The codes of Obama’s new view on Turkey

The codes of Obama’s new view on Turkey

It is not sufficient to explain the White House’s statement last week “strongly condemning” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by saying it solely stemmed from Erdoğan’s words on holding Israel accountable for the coup in Egypt. 

When assessing the statement, one has to take into consideration the dissidence between Turkey and the United States on a series of subjects and also the accumulation in Washington of some problems about the discourse. 

Despite the special relationship between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan, we can list the factors lying in the background of the occurrence of such an offending event for Ankara as follows:

Different tones in Syria: There are differences between the perceptions of Turkey and the U.S. on Syria, if you leave aside the latest crisis that was caused by Bashar al-Assad’s usage of chemical weapons. In the face of Ankara’s will to support the opposition more, to build a buffer zone and to establish a no-fly zone, Washington has usually maintained an attitude that put on the brakes. Another problematic topic between the two nations is the support Ankara provides to some of the radical Islamist groups for the sake of overthrowing al-Assad no matter what the consequences are. The Obama administration fears that radical Islamist groups like the al-Nusra Front, which resembles al-Qaeda, will turn Syria into a state like Afghanistan, so it wants to rupture relations with such groups. 

The Gezi Park factor: The Obama administration evaluated the Gezi Park resistance as a quest for democratic rights and criticized the police’s “excessive use of force” with strong words. While the spokespeople for the White House and the Department of State criticized police violence with numerous statements, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry also joined the chorus. 

New view on Turkey in Washington: It is unquestionable that the Gezi Park protests proved to be a big breaking point on the American side. After the Gezi protests, a new season and a more quizzical view has settled in Washington about Turkey and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. This view is highlighted by the escalation of criticism towards the AKP government in the American press, academic circles and reports of think-tanks on Turkey. 

The U.S. Congress is also disturbed: The same wind is blowing in the U.S. Congress. Special sessions in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate asking the question “Where is Turkey heading?” were held after the Gezi protests. 

The Jewish lobby is disturbed: Turkey has been reluctant to normalize relations with Israel even though Israel apologized to Turkey because of the Mavi Marmara incident while the prime minister’s statement that “Zionism is a crime against humanity” created a great disturbance within the Jewish lobby. 

Rhetoric against the West: The fact that the U.S. and Turkey have taken positions that are 180 degrees opposed on Egypt in the wake of the coup constitutes another problematic topic. But a more critical orientation was Erdoğan’s attack with strong words toward the West after the coup. No doubt Erdoğan’s words in which he called the West “dishonorable” and “spineless” because it could not name the coup a “coup” targeted mainly Washington. It could be said that though it was not openly stressed, Erdoğan’s style disturbed the American side. 

Working relations will not get affected: As a result of combining all of these factors, it is possible to say that Washington’s stance toward Turkey has started to change, but one should not drive to the conclusion that relations have come to a standstill. It can be understood that the two countries will not let this situation affect the operation of their working relations, in spite of the factors that have started to change the nature of the relations negatively. 

And conclusion: As a conclusion, though the close working conditions on regional issues among the two nations will continue, some things will be different in the coming days. We can say that an American administration that does not refrain from criticizing the problems of democracy in Turkey and the issues encountered in the relations, together with a Washington atmosphere that is more skeptical and quizzical toward Turkey, has burst onto the scene.

This article was originally published in daily Hürriyet on Aug 29. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.