Analysis: ‘US no longer sees the AK Party as a role model in the Middle East’

Here is an informative piece on the mood in Washington DC about Turkish-American relations, and whether or not the AKP is a model for democratic movements in the region. 

Excerpts from the latest column by my colleague Ali Aslan, who reports from Washington, are worth sharing:

‘After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Turkish ambassadors to explain to foreign diplomats the recent graft and bribery scandal from a conspiracy-oriented and partisan perspective, the Turkish ambassador to Washington will certainly have the hardest time complying with this instruction.

….

Excluding its do-not-pull-us-into-this-issue approach regarding the Dec. 17 process, the US has not really raised its voice about the anti-democratic practices but this does not mean that it endorses the Turkish government’s attitude. Rather, the concerns about the developments on the Turkish domestic front have peaked. US official do not publicly send harsh messages as they don’t want to directly confront the Turkish government and the broad masses supporting it. They are worried about potential threats to US interests. On the other hand, the amount of criticisms targeting the Turkish government is increasingly noticeable in the remarks made by government spokespeople. White House spokespeople were initially passing off questions about the developments in Turkey as a “domestic matter” but have recently started to politely refer to basic principles such as “no one is above the law.”

I don’t believe in private talks; US officials still strongly advise their Turkish counterparts to stick to the rule of law. Rather, they focus on more technical matters. This includes the latest Paris meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and US Secretary of State John Kerry. It appears that during this meeting, Kerry had asked Davutoğlu to declare that the US is not involved in the recent crisis. But as Davutoğlu didn’t mention it during the joint press conference, Kerry had to say: “Well, thank you very much, Ahmet. I don’t know if you want to say anything about our conversation briefly on the subject of Turkey-U.S. and the internal politics. Or do you want me to do that?”

It is quite normal for Kerry not to put Davutoğlu in a difficult position with his criticisms as Kerry seeks Davutoğlu’s support in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and the Syrian crisis. He wouldn’t want to allow their personal relations to worsen either. Yet the overall mood in the US foreign bureaucracy, especially in the White House, regarding the Turkish government’s recent performance is quite negative.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank closer to US President Barack Obama, has been telling the White House to exert pressure on the Erdoğan administration, urging it to respect democracy, human rights and the rule of law. However, given the fact that the ice between the US and Tehran is thawing, the US is signaling it might make a deal with the Bashar al-Assad regime and that it is working with the Egyptian army, it is very unlikely for Obama to abandon his realistic and pragmatic policy.

Moreover, from a US perspective, Turkey is performing better than other regimes in the region from a democratic and economic standpoint. (It is sad for Turkey to be compared to Middle Eastern countries rather than European countries). The US administration’s strategy is to keep its nose clean and wait to see the Turkish election results on March 30 and revise its strategy depending on the results. This means that if Erdoğan’s electoral support is weakened, the US may step up its criticisms.

The arguments made during meetings held by various think tanks with diverse ideological leanings in Washington in the past two weeks have revealed the level of loss of confidence in the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). All the distinguished experts speaking at events organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Carnegie Institute and the Rethink Institute agreed that the US no longer sees the AK Party as a role model for political movements in the Middle East.

They added that it is very likely that Turkey might lose its role model status in the region. Currently, it is virtually impossible to find an analyst who supports the AK Party and the prime minister’s hawkish attitude. What a catastrophic end for a political movement which has helped Turkey make significant progress in the last 11 years and for its leader!

My piece of advice to Prime Minister Erdoğan is to stop sending messages to Washington via the Turkish ambassador, but to directly call President Obama and tell him about the “coup” which he claims the US is involved in. Of course, he can do this if he can get an appointment with Obama, with whom he cannot speak on the phone since last summer….

For the full column, click here. 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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