The Obama administration adopts an imperious tone with Turkey

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.

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4 thoughts on “The Obama administration adopts an imperious tone with Turkey

  1. delia ruhe

    Yes, I think this is primarily rhetoric for the purpose of soothing a petulant Israel. If Washington were smart, it would dump Israel and cultivate Turkey instead. The US would have a much better chance of achieving some of its Middle East objectives. This idea that Turkey somehow needs to demonstrate its commitment to the US is laughable. Compared to Israel, Turkey seems mature, independent, responsible and, in terms of world opinion, definitely on a roll. It doesn’t really have to answer to anybody — so long as it can keep one step ahead of the incredibly destructive Israeli hasbara machine, that is.

  2. Norman

    American interests in the Middle East. America has always sent the Military into every corner of the World to protect the civilian business interests, usually with the reason being a threat to the American way of life. Being under the thumb of the U.S.A., has/is proving to be a lost cause to all. The U.S. cannot continue being the cop on the beat for the Business elite. Actually, the U.S. has no right or reason to be in all the different countries that they are in. As for Israel, they are going to go to extremes no matter what happens. It’s too bad that the Israelis never made peace with the Palestinians, many years ago, embraced the culture of working together, then, perhaps they could have enjoyed the fruits of making the Middle East a powerhouse of commerce, instead of the constant waring of today. It never ceases to happen, that when the lessor of the strong members fail, that they drag their benefactor down with them. Perhaps the U.S. Government will realize this before it’s too late.

  3. DE Teodoru

    Poor Gordon! When a think-tanker renown for no-nonsense analysis he didn’t get paid as much or as regularly as at DoS but people used to take his analysis very seriously. Now he’s a flunky and reads out the words put in front of him in his position as a flunky of a SecState whose inabilities he must be utterly amazed by. An America suffering from self-inflicted leukemia, severely anemic and at risk of infection by populist rage has not the influence Obama may, in his inexperience, assume. We see in the meeting-of-8 and will see more starkly in the meeting-of-20 that the world will no longer bow to America’s exploitation of the dollar’s standing as THE global currency for US bankers to use in reckless deals. We are now a Third World nation in the % of our economy that manufactures. Our neocon “World War IV” against Islam is not the only area in which we are losing our standing. The spineless reaction of Obama in the face of Israel’s crimes against humanity (Gaza attack and the open sea acts of piracy) is making his early speeches the butts of jokes and is destroying the world’s confidence that Obama’s attempt to manage the Zionist bear with honey instead of whip will finally earn him the Nobel Prize he got preemptively. It seems America’s politicians, like its generals, are short-sighted tacticians insisting on “show me the money” so that the only American strategist worthy of admiration we have is Madoff for getting away with his crime for so long. If I were Gordon I would quit for he’ll want his books and articles taken seriously for a long time after he ends his DoS career. If he’s not careful he’ll end up in the Wilson Institute– the graveyard of DoS flunkies who never made it, like Holbrooke. I have never seen so many American scholars prostitute themselves as since Bush only to end up as has-beens that beg CNN or PBS Newshour for a few moments of air time. He’d do a lot better as a private citizen advising Netanyahu on how to materialize his peace plan despite his cabinet of aging crazies.

  4. Chris Frazier

    When I start wondering whether it’s possible for the U.S. to become even more arrogant, the answer arrives quickly. So now Turkey has some obligation to remain aligned with “us” and N.A.T.O.? Well, these dots are easily connected. We must keep that proud, and altogether sensible nation, aligned with Israel, the rump little terrorist regime on the Mediterranean whose military killed nine Turks in cold blood on May 31. All must be forgiven and forgotten as we ride Israel’s float in the parade to war with Iran. Will someone pass out the balloons to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the spoiler? News comes today that Turkey has sensibly refused to bar Israeli (i.e., U.S. planes) from using its air space. Below this space where I’m writing is a teaser for a story that asks: “Obama to get tough with Netanyahu?” This is a joke, right? Obama “gets tough” with that Likudist Nazi? “Bibi” continues building settlements in Palestinian territory, despite a pledge to impose a moratorium. How does Obama look when he feigns “getting tough?” What makes anyone believe that one Reich Chancellor will “get tough” with another Reich Chancellor? I need some aspirin.

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