President Trump said Saturday “we’re having a very good moment with Turkey.” The operative word in his statement was “moment.” In other words, relations can go south at any point, and they probably will very soon.
Diplomatic conflict with Turkey had been escalating for a year until very recently. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has balked at U.S. demands and made harsh statements about America’s foreign policy, particularly as they relate to Iran and Syria. He’s playing a game of brinkmanship, pushing his rhetoric and policies right to the edge before backing down.
Right now, he’s in his quiet mode. That likely won’t last long.
As Burak Bekdil noted at Gatestone, the list of problems between the United States and Turkey has not been reduced.
Only three months ago Turkey and its NATO ally the United States had too many issues about which to disagree: They had major divergences over Syria; they had different views on Turkey’s plans to deploy the Russian-made S-400 air defense system on NATO soil; they had mutual sanctions on top government officials due to Turkey’s refusal to free Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical Christian pastor living in Turkey who faced bogus charges of terrorism and espionage; they had a potential U.S. decision to block delivery to Turkey of arms systems, including the F-35 stealth fighter; they had potential U.S. sanctions on a Turkish public bank; the U.S. had doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium; a Turkish boycott on U.S. electronics; major differences over Syrian Kurds; and Turkey’s persistent demands for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political nemesis, living in self-exile in Pennsylvania.
This could be a calm before the storm between the United States and Turkey. Both nations are pushing against each other, especially in reference to U.S. policy in the Middle East. The two NATO allies will be acting more like enemies very soon unless one or the other backs down.
That’s almost certainly not going to happen.
We must be very mindful of and cautious towards Erdogan. His lust for power is quickly manifesting as a desire to be the de facto leader of the Middle East Muslim world. To do that, he’ll need to turn America into a symbolic enemy for the whole region.