Saturday, March 26, 2011

Washington, Ankara grow closer as wave of revolts continues

Washington hosted two high-level Turkish diplomats this week and had a chance to listen to the Turkish administration’s foreign policy vision spanning from Eurasia to the Middle East and North Africa during various think tank discussions.
One of the visiting diplomats, Ambassador Selim Yenel, deputy undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs and Public Diplomacy, was in Washington primarily for the sixth meeting of the U.S.-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission to follow up previous meetings to find ways to increase the trade between two countries. However, Yenel spent considerable time to reach members of the Congress, especially from the House Foreign Relations Committee, met some of the new members of the commission, and also talked at the German Marshall Fund, in a panel organized by Ian Lesser, senior Transatlantic fellow there. Interest in this particular discussion was high, as many of Washington’s serious Turkey watchers as well as diplomats from various European countries crowded the conference room.
During his talk, Ambassador Yenel gave a strikingly plain presentation on especially Turkey’s approach toward the Libyan unrest. Yenel appeared remarkably comfortable not only with his excellent English speaking but also while explaining some of Turkey's foreign policy dealings that have been under some criticism. When asked about Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s universalistic rhetoric especially in the Middle East, and how that particular rhetoric, (for example Erdoğan’s earlier remarks, “We call murder as murder anywhere in the world”) contrasts with Turkey’s soft-spoken language and “case-by-case” attitude toward Libya, Yenel replicated Turkey’s realist approach in pretty clear terms and articulated, “The Libyan case is a little different because of our vested interests there. Our people are working there, our companies. That is why we are taking a cautious approach on how we address this matter. Prime Minister Erdoğan talked to Gadhafi and told him, ‘Look, you have to look out for our Turkish interests there.’ And beyond that, of course we do have a holistic approach. But in real terms, when the situation becomes as difficult as it is now, as we are seeing in Libya, we have to be a realistic; we have to look out for our interests there. Frankly speaking, right now, we don’t know whether Gadhafi or the opposition can have any influence on what happens there. So, yes, saying certain things are good, but living in the real world, of course our approach and our policies have to gear toward this realism.”
Yenel’s straightforward definition of Turkey’s current foreign affairs in Washington remained very much the Nixon Doctrine in the late 60s and early 70s. Pursuer of realism, President Nixon’s basic theme in foreign affairs, which he wrote himself in February 1970 in the first annual report on foreign policy, was: “Our [national] interests must shape our commitments, rather than the other way around.” According to his foreign policy chief Henry Kissinger, “Nixon had treated American idealism as one factor among many,” while pursuing cold national interests.
Yenel, both at the GMF and later on Thursday at the Washington Foreign Policy Center where he and U.S. Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez, the head the U.S. delegation gave a press conference, repeated that what is taking place in North Africa and Middle East countries brought Turkey and the U.S. even closer together in the last three weeks. According to Yenel, both countries are talking to each other daily and much more often now. “The U.S. administration understands us better now,” Yenel said. "But is the attitude toward Turkey in Congress changing? It is still too early to tell.” During the congressional meetings of the Turkish delegation, Turkey’s dealing with Libya was not met with a hostile attitude, but on Israel and Iran, it appeared that the Turkish arguments still failed to make considerable gain. Revolts that are taking place in those countries created a new chance to bring us altogether together, Yenel reiterated.
According to Scott Wilson of the Washington Post, the Obama administration is preparing for the possibility of new Islamist regimes following the revolts in North Africa or Middle East. And certainly the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, value in the region rises, considering its Islamist roots ruling still a largely secular political system, and makes its alliance even more precious and sought-out.
During his GMF talk, Yenel also heard criticism about Turkey’s approach to Iran, especially following the June 2009 presidential elections in which the Turkish administration stayed aloof regarding Iranian regime's harsh treatment of protesters. Yenel once more resorted to the “case-by-case” approach and described the overthrown dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, as a “statesman” who was able to understand “the messages given to him by Prime Minister Erdoğan.” Yenel drew a contrast between situations in Iran and Egypt, and argued that in Iran there is more than one power center, while it was clear whom to deal with in Egypt. Instead, Turkey chooses to give its messages to Iran in private conversations, because the Iranian leaders do not like hearing criticism publicly.
Turkey’s bare “realist” approach to Libya, and the region, which was clearly articulated by Ambassador Yenel from different podiums this week in many ways reduces Ankara’s moral credibility. After all, simply, if Turkey’s “vested interests” in Libya do not permit Ankara to change its soft rhetoric, even after evacuating of all Turkish citizens, how would it be possible for Erdoğan to criticize any other country for double standards, considering various Western states have various levels of interest in each Middle Eastern country, including Israel.
One would hope that closer relations with the U.S. these days, as Ambassador Yenel happily stated, would also nudge Turkey's rhetoric from cold realism toward one that has a more universalistic tone, which Washington has been trying hard to strike.
US not shy on criticizing Ankara for freedom issues
I asked Assistant Secretary of State and spokesman P.J Crowley more than a dozen questions over the worsening record of Turkey’s freedom of press in recent months. Every time I had to ask, Crowley had plain responses that indicated that the U.S. administration has growing concerns over “the trend” in Turkey, which appears to be “intimidating” the Turkish press. P.J., on Thursday, added that the U.S. is urging for “any investigations or prosecutions to proceed in a transparent manner, and we will continue to engage Turkey and encourage an independent, pluralistic media.  It’s critical to a healthy democracy. And we will continue our assessments of global press freedoms in our annual Human Rights Report,” which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
However, let’s not kid ourselves. It is not the U.S. that will solve the freedom of expression issues in Turkey, and it is not certainly the U.S. that orchestrates the arrests of journalists, as conspiracy theorists, including a big part of Oda TV-type journalists, have been arguing all along.
It is important to note that Erdoğan, on the same day that another round of journalists got arrested, stated, “There is only one thing I have to say; it is these processes need to be finished quickly, in a short time. This is my wish, and I would like to especially state this.”
It is a hopeful sign, even if it comes this late. However, it is obvious that the Turkish media has to take a firm stand first, while expecting the U.S. or EU to voice those concerns. The latest events in the region displayed once more how powerful ordinary people are, and how hapless Washington is while trying to catch up with their aspirations.
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Guest - FREE WiKiLeaks
2011-03-06 23:12:21
 What a loads of Trash! Tell our US 'friends', FREE WiKiLeaks. Nominee Julian Assange as Noble Prize. 
Guest - Christoph
2011-03-06 21:12:02
 Sorry to dissapoint your nationalist beliefs but I am not a Greek Cypriot, ilker/cyprus. I am an American of Greek ethnicity who had family in Smyrna (Izmir) before the 'Great Exchange' in 1922. Anatolia is as much a home to me as it is to you, my family loved their home in Smyrna. But be that as it may, my only 'axe to grind' is I want to see Turkey become a progressive, modern society. You say that is happening under the AKP regime, I say they are taking you backwards. The Deep State may have been defanged to some extent, but the Islamists have no answers for Turkey that will lead you into the 21st Century. Erdogan, Gul and Davutoglu will lead Turkey to ruin and ruination-I believe that with my heart and soul. Since, as you said, they are undoubtedly going to win the next elections we'll get a chance to see which of us is right. 
Guest - ilker/cyprus
2011-03-06 18:55:35
 @ Christoph No doubt you are a greek nationalist proberly a cypriot who has lost his land to the antolian immergrants thats why you bear a deep hatred towards turks,for your information the best thing that has ever hapened to turkey was the akp party who has brought wealth and respect back to turkey and turks in general,and thank god they have changed turkey from a coup based backward pheasant mentality to a modern forward thinging country that it is today.The AKP party will win the next elections and will be here for another five years and you see how turkey will change even further for the better of the country i belive, and all you can do is watch with envy. 
Guest - Steve
2011-03-06 16:56:10
 @ Sam: You are absolutely right when you state: "When will the US and other powers stop bringing their puppets to power, when the wealth and resources are shared, including education and jobs -- that is when democracy will be reached." . . . Although WE have to remember, Isn't the American Government populated by "puppets" purchased from the storeroom and weened upon the tidings of the Global Corporate Fascists, and only work for THEIR bidding? To expect anything else out of such a group would require miracles -- they know no other way -- and, IF they did, they'd be recalled & reprogrammed immediately to REMEMBER the bottom line. 
Guest - Christoph
2011-03-06 16:35:05
 @ ilke/cyprus, I comment here because somebody has to think in this forum. All you and H. Kemal do is parrot nationalist nonsense and hate speech. Turkey is in dire need of opinions that aren't in lock-step with the Deep State and AKP minions. For too many decades the powers-that-be in Turkey issued policy from on high and everyone else said 'Yup-yup-yup'. That must end. Why don't you take up critical thinking, you may find you enjoy it? 
Guest - ilker/cyprus
2011-03-06 16:04:08
 @ Christoph Same old b...s..t from you as normal,why dont you do us a favour and stick to your greek news and stop your bial and hatred towards turkey and turks if thats all you have to offer this forum. 
Guest - ZV
2011-03-06 11:16:29
 @American, please you don't open your mouth. all that comes out of your mouth is non-sense. You have no clue what is going on in Palestine. If Palestinians are terrorists for defending their right to live in that land, then Israelis are equally terrorists for bombing the hell out of those Palestinians. eye for an eye! 
Guest - Kahan
2011-03-06 05:00:24
 I respectfully disagree with the Guest-American. No doubt, Gaddafi is ruthless. He opresses, suppresses and tortures his own people. But without Ameican and European tolerance of him, he would not reach this stage today. Erdogan is doing everything to safeguard the interests of his own country. He knows the West understands OIL more than anything else. And, if some puppet is placed by the West as replacement of Gaddafi, Turkey has lot to lose. No doubt Erdogan criticizes Israel. It is sad. But both sides contribute to the Turkey-Israeli problem. Israel should realize it. 
Guest - Sam
2011-03-06 03:09:59
 If America or American states it, it must be truth ... Other countries do not matter, their interests dont matter ... Only US interests are at stake and the road taken should preserve and enhance their interests ... Is this what American is stating ? Bring universal embargos let the everyday people suffer even more, bomb the shit out of everything and get the contracts for all after that ? Is that the American model or doctorine ? When will the US and other powers stop bringing their puppets to power, when the wealth and resources are shared including education and jobs that is when democracy will be reached ... Not when the US wants to rape and pillage your country! 
Guest - Dulcinea
2011-03-06 00:22:13
 Great article. Going forward, the Middle East will be a more complicated animal to deal with. Both Turkey's and US' moral credibility have been damaged, and will continue to be damaged as both countries struggle to deal with the many interest groups, and advance their interests in the region. 
Guest - Christoph
2011-03-05 20:49:54
 The premise of this article-that the middle east turmoil has brought Turkey and the USA closer-is just flat out wrong. Turkey under the AKP regime has drifted far away from America. Turkey is no longer trusted in Washington DC-the 14-1 UN SC votes were evidence of that. Turkey refusing to support Libyan economic sanctions is more evidence of that. Mr. Tanir's article is more hope than factual. The reality is, relations between Turkey and the USA have been going south since 2003 when Turkey refused to provide logistical support for the US led invasion of Iraq. Since then they have gone steadily downward. Today Washington only communicates with Turkey's leadership when they want to 'advise them' not to do something. 
Guest - Victor
2011-03-05 20:29:50
 AMERICAN, you must have heard that we in USA do not produce many citizens (most politicians included) who are even remotely informed about world affairs! So, your comment reflecting your prejudice against Turkish Government and your blind support for everything Israeli is nothing surprising to any one here! Remember that your extremely excessive exaggerations of the Israeli situation only diminish your credibility in more ways than one!! How can you say, “insulting Israel for bombing terrorists launching rockets into Israel daily?!” Who are these terrorists? Palestinians who were kicked out of their homeland for the Jews? Launching more like FIRECRACKERS than rockets! And, DAILY?! What would happen if, like Israel, USA also slaughtered 1500 civilians, with over 400 children (SEE: each time a US soldier was captured or killed in a foreign country?? Did you even read or understand the Turkish response in the article regarding Libya? I doubt it!! 
Guest - Daniel in Argentina
2011-03-05 19:49:51
 Dear Guest American I´ll tell you what is it: It is simply that Erdogan knows that stirring the deep antisemitic feelings in the least educated segments his society he can score easy points.. By playing to the Anti Israeli crowds of hate indoctrinated arab masses that have been lead by their despotic leaders to believe all their problems are rooted in Isarel's mere existence, he can gain the applause of the Arab street.. He is a demagogue ready to use the vile antisemitic propaganda of Gebbles and the Zars if that helps him politically. and there are vast segments of the educated turkish establishment most willing to play along... 
Guest - Daniel in Argentina
2011-03-05 19:46:01
 Dear Guest American I´ll tell you what is it: It is simply that Erdogan knows that stirring the deep antisemitic feelings in the least educated segments his society he can score easy points.. By playing to the Anti Israeli crowds of hate indoctrinated arab masses that have n been lead by their despotic leaders to believe all their problems are rooted in Isarel's mere existence 
Guest - ilker/cyprus
2011-03-05 17:46:07
 Excellent article by Ihan. I dont see anything wrong with turkeys policy of adopting the old nixon doctrine,israel acts all the time in its own interests.Obama is not stupid he listens more to turkey then anybody else,as for turkeys relations with iran its more economic,and when ever america needs a favour from iran they ask turkey, a example was the arms shipment to chaves, american wanted this stopped they asked turkey to tell the iranian to stop the shipment.Turkeys approach is allways dialog rather then confrontation,these are the principals of the father of turkey M.K.ATATURK. The world would be a better place if the world followed these same principals i belive. 
Guest - American
2011-03-05 03:03:46
 Erdogan had no problem insulting Israel for bombing terrorists who were launching rockets into Israel daily, but he refuses to utter a word on Libya. That is hard to reconcile and justify. At best it is hypocrisy and populism at it's worst. At worst it is arrogance. 

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