Erdoğan-Trump: 'Joint American adjustment' - NEDRET ERSANEL

Erdoğan-Trump: 'Joint American adjustment'

Top level officials aside, communication with the U.S. president does not spark excitement neither in Ankara nor among the Turkish public. It is mostly the journalists whose duty it is to watch/understand these interactions who reflect what they can find to their readers.

Last Thursday, the “official” statements from the telephone conversation between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump was composed solely of the following only: “President Trump spoke on the phone with Turkish President R.T. Erdoğan to confirm the significance of the strong ties between the two countries that are NATO allies and strategic partners, and to share views on regional developments. The two leaders guaranteed to continue efforts that will strengthen their cooperation related to strategic matters and to eliminate concerns effecting their relations.”

You are not wrong in making a face, but it is possible to take something from this. Let us continue with “Common strategic problems.” Let us not even get into “concerns,” even children know by now; when you mention the terrorist organizations (Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], People’s Protection Units [YPG], Democratic Union Party [PYD], and the Fetullah Terror Organization [FETÖ]), in other words, when you scold them on the topics Turkey wants to see as “common strategic problems,” they say thank you.

Yet, “common strategic problems” in terms of the U.S. are Russia and Iran.


At the point of “mechanism agreements” reached with former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ankara reminds Washington that, “people may change, but state policies and promises remain.” Yet, it is not dependent on the “understanding” reached with Tillerson on Manbij and primarily the east of the Euphrates. Hence, there is no decline in the perpetual distrust. U.S. statements that “there is no agreement in Manbij” repeats the distress.

Meanwhile, the clear distinction by President Erdoğan last Wednesday, the discourse aimed at the conflict between President Trump and the U.S. established order is worth noting: “We expect President Trump to demonstrate an approach that will eliminate the confusion in relation to policies regarding our nation, and halt the statements that are now out of proportion. Those speaking on behalf of Trump have no idea what they are saying. Trump needs to make an adjustment to them. We cannot continue this business in the shadow of the speakers who are in line to make statements against Turkey.”

We can consider these statements the base of the meeting that is going to take place the next day, but it is detected that Ankara sees where the dismissals/appointments in Washington will lead.

It is going to question whether Turkey is on Trump’s side in the domestic U.S. showdown.

Perhaps these three developments may be considered signs: Firstly, “The case against 11 of the 15 guards, who were issued detention decrees as they were accused of beating protestors during the president’s [Erdoğan’s] visit to Washington last year, was dropped.” (Mar. 22, 2018).

Secondly, “Lavrov: I believe that President Trump will normalize U.S.-Russia relations despite everything.” (Mar. 23, 2018).

Most importantly, thirdly, “Turkish Foreign Ministry: Also, our discussions with the U.S. regarding the Patriot missile system are continuing.” (Mar. 23, 2018).

“Also” is critical, there’s no doubt about that. But the timing of these developments shows that there is an effort to build a “distinct and hygienic” path between Erdoğan and Trump. Because Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın’s future Washington visit signifies the same also.

The definition of what President Erdoğan refers to as an “adjustment” on the President Trump side is “fine tuning.” A joint frequency is being sought.


Is it possible to actualize the U.S.-Turkey “agreement” specific to Syria and Iraq? Ankara is watching Washington through the new position changes, the new secretary of state, or new National Security Adviser Bolton, but is not following it. It has its own route.

It is challenging the U.S. on the ground and will continue to do so. If the agreement in Manbij is actualized and if it succeeds, it can be extended to all problematic areas. Therefore, there will be no need for military operations for the mentioned/non-mentioned goals.

Turkey wanted to see what is being done on the ground from the very beginning, but it is also steering on the ground. Placing emphasis on operations in Iraq recently, terrorists being neutralized in increasing numbers, “the safe zone against Hakkari” statements being reflected in the media; this all carries the message, “if our understanding is not upgraded to an agreement, Turkey has only one choice left and you witnessed it in Afrin.”

In this context, it will help to recount a development that happened in the Middle East for the first time, and to place it at the top of the chronology: “They told us, ‘We are going to leave Manbij.’ Go! What are you waiting for? We are going to come to hand it over to its owners.”

The understanding that sees Russia and Iran as the common strategic problem of the Turkey-U.S. alliance is also in the eye of the storm of the conflict that has detuned Washington.

Let’s take a little quote: “Turkey is the key member of every realistic coalition that aims to rebalance the Middle East. Reaching an agreement with Erdoğan is one of the most critical showdowns in the region in terms of the U.S. administration (In reference to Prof. Walter Russell Mead’s article in the Wall Street Journal, 'ABD kanaat önderlerinde Türkiye'ye yeni bakış' (A new look at Turkey in US opinion leaders), Mar. 23, 2018, S. Ergin, Hürriyet).

The crux of the matter is that the PKK/PYG and all other deformities are going to be sold out by the U.S.


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