdated position, thus losing influence on divided armed Syrian opposition, as well as credit against the world powers. 

Last week, two subsequent incidents in Syria were outstanding as they profiled the character of the friction between Turkey and the United States. While world powers put so much efforts and hopes on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria as part of an U.S.-Russian-initiated plan, Turkey belittled possible ramifications of the deal and kept arguing it was not chemicals but al-Assad that had to go.
But the departure was not an issue for today’s world powers, and the actual commencement of the chemical deal has brought some U.S. praise of the Syrian leader, still having reservations on him. The reluctant praise from the United States irked Turkey with its top diplomat, Ahmet Davutoğlu, indirectly criticizing Washington.

The mini praise crisis ebbed up until the United States objected to Turkish prime minister’s comments, in which he called Syria’s al-Assad a “terrorist.” The U.S. stance on not calling al-Assad a “terrorist” has surely not given credit to the Syrian leader but at least showed that Turkey and the United States are not on the same page regarding the status of the embattled leader. It was also interesting to see the U.S. doctrinaire of “axis of evil” concept that easily labeled “rogue” regimes “terrorists,” publicly shriving for its past sins.

The chances for a long-expected encounter between the Turkish and U.S. leaders are still doubtful even after Erdoğan’s backing of Obamacare but it is certain that the Turkish government will eventually fail in its efforts to reach Washington, unless it does not keep up with shifting U.S. overtures about the region.