If you follow The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, you don’t get informed that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was one of the 20 leaders that gathered in Japan last week. You would even see news reports and anecdotal notes from reporters about a person who is wanted by the U.N. police for murder but continued to represent Saudi Arabia at the G20 Summit in Osaka, but not a single column story about Erdoğan. Whereas only a week ago, this same Washington Post devoted almost a half a page to a editorial that a local mayoral election in Istanbul could – indeed, should – determine the fate of the president. As if Erdoğan was one of the candidates for Istanbul municipality!
President Trump chastises his own entourage during the sidelines meeting with President Erdoğan on the S-400 issue that the Obama administration had not treated Turkey fairly when they had turned a deaf ear to Turkey’s air defense needs and refused to sell the Patriot missile system; but you cannot read about it in the mainstream U.S. media.
The clues for this unprofessional attitude could be seen in the former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s testimony at a congressional committee. The former secretary said that some people in the White House conducted diplomacy behind his back when he was in the administration. Tillerson characterized it as a parallel government. Later, Bruce Fein, former U.S. Justice Department official, told Al-Jazeera that “it’s a secret government not just dual government.” The bureaucratic state or as the Europeans call it, the “deep state,” in the U.S. apparently has enormous power to do things under various cloaks. Whatever was available was what they used at that time, but the U.S. Congress simply had not allowed the administration to sell Patriots to Turkey. Perhaps it was that secret neocon clique at the State Department to whom Obama had surrendered during his second term of his presidency that had prevented the sale.
The leaders of that cabal may be out of the government now, but their mentality and business practices are very much alive at the Trump administration and it was one of the rare moments we witnessed at the G20 Summit in Osaka when the president, turning his head to his man, saying “We have treated Turkey unfairly.” Unless you are fed up with the sneaky bureaucrats, you don’t admonish your own people in front of the other presidents and their delegates.
This is not the first time Trump complains about unfair practices of the former administrations; when faced with such issues previously, he promised to follow a different path. He did it regarding the improper U.S. “train and equip” policy for the PKK terrorists in Syria; he promised to withdraw the U.S. forces acting as a defensive shield for those terrorists. But he could not honor his words because the “deep bureaucratic state” was able to step in and force him to swallow his words.
Now that bureaucracy wants the president apply the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to Turkey because it is buying Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. It cannot be applied to Turkey because Turkey made the purchase before the law was passed, and Turkey is a U.S. strategic ally; either that is true and you will disservice the U.S. interests sanctioning Turkey, or it is not true and there are no strategic relations between the two countries. Asked about possible sanctions against Turkey, Trump said “we are looking at it, but it’s a two-way street.” It is a two-way street because the U.S. would be punishing itself if it sanctions Turkey.
Turkey will be carefully observing the end result of that tug of war between the president and his own bureaucracy. Perhaps last year he could have legitimate reasons to be excused for not controlling the government because he did not have the political background and tried and tested people to fill all the positions to his taste. But now he is running for his second term and he is responsible for all of his and his government’s acts regarding U.S. strategic allies.