US President Barack Obama has made some interesting friends in office. Those friends get some special attention, and often more importantly, benign neglect.
Among the five world leaders that Obama highlighted as his best friends was the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over Obama’s tenure as president, Erdogan served as both the Turkish Prime Minister and President. This weekend, elections in Turkey could help cement his power as he attempts to remake the country’s constitution.
One would normally congratulate Obama on aligning himself with such a powerful leader, particularly one with a significant presence in the Muslim world. Such an ally could help the United States advance American interests in the volatile Middle East.
Turkey’s “Help” in The Middle East
Turkey sits geographically as a bridge between the European and Asian continents. Turkey borders the volatile countries Syria and Iraq, both of which are consumed by war, where Obama has expressed a US interest.
Turkey’s geographic position and large army make it a potential important ally for the US in the fight against the Islamic State. However, despite the good terms between Obama and Erdogan, Turkey has not been a good partner in this regard. As relayed by The Guardian October 2014: “The US is especially angry with Turkey because it is a Nato ally and yet it has refused to provide even basic logistical assistance to the US-led coalition.” It took many months for Turkey to agree to even begin training Syrian forces in Turkey to fight ISIS. Turkey’s efforts continue to be minimal.
If Turkey hasn’t been so helpful to American interests, perhaps Obama’s friendship is based on shared values.
As reviewed in “The Churlish Turkish Leadership“, Erdogan has moved his country to the far right into the deep religious Islamic sphere. He has curbed the freedoms of press and expression dramatically over his tenure. Are those shared American values? Obama’s values?
A Friend With Benefits: Erdogan
Despite Erdogan’s lack of assistance to America and suppression of human rights, Obama has treated Erdogan rather nicely:
- There were no ramifications to Turkey from withholding support in the fight against ISIS
- There were no ramifications from Erdogan’s suppression of human rights
- Obama has issued no statement about Turkey’s illegal occupation of northern Cyprus since 1974, which is deemed illegal by the United Nations and not recognized by any country other than Turkey.
- When Erdogan said the “Zionism was a crime against humanity” in February 2013, the White House merely condemned the statement, but did not threaten any action against Turkey.
- In May 2015, in the week before elections, Erdogan stated that he sought Turkish unity (with the Kurds) in liberating Jerusalem “just as our forefathers went together to liberate Jerusalem with Saladin, we will march together on the same path“, in a comment that did not even get a response from the Obama administration.
It would appear that Obama is fine with Erdogan despite the lack of Turkish support for American policies or values.
A Friend without Benefits: Netanyahu
Obama’s relationship with Erdogan is in sharp contrast to the way Obama treats the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- Obama is obsessed with preventing Jews from living in the eastern part of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, because of the anti-Semitic desires of the Palestinian Authority and has repeatedly attacked Netanyahu for permitting Jews to live freely where they choose.
- Obama forced Netanyahu to apologize to Erdogan, after Erdogan enabled a flotilla from Turkey to attempt to breach a legal Israeli blockade of Gaza in which nine people on the ship where killed in an act of self defense by Israeli soldiers
- Obama boycotted Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress and convinced 58 Democratic party loyalists to protest the speech as well
- Obama threatened to withhold support for Israel at the United Nations, after Netanyahu made an election night comment that seemed to suggest he was against Israeli Arabs and not in favor of a two-state solution with the Palestinian Arabs
While Obama claims that the US and Israel are strong allies, his policies appear to be based more on personal friendships. For Obama, friendship is showing he works for them and not what his friends do for the US. “I think that if you ask them — Angela Merkel, or Prime Minister Singh, or President Lee, or Prime Minister Erdoğan, or David Cameron would say, we have a lot of trust and confidence in the president. We believe what he says. We believe that he’ll follow through on his commitments. We think he’s paying attention to our concerns and our interests,”
Obama will likely continue to show benign neglect to the demagogic statesman from Turkey who makes vile attacks against allies and quells the rights of the people in Turkey. Conversely, Obama has demonstrated that he will berate and lecture the Israeli leader about “values” and take actions that threaten the country’s existence.
Troubling trends based on personal preferences.
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