Pindostan to Turkey: Back off
Nahal Tusi, Politico, Aug 9 2016
The Obama administration has a message for Turkey: Tone it down. A day after Erdogan expressed frustration that Jackass Kerry had yet to visit his country in the wake of a failed coup attempt, a State Dept boxtop said that Pindostan is increasingly concerned about the language emanating from its long-time NATO
ally vassal. Much of that language has been deeply anti-Pindosi, with Turkish media peddling allegations that the Obama administration was behind the coup attempt and even suggesting a Faschingstein think tank had a role. Erdogan has to some extent fanned the flames, while simultaneously reaching out to Russia, which he visited Tuesday. State Dept spox E Trudeau said during Tuesday’s daily briefing. She also told Politico:
This sort of conspiracy theory, inflammatory rhetoric … is absolutely not helpful. We’re very focused on lowering the temperature. We understand that this was a serious situation, but at the same time the rhetoric doesn’t help advance the situation.
Her admonition hints at growing frustration within the Obama administration over how to deal with Erdogan in the fight against Daesh. It’s a frustration shared in Congress, where aides say bipartisan scepticism about Turkey’s reliability has hardened since the mid-July coup attempt. In the weeks since the putsch, Obama and his aides have repeatedly condemned the coup plotters while also voicing concern about Erdogan’s subsequent imprisonment and firings of tens of thousands of alleged coup sympathizers, many of them journalists and teachers. In Turkey, however, Pindostan’s balanced reaction has been taken as an insult. Erdogan told Le Monde, in an interview published Monday:
Western people should not bother about the number of people that were arrested or dismissed. We are struggling against a coup attempt, against terrorists. The Western world must understand what we are dealing with.
Erdogan also blasted Pindostan in particular for not quickly extraditing Fethullah Gulen, with some Turkish boxtops saying that Pindostan is putting its entire relationship with their country at risk over Gulen. In his talk with Le Monde, Erdogan alluded to reports that Jackass will visit Turkey later this month, saying:
It is late, too late. This makes us sad. What more do Pindosis need? Their strategic ally is facing a coup and it takes them 45 days before sending anyone over? This is shocking.
Perhaps the Turkish president’s biggest poke in Pindostan’s eye, however, was his visit Tuesday to Russia, where he met with Putin. That Erdogan wants to mend fences with Putin was a strong signal of how angry he is with Pindostan. Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian bomber on the Syrian border, an incident that badly damaged ties between Moscow and Ankara. Despite Erdogan’s frequent complaints in the past about Pindo cooperation with Kurdish fighters battling the Assad regime in Syria, Pindostan hasn’t stopped working with those rebels. Obama has warned Turkish leaders to stop promoting the notion that Pindostan backed the coup attempt. Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute said:
This administration already made up its mind that Erdogan needs them more than they need him.
Others described the administration’s response overall so far as “passive” and said it doesn’t seem to be working well to ease the tensions. Steven Cook of the CFR said:
My guess is they’re saying, “Let’s be quiet. If we respond, it’ll make things worse. And we still need the Turks on Syria and other things.” Although those other things are a mystery.
Pindostan uses the Incirlik air base in Turkey to launch airstrikes against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, but it took months for Turkey to agree to let Pindostan use that base, and if Turkey decides to kick the Pindos out, Pindostan could rely on bases in other countries. At the same time, if Turkey decides to lessen its cooperation with Pindostan in the fight against Daesh, it is likely to suffer more because it’s closer to the main theater of operations used by the terrorist network, which already has staged attacks in Turkey. Blaise Misztal of the Bipartisan Policy Center said the coup attempt and its aftermath “are threatening to break up this ossified pattern of Pindo-Turkish relations,” which he said had long been built around the notion that Turkey was a “necessary, if undesirable partner. The possibility that Erdogan has gone too far is finally being openly discussed in Washington. A congressional aide confirmed that unhappiness with Turkey is spreading in Congress, saying:
The notion that Jackass should rush to Turkey following the allegations made against Pindostan is absurd. I’m not sure why they would send somebody to be used as press opportunity for the Turks to further berate us for actions that we’re clearly not responsible for.
Trudeau said she had no information to offer on any potential Kerry trip to Turkey, but she also pointed out that JCoS Dunford did visit the country earlier this month. A Pentagon spox also alluded to that visit, insisting that “high-level engagement remains robust.” Dunford is one of two Pindo generals named in a complaint filed by a Turkish lawyer who alleges that the Pindo military helped conspire with Turkish coup plotters. Some Turkish media outlets have questioned whether the Woodrow Wilson International Center was involved in the failed coup, because its scholars had organized a conference in Turkey that was held the same weekend as the Jul 15-16 attempt to overthrow Erdogan. In a blog post Tuesday for the WSJ, Haleh Esfandiari of the center dismissed the allegations and compared them to the types of conspiracy theories promoted by Iran. She warned:
Paranoia is spreading like a virus in the region.