Monday, October 25, 2010

ATC annual conference with twist of a perception or reality

Friday, October 22, 2010
Dr. Philip Gordon, assistant U.S. secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who also oversees the Turkey portfolio in this capacity, made the most memorable remarks and gestures at this week’s 29th annual Conference of the American-Turkish Council Meeting in Washington, DC. Gordon joined Feridun Sinirlioğlu, undersecretary of Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, Robert Wexler, president of the Center for Middle East Peace Cooperation and former Congressman and two Turkey experts at Monday’s opening plenary session of the conference, and drew heavy analogies while analyzing the U.S.-Turkey relations.
While referring to the image problem of both countries in the others’ public opinion, Gordon reminded the audience that at the end of the day, both countries have democracies, therefore public opinion plays a major role in the process of adjusting or making policy decisions towards one another. According to Gordon, U.S. approval ratings are at historic lows in Turkey and Turkey’s close relations with Iran are worsening the perception of Turkey both in the U.S. and especially its Congress, which creates an environment in which it is very difficult for the U.S. administration to get anything done.
The U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow, in another panel on the sidelines of the conference, gave an example what Gordon wanted to say, stating that the U.S. Congress has an important role in arms sales, and unfortunately some remarks and attitudes Turkey both made and took last spring regarding Israel and Iran created a political climate that made U.S. progress difficult in some significant projects in the short term.
Gordon also said “it does not matter that it is not true about Turkey’s turning to the East; if people think it is true, then we have a problem.” Gordon opposed Wexler’s arguments and said “we don’t do any favor to us if we say it [the discussions over Turkey’s turning to East] doesn’t exist.”
Ömer Taşpınar, another participant of the same panel and Turkey expert at the Brookings Institute, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank which was Gordon’s home before he moved to the State Department, defined the current Turkish administration as “mercantilist,” and stated that when the U.S. spends much of its time trying to figure out how best to isolate Iran, Turkey aims to triple its trade volume with it. And these very different goals in both countries towards Iran make things very hard to manage.
Gordon, when he was making his closing remarks, picked up the topic where Taşpınar left over Iran, (both co-authored a book on Turkey a couple of years back titled “Winning Turkey”) and recognized this discrepancy, labeling it as the perception of having “cross purposes” on the policies that are taken by the both sides towards Iran.
While Gordon’s “cross purposes” remarks lingered in the room, he did not wait for other participants’ closing remarks and left the panel early for a speech he was to deliver at the Johns Hopkins’ SAIS. The curious part of the SAIS speech is that the speech was only added to Gordon’s schedule a few days ago, and the Turkish press was told about it on Friday with a special announcement by the State Department, whereas the invitations for the ATC meetings reached Gordon’s offices three months in advance.
According to the ATC, Gordon, himself, made it clear that he does not want to take questions either from the audience, which is not well suited for such high level panel in front of an audience, whose significant part came from Turkey, seemed as if he “snubbed,” according to one conference attendee.
Robert Gates who initially rejected the ATC invitation to participate the council meetings, changed his position and told Richard Armitage, the ATC Chairman, 3 weeks before the meetings that he would have 40 minutes window to speak at the summit, but again will not have time to take questions.
During his remarks, Wexler, who seemed to be playing a referee role between the administrations, first vigorously argued against the notion that suggests Turkey is turning its face to the east, an argument that was opposed by Gordon right after, then turned back and sternly warned Turkey that “there will be never another U.S. President that makes a greater effort to reach out to Turkey, to the Muslim world... This doesn’t mean everything the U.S. does is right... however if we cannot make it work with this president, then heaven forbids, because I don’t think [the Turkish side] will ever see any commitment that this president has shown in terms of spending time and energy to nurture the relationship with Turkey.” Wexler, someone who personally invested much in Obama presidency and has close links to this administration, deserves to be taken seriously on this matter.
The ATC meetings have been the most significant appearance for the Turkish business elite in Washington and the Turkish government, like in the past decades, keenly supports these annual gatherings with sending its high profile administration officials.
In this sense, latest remarks of the U.S. officials should be taken seriously and as early warnings to Turkey while still assessing NATO missile defense system proposal that the U.S. adamantly argues for and asks Turkey to accept.
Speaking of “cross purposes,” on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who was also in town for the same conference, held a press conference with U.S. reporters and defended Turkish cooperation with Damascus, described Syria as a contributor to the Middle East peace process and to the stabilization of Lebanon, and of Iraq and added “Turkey is cooperating with Syria very strongly for regional issues.”
Ben Birnaum of The Washington Times cites that the U.S. State Department lists Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism for giving Hamas external headquarters in Damascus and for facilitating the shipment of Iranian rockets to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and also it is reported that Babacan did not rule out the prospect of formal Turkish-Iranian military exercises, when asked twice.
The conference’s foremost aim is to strengthen U.S.-Turkey relations through the promotion of commercial, defense, technology and cultural relations. Though during this week’s conference, U.S. officials were not polite to their guests and their remarks were ‘perceived’ as if the tension continues between the countries.
Both Gates and Gordon’s very brief appearances at the conference, leaving the room without listening to their counterparts, and citing the thorny matters of Iran and Israel in the U.S. capital in front of a friendly audience also need to be vividly noted.
Gordon argued in the conference that the perception that Turkey is changing its direction would become reality if it persists.
In Washington this week, on the other hand, U.S. officials’ attitudes seemed not too friendly, if it was not a twist of a perception in reality.
10 Comments   Bookmark and Share  printer friendly PRINTER FRIENDLY


Guest - Other
2010-10-24 21:05:39
 @cautious: rep party has been out only less than 2 years, I don't think 'several. Years' qualifying depiction! Isn't it? 
2010-10-24 20:22:03
 Like i said in my comments before America use,s Turkey for her own interests she uses all the tools of a criminal would including blackmailing.What GORDEN Said was basicaly you not going to get a better president then Obama and if you dont stop trading with Iran and stop playing war games with China in other words if Turkey dont put on her dog collar and tow the line you wont get any more US weapons and you must say sorry for the Israeli,s killing your citizens.Turkey should tell the Americans bye bye leave Nato. 
Guest - Cautious
2010-10-24 17:05:04
 @Steve. In case you haven't noticed the Republican party has been out of the White House for several yrs and hasn't controlled Congress since Bush Jr. first term in office. As far as your Jews control America comment - it's popular among bigots who have limited knowledge - if this is true them why does America provide aid and sell weapons to Muslims - why does the USA oppose expansion of Israeli settlements, why does national public radio fire a commentator for making negative comments about Muslims, why is Jonathan Pollard still in jail - there is an endless list of similar questions which are conveniently overlooked by bigots. 
Guest - ManInTheMiddle
2010-10-23 20:16:19
 The US has never treated ANY Moslem nation with sincere politeness. In the US establishment's eyes Moslems have been tolerated as long as they seem to "know their place", any deviation from that causes the true face of the US government's true low opinion about the Moslem country in question to appear lickety split. What Turkey needs to do is to determine whether pursuing in long-term national interests trump a low place on the US "good boys" list. The choice is very clear, isn't it? 
Guest - Katie
2010-10-23 20:02:29
 As I'm neither Turkish or American, I can say without bias, that as long as your present 'regime' is in Government, Turkey cannot be relied on or trusted. That's where the problem lies. 
Guest - Murat
2010-10-23 19:47:39
 It is perfectly normal for allies or friendly states to have disgreements where interests collide, but what is disturbing the is the way this is carried out so openly in the media when it comes to US-Turkey relations and the level of rhetoric. If US can claim interests in the region from 10K miles away, surely Turkey can have opinions on what is best for them in their back yard. 
Guest - MARK
2010-10-23 18:51:48
 @babadog. You may have the second largest army in NATO but numbers alone do not make an effective army. As for providing the Americans with the largest military bases in the world? You make to sound like Turkey is providing the base (1) free of charge. America pays a heavy price for the use of THAT base. Who are you trying to fool. Turkey is not even close. Can you say Germany? I am old enough to remember seeing the Turkish soldiers returning to Turkey after the Korean war. They had all kinds of phonograph players, tape recorders, clothers, personal items that bought at the American Base Exchange and wer selling on the streets of Izmir and Istanbul. Please, get out of NATO you are more a problem than a solution. This probably won't make the post but at least I've made my point. 
Guest - Rich
2010-10-23 17:15:22
 Funny how Turkey used pro-Israel advocates to obtain advantages for decades and funny how the pro-Israel advocates were pretty much pro-Turkey advocates-until PM Erdogan and President Gul put Turkey in conflict with the US when they re-allied the country they control with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela, and any other radical anti-American group. To make matters worse, they used their power to try to turn the Turkish people into Israel haters- employing all of their tools against, a country that was Turkey's ally. And now, it is clear, that just below the surface of this, lies anti-Semitism. The implications are forboding for all- unless Turkey returns to the West as a proudly secular Moslem nation. 
Guest - Steve
2010-10-23 15:07:18
 One must remember that anything that is said & done in Washington DC is a direct result of two incredulous, obstructionist & insincere segments of America's political system: 1) the Republicans, The Party of NO; and, 2) AIPAC & the other nefarious Israeli lobbies. Obama has not been able to achieve HIS agenda because of the impact of these deceitful "pieces parts" influence upon the legislative branch, congress. IF the American style of democracy was different, and the president actually wielded power with the stroke of a pen, America, the world & foreign policy would be entirely different. BUT, Obama must try and work with these intransigent people & their not so hidden, selfish & deceitful agendas. IF truth & honesty was indeed the bedrock of American politics, the world would indeed see a different America working for the world's "universal good." Unfortunately, things may well become worse with ALL of America's allies if the Republicans again gain power in congress this fall. 
Guest - babadog
2010-10-23 06:49:42
 President Obama made a brilliant start to his presidency but as we all know he has fizzled out and his promises have proven to be empty gestures.Now they are threatening Turkiye with less arms and the recognition of the Armenian deaths in 1915 as genocide.Fine get on with it and get out of our hair. Turkiye has been a brilliant friend and ally of the West and the USA in particular.They have the second largest army in NATO, fought alongside the USA in Korea, defended the west with American Nuclear war heads aimed at the old USSR and provided the USA with the largest military bases in the world.In response the USA have not helped Turkiye that much.The trade volume together has never risen above low.The technology transfer from the USA to Turkiye have been second rate.In fact the USA have drugged Turkiye and kept it back colony style. Turkiye has been a very good friend of Israel too until they murdered 1500+ innocent civilians in Gaza and halted the peace process with the Arabs. 

No comments: