The title cipher simply consists of the scores with which bills recognizing the 1915 Armenian Genocide and calling for sanctions in connection with Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria breezed through the U.S. House of Representatives floor in respective order. It is to me also a bill demonstrating the deteriorating health of the Turkish-American relations. But hey, as perfect strangers say to each other in bars “Stop me, if you heard this before.” Because yes, the relations between the two NATO allies were in a nosedive since a while now, weren’t they?
Should we care about this? If so, why? Will these potential sanctions (awaiting approval by the Senate and signature by the President) impact the behaviour of Erdoğan? Is it a good idea for U.S. congressmen to lump together all the matters related to relations with Turkey, starting with the Armenian Genocide, moving onto Halkbank, to Erdoğan’s personal wealth, to CAATSA in a mega mother-of-all sanctions bill? What about timing it on the 0ctober the 29th, Republic’s Day?
And perhaps, more important than all that, who are WE anyway? Point if view is key to assesment I rather tend to believe. Henceforth if WE, are the Republic of Turkey’s citizens who love their country then we should think putting U.S.-Turkey relations back on track or at least work to stop these relations from derailing further. Yet if WE, at the same are Turkey’s democrats, as your humble servant considers himself to be one, we wouldn’t like to be sacrified at the altar of that evergreen “realpolitik” rationality.
Furthermore, the relations of two countries are beyond repair anyway. The bilateral relations are either going to look like “operational” as in U.S.-Egypt relations for example, in which case people who consider themselves democrats will definitely go under the bus. Or, another option may appear to be, as it derives from the dominant narrative of Erdoğan, a character similar to the U.S.-Russia relations: Turkey playing the part of an equal and indispensable but difficult partner.
There ain’t no ready made answers to these questions. From my own standpoint, I wouldn’t invite the U.S. government or president to “better sanction” Turkey. My primary invitation instead would be for the U.S. authorities to try and better understand or at least not to underestimate the historic and social complexity of this country. If sanctions are inevitable, engagement and clear messaging should be involved in the mix of policies as well.
Scoreboard says 405 to 11 and 403 to 16. Add another cipher to the mix, 111319 is the date of Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to DC. When recently asked, he stated that he is still thinking about it. What may change till Nov. 13 and what will happen during the visit beyond the usual photo op? I for one, regularly commented for Erdoğan’s previous one on one meetings with Trump that regardless of the nature or the lack thereof content, that photo was the purpose and the content all combined into one.
This time it looks different. The tension within Turkey runs high. The country is in a continuous war footing in northern parts of both Iraq and Syria. It is difficult to exchange fort he umpteenth time the geographical position on the map, for leniency from the global power. Challenging the world order, adopting a going it alone lone wolf strategy are all parts of the same narrative designed for internal consumption. It worked till now, remains to be seen whether it will work again after the Nov. 13.
Burdens carried since almost a century splashed into these spasmodic military operations into Syria and Iraq. Our republic is searching for its soul. Obsessing with the symptoms may not be right panacea for the illness itself. To start the cure for our illness we have to readily admit that we are ill. That admission will not be eased by severe U.S. sanctions.
International relations issues to us down here today are the reflection of our intra-national torsion. Where do we go from here, we have to face it, will remain our own problem. Ergo, I have no suggestions for how putting back on track Turkish-U.S. relations will be possible. Neither do I have any idea on how to effectively isolate secular republic’s woes from is foreign policy issues.
People like me, the so-called WE, a minority, are still convinced that a sensible middle ground can be found and that the Turkish-U.S. relations are still relevant. Yet quarterback coaching is easier when, say, dispensing of one’s wisdom considering the U.S. sanctions policy on Iran, but proves to be a mine field when one sits at the receiving end. Cut the blue cable instead of the red one while trying to defuse it and up, one finds himself, flying in the air blast into tiny metaphorical pieces.