By Barry Rubin
President Barack Obama is continuing his love affair with Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdogan. As Erdogan continues to undermine Turkish democracy, throw hundreds of moderates into jail, destroy the nation’s institutions, help Iran, throw hysterical tantrums about how much he hates Israel, promote Islamism in the region, and is fresh from still another meeting with Hamas leaders, Obama continues to use Erdogan as his guru.
When the two men met at the Seoul, South Korea, Nuclear Security Summit on March 25, Obama practically slobbered over the anti-American ruler, calling Erdogan his “friend and colleague….We find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues.”
When Erdogan goes to elections or is criticized by the opposition he uses statements like this to “prove” that his policies aren’t radical or anti-Western at all. Here’s a man whose regime can help terrorist groups organize a violent confrontation with Israel, preside over a virulently anti-American media, insist Iran isn’t seeking nuclear weapons and has a wonderful government, and then be lionized by the president of the United States.
“I think it’s fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension. And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”
What did the two men talk about? Well, they first discussed Syria, an issue on which Obama praised Erdogan’s “outstanding leadership.” In fact, Turkey has helped to engineer an Islamist leadership in the Syrian National Council that wrecked any chance for opposition’s unity. Turkey’s rulers did this not to promote democracy but to promote the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now, according to reliable sources, Obama is discouraging Erdogan from advocating a no-fly zone and safe haven in northern Syria because the U.S. government has basically decided not to help the opposition, which will ensure that the Syrian dictatorship crushes it and continues to be Iran’s main ally in the region.
Instead, Obama is opting, in his words, for “a process whereby a transition to a representative and legitimate government in Syria takes place.” In other words, Obama advocates a deal between the opposition and the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad If this sounds like a contradiction, remember that this is also the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood line but is opposed by both the Free Syrian Army and the moderate oppositionists.
Of course, however, this strategy will merely buy time for the regime to achieve a bloody victory. Erdogan is now headed to Tehran where he will try to convince his friends there to stop helping their friends in Syria. Does that sounds like a mission likely to succeed?
Erdogan and Obama also discussed Iran. While Obama kept up his superficially tough language (“I believe there is a window of time to resolve this question diplomatically, but that window is closing”) he also indicated his strategy on that issue. In exchange for assuring Iran “the right to engage in peaceful nuclear power,” he thinks that Tehran will give up its ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. He thinks it is possible to negotiate a deal with Iran.
And how can Obama use Erdogan as his intermediary with Iran when the Turkish ruler made an unauthorized–according to administration officials!–deal with Tehran in 2010 that sabotaged the delicate U.S. drive to toughen anti-Iran sanctions? Indeed, Obama gave Turkey a waiver on implementing the sanctions and Turkish trade with Iran keeps growing, in direct contradiction to Washington’s supposed strategy! For Obama to use a man who is, in effect, in cahoots with the Iranian regime, who has said that he doesn’t believe Iran is building nuclear weapons and stressed his friendship toward that dictatorship, is remarkable.
Erdogan is totally indifferent to U.S. interests over Iran while, regarding Israel, he sounds more like Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the issue than like any past American president.
Obama’s policy toward Iran will also inevitably fail, merely giving Tehran more time to build nuclear bombs. And as Obama appears weak, he encourages Iran to be more aggressive, thus making an eventual war more rather than less likely.
Obama did chalk up one small achievement, getting the Turkish regime to reopen the Eastern Orthodox seminary at Halki. Yet on everything else—including Erdogan’s dreadful human rights’ record—Erdogan gives nothing while getting everything. And, as we’ve seen previously, Obama apparently said nothing to encourage Erdogan to ease his regime’s passionately anti-Israel policy that has periodically crossed the line into open antisemitism.
To top off the love fest, Obama concludes:
“And I also appreciate the advice he gives me, because he has two daughters that are a little older than mine — they’ve turned out very well, so I’m always interested in his perspective on raising girls.”
Taking advice from a radical Islamist about raising his daughters sounds rather strange, especially since Erdogan’s daughter is an Islamist politician herself. After I pointed out how Erdogan’s wife was visibly bent and terrified during the couple’s last visit to the White House, the regime launched a furious attack on me. I wonder if Erdogan gave him any advice on dealing with Michelle.
In the end, Erdogan gloated:
“A very, very important point has been that from the moment Barack became President we upgraded the status of our relations from a strategic partnership to a model partnership, which he also placed a lot of importance on.” He will again meet Obama in June and that “will also lead to a significant increase once again for those relations.”
Erdogan can well be delighted. He can do whatever he wants, trample on human rights at home; court radicals abroad including Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran; subvert U.S. interests, and still have Obama sit worshipfully at his feet.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.