Jun 28 2018

Washington should reach out to Erdoğan – ex-U.S. envoy

The United States should reach out to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to help deal with criticial regional issues, said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Ankara.

Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections made clear that Erdoğan will be Turkey’s leader for the foreseeable future, so Washington should cooperate with him given turmoil in countries from Yemen, to Syria and Ukraine, Jeffrey wrote in an analysis for the Washington Institute (WINEP).

“No one knows where Erdoğan might take Turkey now, and he is a difficult partner under any circumstances,” he said. “But in economic and military terms, Turkey is one of the strongest, most stable states in the Middle East, and a partner that has cooperated with the West on issues ranging from Afghanistan and Ukraine to Syrian refugees and NATO defenses against Iranian missiles.”

Whatever the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan decides to do after winning more executive powers at the election, Washington is in a good position to take advantage of a more stable Turkey, Jeffrey said. It has just reached a deal with Ankara on the Syrian region of Manbij, which involves U.S.-Turkish military cooperation, and Washington has delivered the first F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey despite opposition from Congress.

“If the Trump administration is serious about the priorities expressed in the National Security Strategy it released last December—namely, focusing on competition with hostile states—it needs strong allies like Turkey, even when they come with major domestic baggage on human rights and other issues,” Jeffrey said.

Some notable Turkey experts in Washington challenged to a talking point that was voiced earlier by other experts that Turkey had a free election, if not fair. This time WINEP's Amb. Jeffrey's description of "administrative tilting of campaign processes in favor of Erdogan's faction" in the piece to explain blatantly unfair election campaigns seems a big understatement of what went on in last 2 months in Turkey during the election season. Jeffrey said:

Even if Turkey takes these steps, its worrisome human rights record, administrative tilting of campaign processes in favor of Erdogan’s faction, and accused electoral irregularities will continue to roil the bilateral relationship. Although President Trump appears to have no qualms about engaging with illiberal leaders, much of his administration, Congress, public opinion, and U.S. allies expect Turkey to behave as a liberal democratic NATO ally, and they may decide to challenge bilateral cooperation if it does not.