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Obama and Erdogan of Turkey Oddly Effective Couple in a New Arab World

Obama and Erdogan of Turkey Oddly Effective Couple in a New Arab World

Excerpts from two articles one from Washington and the other from Istanbul speak volumes and explain the roles of the Islamist government of Turkey in the US foreign policy in the Middle East.

Alyson Neel wrote in Today’s Zaman on 16 October 2011 an article titled: “Erdoğan and Obama’s phone chats reveal Turkey’s ascent

[International relations experts agree the United States and Turkey’s well-established alliance and Turkey’s ascent in the international arena explain why President Barack Obama has chatted with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan more than almost any other world leader despite fissures in a number of policy areas and differences between the two leaders’ governing styles.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Obama has placed more calls to Erdoğan than to any other world leader this year next to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“It is remarkable to hear how often they speak,” former New York Times bureau chief in İstanbul Stephen Kinzer told Sunday’s Zaman in an exclusive interview. “I think that it’s due above all not to a personal relationship between the two but to Obama’s realization of the role that Turkey has come to play in the region and in the wider world. He understands what Turkey has become, and I think he understands Turkey’s potential to project into other Muslim countries ideals the West would like to see projected but cannot do itself,” Kinzer explained.

Center for Strategic Research (SAM) Chairman Bülent Aras said the frequent communication between the two leaders makes perfect sense. “If you look at the US, it is one of the most involved nations in world politics, but the Atlantic is a literal gulf between the Western nation and Eurasia. Turkey, on the other hand, is very active in this region because of its location. In this age of global economic and political crises, it makes sense that Turkey is a perfect ally for the US. In fact, they are now more in need of each other. That’s why there is such a high level of political dialogue.”

Even Henry Kissinger, who served as national security advisor and then secretary of state for both the Nixon and Ford administrations, noted Turkey’s expanding role in the international arena last Thursday during a conference in İstanbul. “Turkey’s influence is growing at a time that the US is withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, plus Libya is opening up — so Turkey can play a significant role,” The Wall Street Journal reported Kissinger as commenting.

Obama and Erdoğan: ‘the odd couple’

International relations experts agreed that the two world leaders’ well-founded relationship is interesting considering their clear differences on the surface.]

And David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post on December 6, 2011 an article titled: “U.S. and Turkey find a relationship that works

[If you’re looking for factors that can keep the Arab Awakening from turning into a nightmare, this American-Turkish partnership is mildly reassuring. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have worked closely to manage events in Egypt, Libya, Syria and, increasingly, Iran.

They have talked by phone 13 times this year, according to the White House. The two didn’t start off as friends, but became so after a blunt conversation last year in Toronto. The relationship that emerged exemplifies Obama’s basic formulation of “mutual respect and mutual interest.”

For an administration that wants to influence Arab turmoil but also stay in the background, Erdogan has been the perfect cut-out: He has high credibility on the Arab Street, especially with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties empowered by the Arab revolutions. And he has a foreign minister with Kissingerian ambitions, Ahmet Davutoglu.

Erdogan embodies the “Turkish model” — a strong Islamist governing party that is committed to the free market and backed by a solid, pro-American military — which many administration officials see as the best hope for Egypt and its neighbors. But critics caution that Erdogan has narrowed the scope of democracy in Turkey by reducing the independence of the media, the judiciary and the army. In that sense, the Turkish model has dangers, as well as benefits.
As examples of “really close cooperation,” the official cites Turkish help in forming an Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; joint efforts against terrorist groups, including the Kurdish PKK; partnership on Afghanistan; and shared strategy during the Arab Spring.
The most delicate piece of Turkish-American business is trying to organize a peaceful transfer of power in Syria. Erdogan, once the closest foreign ally of President Bashar al-Assad, is now a bitter foe. As often with Erdogan, it’s personal: He feels Assad backed out on a reform promise he made several months ago. When Assad reneged, after Erdogan had told Obama he would have a deal within 72 hours, the Turkish prime minister was embarrassed and angry. That anger continues, and it’s driving the Turks to take a tough stance.

Washington and Ankara are planning an escalating pressure campaign against Assad, which will include economic sanctions, secret activities to support the opposition and perhaps a safe haven along the Turkish border and a humanitarian corridor inside Syria.

And what about Turkish relations with Iran, the ticking time bomb on its border? Administration officials note that Erdogan recently agreed to deploy a forward-based radar system that’s part of a NATO missile defense plan aimed chiefly at Iran. ]

All these were known well before and their plans are in action regardless of any positive development in Syria and Iran or any other country in the Middle East.

Are these plans about democracy and security? or Are they international campaign of state-sponsored terrorism and imperialism?

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