Philip H Gordon is the US Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. He sat down with an AP reporter this week to talk about Turkey.
Turkey is alienating US supporters and it needs to demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West, Gordon says. “We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but that needs to be demonstrated,” he said. “There are people asking questions about it in a way that is new, and that in itself is a bad thing that makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.”
“There are people…” Gordon say. And those people would be? Oh yeah — members of the United States Congress who serve at the pleasure of the Israel lobby.
Gordon cited Turkey’s vote against a U.S.-backed United Nations Security Council resolution on new sanctions against Iran and noted Turkish rhetoric after Israel’s deadly assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla last month. The Security Council vote came shortly after Turkey and Brazil, to Washington’s annoyance, had brokered a nuclear fuel-swap deal with Iran as an effort to delay or avoid new sanctions.
Some U.S. lawmakers who have supported Turkey warned of consequences for Ankara since the Security Council vote and the flotilla raid that left eight Turks and one Turkish-American dead. The lawmakers accused Turkey of supporting a flotilla that aimed to undermine Israel’s blockade of Gaza and of cozying up to Iran.
The raid has led to chilling of ties between Turkey and Israel, countries that have long maintained a strategic alliance in the Middle East.
Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, expressed surprise at Gordon’s comments. He said Turkey’s commitment to NATO remains strong and should not be questioned.
“I think this is unfair,” he said.
Tan said Turkish officials have explained repeatedly to U.S. counterparts that voting against the proposed sanctions was the only credible decision after the Turkish-brokered deal with Iran. Turkey has opposed sanctions as ineffective and damaging to its interests with an important neighbor. It has said that it hopes to maintain channels with Tehran to continue looking for a solution to the standoff over Iran’s alleged nuclear arms ambitions.
“We couldn’t have voted otherwise,” Tan said. “We put our own credibility behind this thing.”
Tan said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to discuss these issues with President Barack Obama on the margins of a summit of world economic powers in Toronto on Saturday.
Gordon said Turkey’s explanations of the U.N. episode have not been widely understood in Washington.
“There is a lot of questioning going on about Turkey’s orientation and its ongoing commitment to strategic partnership with the United States,” he said. “Turkey, as a NATO ally and a strong partner of the United States not only didn’t abstain but voted no, and I think that Americans haven’t understood why.”
Just two weeks ago, before Gordon decided his primary duty was to placate the Israel lobby, in an interview with the BBC he rejected the suggestion that the US and Turkey have become strategic competitors in the Middle East.
“I think the United States and Turkey remain strategic partners,” he said. “We have so many interests in common. We can have disagreements, and there are things we disagree on, not least the vote on Iran at the United Nations. Throughout that process we have been frank with each other about our differences. We’ve explained to them why we think it was important for countries to vote yes in the Iran resolution. They have explained to us why they think the Tehran declaration was something worth pursuing. And we’ve explained to them what we think the shortcomings are. That’s what friends and partners do.”
But can friends be so overbearing that they issue demands for a demonstration of commitment to their partnership?
The US wants Turkey to help advance America’s agenda in the Middle East. Is the Obama administration helping advance Turkey’s agenda in the region? Turkey after all is now in a much stronger position to promote regional stability than any of its Western tutors.
As deeply in debt as the United States is, there is one currency that it can use without fear of ever running short and it’s a currency whose value is appreciated in every corner of the globe. It’s called respect. A little goes a long way.