Why is Biden coming to Turkey?
A scandal has erupted between two allies, the U.S. and Turkey. On a speech delivered on Oct. 2; U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had mentioned Turkey’s relations to organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and had said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regretted foreign fighters’ passage to Syria via Turkey. It was then stated that he apologized to Erdoğan because of this statement. Although two weeks ago he said “I did not apologize,” we thought the issue was closed.
Or, the U.S.’ desire to use İncirlik base in the war against ISIL; this issue was also closed when Turks had said “No, unless there is a no fly zone in Syria.” On the Cyprus issue, negotiations have fallen apart. So what will Biden tell Erdoğan?
They are planning it. Prior to Biden’s visit, U.S. chairman of the joint Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey went to Baghdad. And then went on a surprise visit to Arbil to meet Masoud Barzani. As Qasem Suleimani, the head of Iranian intelligence has been publishing pictures together with the Peshmerga from the front in Iraq; the U.S. has come to the field as well.
According to my sources, an alternative was sought in Arbil to the question “If not İncirlik where else,” for the drones that were deployed in İncirlik in October 2011 following a memorandum of understanding signed between Turkey and the U.S. This is an issue that will strengthen the hands on the negotiations with Turks. But there is also the rumors that came about with the CNN story that Obama’s administration has expanded its strategy by targeting the Bashar al-Assad regime. There are some talks that the security zones that Turkey has been asking for will be built.
They are playing it. Look at the stories that have been breaking out since 2011 in Syria. You will see that the rumors expanding with the CNN story is no different. In order to appease Turkey and Israel, they are trying to manage the situation through nameless statements. You could think the latest was about Turkey. Don’t forget Biden is coming this week to Turkey. There is the need to have a development to improve the mood prior to the visit. And when you read Erdoğan’s saying “signs that U.S. administration is approaching Turkey’s argument, even belatedly,” you realized that the message passed across. But it’s not only that.
They are getting ready. If Americans cannot get a positive development that will prolong the negotiations with Iran, which have a deadline of Nov. 24, if the whole thing collapses all of a sudden, they want options such as formulating a strategy that targets al-Assad in Syria, or establishing secure areas for the Syrian opposition south of Aleppo, to be on the table. Biden and Dempsey’s visits are about to formulate these options. Would the Americans want to appear to have no strategy against Iran? Think of it as a stick being shown to them as the deadline for negotiations is approaching. “If you create problems on the agreement, the Turks are waiting.” But the ball is in the court of the Iranians before these options come to the table. For Americans, reconciliation with Iran is much more of a priority. If Iran accepts an agreement, those options should be forgotten. You can’t fight al-Assad on the one hand while you try to find a middle way with Iran on the other hand.
Biden is coming to prepare for the region’s transformation in the long run, rather than have short term results from Ankara. He is coming to Istanbul; he won’t see the new presidential palace.
A while ago I had asked a Turkish official what would help to overcome the latest tension in bilateral ties. “A high level visit” he told me, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, around February or March. “Afterward it would be difficult due to elections,” was the answer.