Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Post midterm perspectives for Ankara on Obama administration

Friday, November 5, 2010
“A shellacking,” United States President Barack Obama called the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections, on the administration's saddest day ever, this Wednesday, when he invited 130 American and foreign journalists to a press conference in the White House’s East Room.
Obama’s face was grim, as the midterm results for his administration, while standing up against some tough, if not humiliating, questions and comments from veteran White House reporters. “Is it possible voters can conclude you're still not getting it?” was one of these follow-up questions, from a reporter who thought her first question was not adequately addressed by the president. Even as reporters did their best to extract the headline-making question of the day, Obama’s “shellacking” comment gained prominence among the clash of phrases in the period following the election.
Obama, for the first time in his better known history, came against a crashing defeat which could not be doctored in any way.
Until last Tuesday, the Obama presidency was up to a debate in terms of its domestic and foreign policy initiatives and achievements into the ending phrase of his second year in governing. The historic health care and financial overhaul bills, the Keynesian spending packages, which included hundreds of billions of dollars, and setting the tone to extend the Bush tax cuts for the 98 percent of the American people before the year end, only some of Obama’s legislative victories that are argued as monumental success stories for the country.
However, Obama’s plans and the American political scenery fundamentally were changed, when the majority of the independent voters decided that Obama’s spending policies did not work as envisioned and proved to be shortcoming towards solving problems the of America.
John Boehner, a prospective house speaker, elaborated the results in the following fashion: "When you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies they've put forward in the last two years."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose posture is boosted but at the same time failed to grab the Senate’s Majority leadership, set a tough tone for any compromise going forward, “when the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. When it disagrees with the American people, we won't... If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.” McConnell also stated that his party’s primary legislative goals are to “repeal and replace the health spending bill, and shrink the size and scope of government.” In brief, a perfect recipe for anti-Obama policies.
However, as much the long list of domestic priorities and policy preferences appear to promise for a challenging legislative year ahead for Obama administration against a new Washington, Obama surely knows that he will be hard-pressed on the foreign policy issues by the opposition as well, especially those that are linked to the Middle East Peace Process, relations with the current Israeli government in particular and of course going at Iran.
It is not a secret that the Republican leadership in the Congress, and its own policy writers and strategists at various think tanks tend to defend the hawkish Israeli government. And it will not be a surprising development to see if the newcomer conservative lawmakers tool themselves with last decade’s traditional ‘near unconditional support for Israel” policy in the 112th US Congress.
Obama, on the other hand, finally began his long planned Asian trip this weekend in which he and his entourage are set to visit India, Indonesia, S. Korea and Japan, and will also participate at the G20, G8 and Asia-Pacific Economic Council summits.
After 10 day-long Asia trip, Obama will be in Lisbon, Portugal to attend the NATO summit on the 19th and 20th, during which the NATO alliance is expected to make its decision over the proposed anti-missile shield. Ankara is still assessing the plans, and weighing different options and seeking various returns for, what seems to be a looming limited Turkish cooperation on the missile system.
Obama’s Iran policy will continue to be a crucial test in a Republican boosted Washington environment, and Turkey’s approach to this policy might draw even a larger audience and consequences in there.
I asked Mike Hammer, a spokesperson of the National Security Council of the White House on Thursday about possible Turkish role going forward to the talks between P5+1 and Iran. Some suggested in past week that Ankara will or should play an effective role in terms of facilitating these negotiations, and hosting them in Turkey. Hammer responded, “It is not yet clear that the Iranians have accepted Lady Ashton’s invitation to discuss their nuclear program,’  pointing out to the vagueness of the current status of the talks.
However, Hammer responded what potential role Washington sees for Turkey: “We have constant dialogue with Turkey, even if we’ve had disagreements, particularly as it relates to the vote on sanctions.  So I can’t forecast in terms of in the future what exactly Turkey’s role will be or that of other countries. But this process is being managed through the P-5+1.  That’s what’s been working so far.  The international community writ large supports this effort and Iran knows what it needs to do. And the first thing is to begin by accepting the invitation for talks on their nuclear program, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Analyzing this respond, one prominent observer of the Turkey-US relations noted that Washington wants Turkey to “keep it out,” when it comes to negotiations with Iran, rather than any effective role Ankara expects to play.
At a time when the Russians and Chinese, lend a supporting hand to Washington, the Obama administration feels it does not have a comforting and full-supporting corresponding voice in Ankara.
In post-Tuesday world, Obama acknowledged that he drew lessons from the elections returns. 
Would the post-Tuesday world also a good time for Ankara to reckon its own relations particularly with the Obama administration?
More clearly, does today’s Ankara find Obama is a formidable and fitting partner going forward to work on host of regional issues? Or it considers the good-old Republican administration in Washington always would be a preferable choice?
One little detail must be noted though and it is that today’s majority of newcomer Republicans are much different than the traditional Republican voices of the past. Many new conservative newcomers have very rigid views on Islam, and have made inroads into Washington riding the waves of Islamophobia. It will be a certainly an interesting occurrence to observe how newly boosted Republican leadership react to confident, pro-Islamic administration in Ankara, which cozies up with Iran just fine and bickers with Israel, every possible chance it gets, in coming months.
If Turkey believes that it is its own destiny to become a regional power once more in its region, one that will create a Pax-Turca, it ought to start re-considering its relations with Obama administration in this post-election season, while studying the alternative administration of the future, which is in the fast making since Tuesday.  
Such a reassessment might help Ankara to view the wounded Obama administration and its policies through very distinct perspectives.
1 Comment   Bookmark and Share  printer friendly PRINTER FRIENDLY


Guest - ManInTheMiddle
2010-11-07 20:09:29
 What? No comments?! Maybe because it's very difficult to discern what the heck the author is talking about. Having said that, here are my comments: More ridiculous sounding comments about the GOP's meager "victory" which gave them only a slight majority in the House, while the Senate and the WH are still under DEM's control, are the naive and knee-jerk musing of a talking head warning Turkey that the new GOP is make up of tough pro-Israel and anti-Islam or Iran people. So what? Why should Turkey alter its sound geo-political policies because bunch of neo-cons have won only a small section of American politics? The American people voted for a few GOPers with a mandate to fix the economy, not pick a fight with Turkey over Iran or any other matter irrelevant to their pocket books. If the Republicans spend their political capital to create mischief to save Israel, the American people will throw them out. Have you thought about that Mr. Tanir, all all?! If not, I suggest that you do.

The decision that Ankara hates making
Friday, October 29, 2010

“Did you read the latest Turkey report in The Economist,” Dr. Carol Henry, a chemist and professorial lecturer at George Washington University, asked me during our meeting following her speech at the Appropriate Use of Science in Public Policy discussion in Washington, D.C. Not only The Economist, but many other Western foreign policy journals these days are producing more sophisticated and nuanced studies on Turkey than ever before.
Turkey’s fast-growing economy, its geographic location and close proximity to much of the regions that America has great difficulty dealing with make this 87-year-old young republic even more attractive to wider public policy discussions in Washington. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, nearly decade-long rule brought a political stability to Turkey, but also clear and unusually high-profile disagreements to the relations with the United States. The latest development that makes Turkey the center of many discussion circles in Washington is not surprisingly Turkey’s unwillingness to decide quickly on new NATO anti-missile plans.
Turkish officials, from the top-down, repeatedly stated in recent months that they don’t see Iran as a threat to Turkey’s national security. Dr. Henri Barkey, Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, when asked about Turkey's warm feelings towards Iran, stated, “Even though Turkey does not see Iran as a threat, the other 27 members of the NATO alliance do.”
All together, Turkey is increasingly perceived as a "difficult partner" in the alliance, Barkey underlined. Last time Turkey had disagreements with the NATO leadership over Rasmussen's election. Now another critical decision and if Turkey appears to be in another bargaining posture, this seems to becoming a "pattern," Barkey concluded.
“So many sincerity tests come Ankara’s way at once,” one Turkey observer said this week. “Latest NATO anti-missile offer,” said the source, who has very close proximity to the Ankara administration, “shows the limits of the Obama administration’s multilateral worldview.” In other words, the Obama administration seems to introduce another “with us or against us” constraint on Ankara at a time when its administration has just started to fancy steering its own wheel of interest in its wider region, pursuing its own independent policies at an unprecedented level.
Steve Clemons, director of public policy strategies and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, said in an interview that the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. is currently being recalibrated. “Both sides, following the recent unexpected events, happened to give cold showers to each other. These differences also played the role of wake-up calls for both sides. In fundamental terms though, Turkey’s significance is rising. Turkey is not a reactionary country anymore in terms of its foreign affairs. Turkey is now creating its own circumstances. This is also good for the U.S., because the U.S. needs responsible partners that can work together in other regions."
Clemons, who also publishes a very popular public policy debate blog, The Washington Note, sounded well reversed with the latest developments surrounding Turkey and its relations with NATO and the U.S. “Turkey must be careful when it gambles,” warned Clemons, “and be careful not to compromise the NATO alliance while it is following its own interests.” Saying no to a new NATO shield, predicted Clemons, “might produce results which would be strategically consequential in a very negative sense.”
Clemons said: "The Turkish side deserves credit for many of its policies in recent years that it has undertaken. However, today the world including China and Russia recognizes Iran as security threat and takes their own measures. And that would be a very big mistake for Turkey to overlook this security concern. In that case, Turkey would appear to be appeasing Iran’s rising military capacity. Having harmony in the region or zero problems with neighbors should not mean Turkey is seriously compromising its long term security needs.”
I asked one high-level U.S. military official this week, who held an important military post in Turkey in the past and has vast interest and expertise on relations with Turkey currently, to explain the potential implications if the Turkish administration did not want the radar system to be deployed in its soil as part of the adaptive phase approach. “In military perspective,” the official stated, “the entire NATO missile system would not be destroyed. It would certainly limit the effectiveness of it. ... There would be a need to redesign the architecture of the system. However, it would move forward. Politically, Turkey has been tracing its own interests in various regions. Even though the EU is still the biggest trade partner of Turkey, its eastern neighbors, including Iran, fast on the rise. Turkey has to communicate with its Eastern neighbors, and explain to them that the new NATO anti-missile project is not aggressive in its mission, it is a defensive one. And it is expected to bring more security and stability in the region, therefore better environment for more trade.”
Steve Flanagan, senior vice president and Henry A. Kissinger chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me that “the new NATO anti-missile shield is essentially a reinforcement of overall solidarity between the NATO members. If Turkey says a flat ‘no’, that would be very damaging in Turkey’s standing in the alliance.”
Flanagan said: “President Obama justified the new NATO missile shield, which is a different version of the Bush administration. This was about extending a missile defense system to ensure all ally countries’ safety. This version is a cost-effective system compared to the previous one, not excessively requiring a military notion.”
Turkish high-level diplomats, on the other hand, were extremely careful this week not to let any daylight get in between the countries on the matter and rejected any friction.
According to Barkey, the conditions that have been put forward by Ankara would be a face-saving solution, "if these conditions are met, then Turkey will be able to say to its base at home, and even to the Middle Eastern audiences that its demands have been met."
In Washington, the common perspective is that Turkey’s potential rejection of the NATO anti-missile shield would reinforce the perception that Turkey is drifting away from the West as the loudest, sharpest and in a clear statement.
Ankara, even though it wishes to get along well with all sides, including U.S. and Iran at the same time, now has to remember its commitment to its decades-old NATO alliance.
Turkey hates that it is being pushed to choose either and to make a statement about where it is standing once more.
And that is why Turkey hates making this decision.
4 Comments   Bookmark and Share  printer friendly PRINTER FRIENDLY


Guest - harman
2010-11-01 16:24:18
 Again, looking at Taksim, why should we deal or support those guys in Europe, while channels like Roj TV are free to coordinate attacks and terrorism in Turkey from countries like Denmark. Note that the extreme right Danish Peoples Party wants to ban Al_Jazeera and Al_Arabia from danish television as that party accuses them from provoking hatred, whereas channels supporting terrorism abroad fall under freedom of expression according the Danes. 
Guest - harman
2010-10-31 21:56:04
 Look at Europe, leaders like Merkel and Sarkozy do not want to deal with Turkey in a sincere way. And guys like Wilders simply hate Turks. Why should Turkey carry NATO's missile shield? I guess Turkey should not. Of course, Iran poses a major risk. But if Iran deals with Turkey in a bad way because of the missile shield, can Turkey count on the European partners in NATO. I don't think so. So let's forget about it. 
Guest - Dimitrios
2010-10-31 14:38:39
 I am not saying that Turkey should or shouldn't support the missile system but on Murat's comment on NATO membership the rule of the game is 'collective security' and within it all NATO members give part of their sovereignty. The amount of sovereignty Turkey will have to give up relies upon the cost-benefit calculation amongst alliances-old (NATO) and potential (Iran) that is all the article above underlies. 
Guest - Murat
2010-10-30 18:51:02
 No NATO member, including Turkey, should be forced to make a compromise on key national interests for the sake of others. It would be difficult for Turkey to move ahead on this system as long as it singles out a major neighbor. This much should be clear to all. If the purpose is to corner Turkey but not a develop a system of defense, then certainly this would be a good way. Also, let us not be naive, best offense can be a defense at times. What prevented a WWIII was the balance of terror, not a single sided defense capability, which most likely increases a chance of conflict, and not decrease it as some would like us to believe.