Is Washington Aware of What is to Come?
The apprehensive warning statements coming from U.S. officials regarding the discharge of the coup attempters has created some worrisome dimensions in bilateral relations.
Lately, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, said he was concerned about the detentions of pro-coup soldiers who were taking part in the fight against DAESH. This problematic statement is not an argument uttered by a bureaucrat focusing on his work and worrying about disruption in the anti-DAESH fight while expressing his technical concerns.
This is just another manifestation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s government’s changing attitude with regard to its Turkey policy, which was revealed on the night of July 15. As can be recalled, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s first statement about the coup attempt was very unfortunate.
If Washington wants to protect the Turkey-U.S. alliance, it has to re-evaluate what happened on the night of July 15.
He highlighted protecting “stability and continuity” as if there were two parties in Turkey and he was suggesting equanimity between them.
The statement did not include the words “coup” and “democracy” – the expressions generally used in the face of coups when authoritarian regimes were employed.
This might have been due to the wish to open a space to cooperate with the coup plotters in case the attempt succeeded.
If the word “coup” is articulated, there is an obligation to stop military cooperation with the junta rule.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s support for the democratically elected government in Turkey, which was issued hours later, partially compensated the U.S.’s questionable attitude.
I said “partially” because whether the U.S. has any direct or indirect ties with the July 15 coup attempt will remain a critical subject matter.
The use of İncirlik Air Base on the night of July 15 and the reluctance displayed in the extradition of Fethullah Gülen will keep the subject alive in many people’s minds.
Undoubtedly, the Obama administration is disturbed by accusations that it was backing the coup attempt.
If accusations continue, the government might prefer to express this disturbance in a clearer and harsher tone.
Nevertheless, if Washington wants to protect the Turkey-U.S. alliance, it has to re-evaluate what happened on the night of July 15.
They must tone down the campaign against Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and stand on a rational platform.
This time, strong doubts regarding the U.S. have occupied every social segment in Turkey.
Moreover, it must be noted that according to popular wisdom in Turkey, the U.S. was thought to be behind every coup from the 1960 military coup to the Feb. 28, 1997 memorandum.
Today, there is a major difference.
Turkey is going through a state of emergency.
For the first time now, U.S. officials are dealing with a civilian and democratic government that repelled the coup attempt instead of the pro-coup troops that they allegedly backed up.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Erdoğan have met public support that managed to stop tanks. In Washington, on the other hand, we have a government that is counting down the days to the presidential election and whose main priority is the fight against DAESH.
In such a period of transition, maximum effort must be shown to avoid undermining the strategic relations of Turkey and the U.S.
The fight against the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) is as much an existential priority for the Turkish state as the fights against the PKK and DAESH.
Countering this with concerns of weakness in the anti-DAESH fight is, to put it in the mildest way possible, kind of inconsiderate and churlish.
Besides, democratic governance is the actual guarantee of the cooperation in the anti-DEASH fight. In the case of reciprocal harsh statements, multidimensional relations might get stuck in the barrier of Gülen’s extradition issue.
This situation is likely to fuel a poisonous suspicion due to the hesitant attitude displayed on July 15 and the opponent aura highlighted by the media in its aftermath: Does the U.S. wish to launch operations in various ways by pushing Turkey to the peripheries of the system?
Why would the Obama government, which is endeavoring to reform the U.S.’s relations, want to hand over to the new president a Turkey-U.S. alliance that needs to be fixed?
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on August 1, 2016.