Over the past several days, there have been protests against the authoritarian rule of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Initially, the protests centered around the cutting down of some trees to make room for a shopping mall. But the protests escalated when the authorities responded with tear gas. Now these protests are being likened to the Arab Spring. Erdogan dismisses such talk. Of course, he’s partially right as the Turks are not Arabs. Nevertheless, like Egypt under Mubarak, dissent isn’t tolerated in Erdogan’s Turkey.
Still, I don’t believe Erdogan will meet Mubarak’s fate. Erdogan, who has been in power for a decade, has one very powerful ally: President Obama.
The President is arguably closer to Erdogan than he is to any other foreign leader in the entire world. Last year, Obama identified Erdogan as one of his five closest allies amongst foreign heads of government. It’s true that Obama and Erdogan have had differences over Syria, Iraq and Hamas but were quite chummy when Erdogan paid Obama a visit to the White House last month.
Even if Taksim Square becomes Tahrir Square, Obama has Erdogan’s back. As long as Obama remains in the White House, Erdogan isn’t going anywhere. However, Erdogan’s luck could run out with Obama’s successor. But that is cold comfort to the people of Turkey.