Turkey: Syria will announce reforms, so leave them alone

posted at 9:30 am on March 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Politico analyzes the strained relations between the Obama administration and Turkey, which provides one potential explanation for the schizophrenic White House response to the various crises in the Middle East.  When Barack Obama took office, he pledged to bring the US closer to Turkey, but that has been a moving target, so to speak.   While Obama tried to tighten ties between Washington and Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was moving Turkey closer to Iran and the Arab states of the Middle East, for a variety of reasons:

The president and his aides have cultivated a relationship with the nation from the earliest days of his administration. Acknowledging the tension that followed the Iraq war, which Turkey opposed, Obama pledged a fresh start.

“You will have a partner in the United States,” he declared in a speech during a two-day visit to Ankara in April 2009.

Yet when American allies like England and France called for intervention to stop Qadhafi’s onslaught against pro-democracy rebels, Turkey strongly opposed military action. That stance put Turkey at odds with much of the rest of the Western world, particularly the United States.

“Military intervention by NATO in Libya or any other country would be totally counterproductive,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said just before the military campaign began. “In addition to being counterproductive, such an operation could have dangerous consequences.”

Hugh Pope, a regional expert at the International Crisis Group, said Turkey “has an ambition for a high-minded, pro-democracy position on the Middle East,” but other factors were likely in play. In Libya, he said, Turkey “was, and is, constrained by enormous individual interests: 25,000 workers [in Libya], more than $15 billion in outstanding contracts [and] a public opinion that is enormously skeptical of Western intentions in the Middle East.”

The effort to chase Turkey might explain some of the headscratching moments from the last two months.  Obama appeared gung-ho to get rid of a US ally in Egypt when unrest began in Cairo, demanding a “transition” after eight days of remarkably peaceful demonstrations.  It took twice as long for Obama to demand Moammar Gaddafi’s exit from Libya, even though his government had resorted to violence much earlier.  It took NATO four weeks to decide what to do about a no-fly zone, by which time the point was nearly moot, as Gaddafi’s troops stormed Benghazi, the major rebel stronghold.

Obama has also been reluctant to demand that Bashar Assad step aside in Syria even after days of regime forces firing on unarmed demonstrators.  Perhaps that can also be explained by Obama’s pursuit of Turkey and Erdogan:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for reforms in Syria at a press conference on Monday.

Erdogan said he spoke to Syrian President Bashar Assad, telling him to answer the public’s calls and adopt a reformist approach. He added that Assad is working on lifting emergency rule and restrictions on political parties.

Assad says he’ll announce an “important decision” in two days:

Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said on Monday President Bashar al-Assad would announce important decisions that will “please the Syrian people” in the next two days.

Shara was speaking to Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar television. The station did not give further details. Assad has been facing the biggest challenge to his 11-year rule after two weeks of anti-government protests spread across the country.

Meanwhile, th0ugh, the only “important decision” taking place on the streets of Deraa has to do with pulling triggers:

Syrian security forces opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators chanting against emergency laws in the southern city of Deraa on Monday, a witness said.

Why would it take two days to announce reforms?  It sounds as though Assad wants a little more time to prep the battlefield.  He’s murdering unarmed civilians in the street, and Erdogan — who objects to the NATO effort in Libya supposedly because of civilian casualties — is enabling Assad by keeping the West off of his back.

Turkey is a critical nation for the West, so it’s within our interest to do our best to keep them close.  However, if Erdogan is insisting on defending and befriending thugocracies and radical Islamist regimes, then perhaps we won’t get much from that relationship anyway.


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We still “owe” Turkey for making us sail the Desert Storm Invasion force through the Suez Canal instead of letting us go through Northern Iraq…

I’m getting a little tired of this “ally” being the tail that ends up cimpletely wagging the dog…

Khun Joe on March 28, 2011 at 9:33 AM

When Barack Obama took office, he pledged to bring the US closer to Turkey…

Actually what he meant to say was that he would bring the US closer to BECOMING a TURKEY!

And so far, in that regards, he has succeeded.

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Why would it take two days to announce reforms?

…..

Still much faster than Obama adressing his pesky citizens.

artist on March 28, 2011 at 9:36 AM

Look around the globe. Turkey and Pakistan are rapidly moving closer to China on the military front and economic front. China is simply a more reliable partner these days. We’ve apparently proven that we are not. Were it not for NATO, Turkey would not give us the time of day.

Syria will do nothing to upset the current set-up in Damascus. Syria is a family business, nothing more. Members of the family get the goodies, non-family members need not apply. Whatever is good for the family is good for Syria.

Obama trying to play statesman with Syria? Clinton? Unless they are ready to fork over tons of cash to keep the family in power, they are seen by Syria as simply blowing hot air up some orifice.

But Bush turned the world against us and made everybody hate us, right?

Obama is awesome. :-)

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:44 AM

Still much faster than Obama adressing his pesky citizens notifying Congress.

artist on March 28, 2011 at 9:36 AM

FIFY

Shy Guy on March 28, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Turkey is a critical nation for the West, so it’s within our interest to do our best to keep them close.

Not anymore – they become more and more radical and smug, in large part because they can afford a large military with other people money.

Did someone heard something about all those secular generals arrested in 2009 and 2010 by this islamist called Erdogan?

Rookie on March 28, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Khun Joe on March 28, 2011 at 9:33 AM

This

SouthernGent on March 28, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Turkey’s position on interference has more to do with the Kurds than civilian welfare.

OldEnglish on March 28, 2011 at 9:48 AM

From now on they will only kill protestors out of camera range.

Now that’s real Islamic reform!

profitsbeard on March 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Further confirmation of the Iran-Syria-Lebanon-Turkey(-Venezuela-Cuba-Brazil) axis?

steebo77 on March 28, 2011 at 9:51 AM

With friends like these……

cmsinaz on March 28, 2011 at 9:54 AM

Isn’t it great to have such a NATO ally like Turkey? I hope we’ll be able to repay them with our diplomatic expertise some day!

cartooner on March 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Turkey is a critical nation for the West, so it’s within our interest to do our best to keep them close.

I understand why this was true in the past, but is this still the case? If so, why?

jaschenb74 on March 28, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Turkey is in a soft power struggle with Iran for more influence in the Mid East. Turkey is trying to win points with Syria. Attention Turkey, Iran is watching you.

albill on March 28, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Here’s a short list of Kaddafi’s vicious ‘casus belli’ against America and our NATO allies.

Munich Olympic Massacre
London Constable Murder
Rome/Vienna Airport Massacres
Berlin Discoteque Massacre
Greek TWA840 Massacre
UK Lockerbie Massacre
French UTA772 Massacre
IRA proxy massacres
EU Nurse Prison-Rape Extortion
Swiss hostage extortion

Remind folks again: What were the legitimate ‘casus belli’ against America and our NATO allies by Syria’s myopic ophthalmologist?

Terp Mole on March 28, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Islam is the Enemy.

Turkey is Islamic.

It really is that simple.

pseudonominus on March 28, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Turkey is in a soft power struggle with Iran for more influence in the Mid East. Turkey is trying to win points with Syria. Attention Turkey, Iran is watching you.

albill on March 28, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Erdogan has been cozying up to Assad for quite some time, but he’s still actively courting favor with the mullahs and Ahmadinejad (don’t forget the Turkey-Brazil “solution” to avoid sanctions on Iran, the Hamas flotilla, etc.). Turkey and Iran may clash at some point in the future, but for right now I think they have forged a loose alliance (à la German National Socialists and Soviet Socialists). What’s going on in Syria may well be at the instigation of Iran (who would like to take a more active role in managing the affairs of its vassal – either replacing Assad, who has been somewhat of a wild card for them, or being able to exert more influence over him in the future). It’s in everyone’s (Turkey’s and Iran’s) long-term interests to have the United States as far away as possible.

steebo77 on March 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM

And do remember the backer of Hezbollah is Syria and Iran… their favorite man to do this was Imad Mugniyah.

He was implicated in the Bombing of the US Embassy in Lebanon before he helped to organize the Marine Barracks bombing, and the bombing of the US Embassy there afterwards.

Those are attacks on our extra-territorial soil: Embassies are sovereign territory of their representative government.

The attack on our troops was the highest US death toll to a single terror event before 9/11.

Syria must go.

May the Syrian people assert their sovereign right to change or abolish their abusive government.

ajacksonian on March 28, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Turkey: Syria will announce reforms, so leave them alone

Makes perfect sense! Next thing you know we will be reading headline like this:

Obama: “I said I will be laser-focused on creating jobs, jobs, jobs, so leave me alone.”

Obama: “Let me be clear, the world still love us since I am the POTUS, so leave me alone.” (Let me finish my waffle.)

Sir Napsalot on March 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM

We still “owe” Turkey for making us sail the Desert Storm Invasion force through the Suez Canal instead of letting us go through Northern Iraq…

Damn straight. Thanks to Turkey, we were all hammer with no anvil. In the long run, Turkey’s perfidy might even be seen to have exceeded that of France. A lot of our subsequent problems in Iraq can be traced to our lack of access from the north.

docob on March 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Turkey is no longer an ally, and has not been for some time now. Time to stop pretending, and let them know their actions and words have consequences.

scotash on March 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Beinart illogic

The Congolese, presumably, will find it comforting to know that the great powers are as just as indifferent to savagery in other lands as they are to the savagery in theirs.

Schadenfreude on March 28, 2011 at 1:56 PM