The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has a problem. Through his battles at home in recent years to ward off criminal investigations of his administration, his insistence on dismissing wiretaps that show he and his aides involved in backroom threats against opponents, his decision to fire or imprison police and judicial officials whom he thinks are influenced by an overseas foe, his willingness to crush demonstrators who oppose his willful rehabbing of downtown Istanbul and his crackdown on journalists, he is getting a reputation as a mistrusting, authoritarian and sometimes paranoid leader — despite his recent election to the top office in his country.
His appearance today before the august Council on Foreign Relations in New York City did nothing to allay those concerns. In a speech that was supposedly aimed at promoting Turkey’s interests, Erdogan came off as a defensive and suspicious man, who sees conspiracies everywhere and feels misunderstood by everybody and thinks he is threatened from all sides. Here is a list of the central points he made in his address at the afternoon session at the Council:
A – He says he is cognizant of the true needs of the lands around him, especially in the Middle East, because Turkey was once a part of the Ottoman Empire, but none of his NATO allies have paid any attention to his views on Libya, Egypt, Gaza and Syria.
B – He tried to warn the US administration that the Prime Minister of Iraq Maliki was destroying any chances for unity within that nation but President Obama wouldn’t listen — until it was too late.
C – Critics have accused him of being anti-Semitic because he broke relations with Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians, but they misconstrue his views — he likes the Israeli people, just not its government.
D – Turkey does not get credit for the 1.5 million refuges that it is currently caring for from Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries. Why does not the West open its doors to these people fleeing violence, he asks?
E – Some people are saying that Turkey is buying oil secretly from the barbaric terrorists called ISIS and even have toted a picture of Erdogan leaving a Mosque claiming it was a ISIS haven, but all of this is slander.
F – Other individuals have tried to discredit our statistics on Turkish growth, but we stand by the figures that show our enormous economic expansion.
G – Erdogan’s biggest foe, Muhammed Fethullah Gulan, the religious leader in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and a one-time backer of Erdogan, is trying to undermine the Turkish government and the president insists that Obama must deport this man to Turkey for trial.
H – Lastly Turkey has tried to stop the flow of terrorists from its territory into Syria and into the ISIS ranks but he asserts he cannot act without obtaining the names of individuals in order to stop them.
Erdogan came to this event attempting to present a picture of a man trying to do his best for the world but claims he has been getting no compliments for his achievements or thanks for his wisdom. Whatever he intended, he left his audience with a portrait of a man who does not trust anybody and believes that every move he has made on the world scene has been unfairly trashed or demeaned — perhaps not the most auspicious step forward for a leader just before he is about to speak to the UN’s annual fall meeting this week.
Stephen Schlesinger Sep 22, 2014