Keep an eye on the news out of Ankara over the next month or so because the Tyrant of Turkey is playing a long game in international diplomacy right now and he’s clearly quite skilled at it. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the midst of simultaneously shoring up alliances on any given day and undermining them the next. He’s also torn apart the once promising system of democracy in his nation. This week he flipped the next page in his relationship with the United States, announcing after a recent phone call to the White House that he was “on the same wavelength” with President Trump.
I’m not sure which specific wavelength they have their radios tuned to, but I know I don’t like the tunes they’re playing. (Reuters)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump last Friday were the first occasion in a long time the two NATO allies were “on the same wavelength” and the communication would continue in the coming days.
In a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party in parliament, Erdogan said discussions would continue on the issues of Syrian Kurdish forces, defense industry cooperation and the fight against the network of a U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in Turkey.
Erdogan is making public announcements at home which are, to put it mildly, somewhat in conflict with what we’re hearing from other sources, but he’s clearly gained the attention and, I fear, the trust of President Trump. After the last phone call on Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister claimed that Trump had promised to cut off arms and supplies for the Kurds. That would be a startling move for Trump to make, considering how loyal the Kurds have been in the role of U.S. allies in the region since the beginning of the Iraq war, not to mention the tremendous losses they’ve endured.
In response, the White House wasn’t exactly crystal clear, neither confirming nor denying that Trump made that promise. The only nod to the situation came with this: (Washington Examiner)
Without addressing details, the White House instead says Trump “informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return.”
Absent any context, that’s a perfectly normal and expected position for the White House to take. With the major battles against ISIS winding down, resources would obviously be reallocated. But “cutting them off” would be not only a snub, but it would send a signal that the Kurds don’t have our support anymore, opening the door for their other enemies in the region. Turkey is near the top of that list of enemies. And at the very same moment that he’s exchanging chummy phone calls with the United States President, our embassies are still locked in a tit-for-tat exchange of kicking out each other’s respective diplomats.
Whatever Erdogan is up to, he’s clearly capitalizing on his country’s strength in that region for all it’s worth. And unless we learn that Trump has been working some sort of deal under the covers which hasn’t managed to leak out to the press, it’s looking more and more as if we’re being played.
Keep in mind that Erdogan is keeping a large number of balls in the air right now. He’s still in the midst of a spat with Germany that’s threatened to break out into a full-blown diplomatic crisis. While Turkey dances around the idea of EU membership and their position in NATO, Erdogan is forging stronger alliances with Russia, Iran and Venezuela.
Erdogan is still holding Americans hostage, including Pastor Andrew Brunson (who has been held for more than a year now), and is crushing opposition to his regime brutally inside his country. If our own president is going to be “on the same wavelength” with him, we really should be getting something out of this deal. To date, there’s no sign of that.