Trump welcomes Erdogan amid US-Turkey strains

Jerome Frank
May 17, 2017

Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to centralize power, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met US President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday on a mission to restore frayed ties. Whether U.S. national-security goals in the Middle East meet the same fate as Trump's bankrupted casinos depends on how he plays it.

He was quick to place a congratulatory call to the president last month after he narrowly won a flawed referendum on a huge expansion of his powers.

Judging by the public statements, U.S. -Turkey relations are going to be just fine.

Prior to that power grab condemned by democratic leaders worldwide (except Trump), Erdogan lay the foundation for it by detaining approximately 40,000 people he perceived as political dissidents, firing nearly 90,000 civil servants, closing down hundreds of independent media outlets and non-governmental organizations, and arresting an unknown number of journalists, activists, and even members of parliament.

"We have suggested other solutions", Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last week.

Ankara regards the YPG as simply the Syrian arm of the "terrorist" PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency inside Turkey since 1984, and Erdogan is anxious the war against the IS group will leave his deadly enemy in charge of a US-armed statelet on his southern frontier.

Russian Federation has been waging an air campaign to support President Bashar Assad's forces against both IS and Syrian rebels since 2015.

But the US campaign to drive Islamic State from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria put Trump in a strategic bind.

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I think that if he would have done something like this, it would have been at his worst, and I felt like it was looking so bright. He usually called her either Babe or Bay, she said. "There were some odd parts where it just didn't make sense".

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Outside the Elysee, a few dozen supporters waved French tricolour and European blue flags at the arrival of the new President. Macron also said that, on his first official foreign visit as French president, he planned to travel to neighboring Germany.

Turkey has leverage of its own, not least being the importance of its Incirlik air base, which hosts about 1,500 US troops and is used for air strikes against the Islamic State by the USA and its allies.

Even if Erdogan can't talk Trump out of his decision on arming the YPG, he may seek to extract other concessions, including US assistance fighting against the PKK, said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Trump and Erdogan both emphasized the positive. The United States considers the YPG fighters the best boots on the ground and key allies in the fight against ISIS, but Turkey considers them terrorists, claiming that the YPG is simply the armed wing of an outlawed Kurdish terror outfit, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. The new arms will help the rebels withstand intense urban and guerrilla warfare they expect to encounter from several thousand Islamic State fighters holed up in Raqqa. President Trump's skills as a dealmaker will never be more in demand as in the meeting with Erdogan.

Both Erdogan and Zarrab have been tied to a 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey, which sparked the pending USA prosecution. Mr. Erdogan suggested that America's Kurdish partners are a.

"We look forward to having a long and productive discussion", Trump said.

But he is also concerned about the PKK's growing presence in Sinjar, and would have the support of local Kurdish authorities if he were to launch a cross-border operation to destroy the group's highland bases. "The relationship that we have together will be unbeatable", Trump said. Another thorny issue will certainly be the requested extradition of the USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup.

Speaking to journalists ahead of visit, the Turkish President said that he would discuss the extradition of Fetullah Gulen with Donald Trump on May 16. Human Rights First notes that the White House's invitation to the Turkish president continues a disturbing trend of the Trump administration showcasing its willingness to engage uncritically with human rights violators and authoritarian regimes. The job was so tightly aligned with Turkish government interests that Flynn was widely criticized for failing to disclose his entanglements. The U.S., whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear. Zarrab's defense team includes former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close ally of Trump.

Any links between Giuliani, Mukasey and the "Muslim ban" executive orders are certain to aggravate Erdogan, whose country is 99 percent Muslim. "Our fight is against ISIS", Trump told reporters in response to a question about whether he had revealed classified information in a May 10 Oval Office meeting with top Russian officials.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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