Earlier this month, I made some observations about the protests in Turkey. In this post, I made the case that Prime Minister Erdogan isn’t going anywhere because President Obama has his back.
Unbeknownst to me, Daniel Larison of The American Conservative commented on the post shortly thereafter. Given that the political situation in Turkey has escalated over the past ten days, his rejoinder warrants comment.
Larison claimed I had an “unusual interpretation” of the situation. He argues that Erdogan has a strong hold on power which has nothing to do with Obama. He went on to say that my “fixation on Obama here is comical.”
Larison might very well find my interpretation unusual, but there is nothing comical about it. As I stated in my post, Obama and Erdogan are not only very close, Obama might very well be closer to Erdogan than any other foreign head of government. Indeed, one can make the argument that Erdogan is the lynchpin of Obama’s Middle East policy. After all, Obama relies on Erdogan as an intermediary when it comes to Iran and, despite their disagreements, is also crucial where it concerns Syria.
Now Larison and I are in agreement that it is highly unlikely that Erdogan will be forced from power. But in the event things turn south for Erdogan, Larison writes:
If popular support for the AKP collapses, or if Erdogan’s allies decide they would be better off by having him resign, that could trigger Erdogan’s downfall. Whether Obama wants him in office or not is irrelevant in a country where the vast majority holds a negative view of the U.S.
But Erdogan does not strike me as someone who will go gentle into that good night. If Erdogan’s hold on power is seriously threatened, is it really inconceivable that he would turn to his friend Obama for help? Given that it is in Obama’s interest to keep Erdogan in power, I am willing to bet that he would move mountains to ensure Erdogan remained in office if he were to ask for help. Given the anti-American sentiment in Turkey, this assistance would most likely be covert in nature.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has given the protesters his “final warning”. If this final warning leads to bloodshed, I would not be surprised if Obama says he does not want to be seen as “meddling” in Turkey’s affairs.
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