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Erdoğan’s Long-Awaited White House Call: A Diplomatic Victory or Merely a Photo Opportunity?

Let me say this upfront, this matter has nothing to do with the elections or the People’s Alliance’s candidate Murat Kurum. Alright, the election is just a few days away. The parties are putting all their cards on the table. They will not hold back anything in these remaining days.

As is well known, there has not been a free and fair election in Turkey for a long time. For instance, in Istanbul, there is Ekrem İmamoğlu on one side, and on the other, Erdoğan, with all the resources of the state, MHP, the Perinçeks, political parties whose names we have even forgotten, İYİ Party, and even some factions within CHP.

In other words, İmamoğlu is up against all of them.

The race is already unfair; it is not a competition under equal conditions. Erdoğan and AKP are using all the resources of the state to their full extent. The so-called independent TRT and Anadolu Agency are like palace bulletins. Since almost all of the media is under Erdoğan’s control, they are working hard for Murat Kurum with all their might.

The candidacy of DEM Party and İyi Party is another expression of working for the Palace in every aspect. If İmamoğlu wins under these circumstances, a new chapter will open in Turkish politics as of April 1st.

However, there is a situation here that is more intriguing, or rather, unanswerable. As is well known, Istanbul is very very important for Erdoğan. He needs Istanbul to sustain his regime. However, he is not running a campaign to the extent of his need.

While there is a razor-thin race, Erdoğan excluded the retirees. Yet, he had declared 2024 as the ‘year of the retirees’. After all, he has all the resources of the state at his disposal, he could have been more generous. But he didn’t do it, nor did he seek an agreement with the New Welfare Party.

However, the New Welfare Party is on a rising curve. According to the latest statement by Özer Sencar, the founder and manager of Metropoll, the vote rate of YRP in Istanbul has reached close to 5%. When Erdoğan was in a tight spot, he would bring a letter from Öcalan, have his relatives appear on TRT. He didn’t do that either. He would cry on the screen, read the Qur’an in the mosque.

Erdoğan has no other choice; protect the ballots! He didn’t do these things in this election either. Moreover, bombs would explode here and there, scaring the public. That didn’t happen in this election either. He put a very weak candidate for the city he said he cared about so much.

The list could go on.

One can’t help but puzzle over Erdoğan’s ‘composure’. After all, it is well known that Erdoğan frequently conducts polls. According to all polls, İmamoğlu is ahead in Istanbul, Mansur Yavaş in Ankara.

Erdoğan cannot be unaware of the anger among the electorate. However, he looks very relaxed in the final stretch. This situation inevitably brings to mind the tricks played in previous elections. Could they have settled it with the YSK? Because there is a team at YSK that is loyal to the Palace. Even the CHP representative Mehmet Hadimi Yakuboğlu seems to be working for the government. Well, everyone remembers what happened during the lottery drawing to determine the candidates’ places on the ballot. They cheated in front of the cameras.

I don’t want to dampen your spirits, but Erdoğan needs the ballot tricks more than ever. They can’t win without cheating. So, regardless of your party, the most important task you have is to protect the ballots.

The long-awaited phone call finally came! Actually, this was not going to be an article about the election, but while intending to make a few warnings about the importance of the subject, it became quite lengthy. Our topic is Erdoğan’s love for the White House. The phone call Erdoğan has been waiting for years finally came.

As is well known, the stars of US President Biden and Erdoğan have not been aligned from the beginning. When Biden was elected, Erdoğan had made a congratulatory phone call but did not hear back from Biden for months. Biden consistently ignored Erdoğan, virtually dragging him along.

Erdoğan, in an effort to secure an appointment with Biden, had specifically engaged Jewish lobbies, but had not reached his goal over the past 3.5 years. Erdoğan had become unable to hide his disappointment any longer.

Indeed, on his return from Riyadh on November 12, 2023, he told reporters on the plane, “It would not be proper for me to call Biden, presumably he will host us from now on!”

Such a statement is quite rare in international relations, especially when one of the parties is the USA. Erdoğan was practically begging, saying, ‘Please invite us already!’ He did not hide his disappointment in the interviews he gave.

In short, Erdoğan had been eagerly awaiting an invitation from the White House. That phone call finally arrived. There has been no official announcement, but according to sources from Washington, the visit is scheduled for May 9. Erdoğan will go to the White House and shake hands with Biden in front of the cameras. Frankly, Erdoğan doesn’t have much expectation from this visit beyond that.

His greatest expectation is the closure of the Halkbank case; don’t get it wrong. But Erdoğan could not get the green light he wanted from the Biden administration. After all, the US judiciary does not prostrate before the Palace like the Turkish judiciary does.

Meanwhile, the appeal process concerning the Halkbank Case, which has been a nightmare for Erdoğan, is coming to an end. It is very likely that Turkey’s application will be rejected and the case will continue from where it left off.

Erdoğan may start his long-awaited trip to Washington DC with the Halkbank case in his lap. Honestly, one should not expect this visit to put Turkey-US relations back on track and disperse the grey clouds. Because there is a serious lack of trust. Despite the softening due to the approval of Sweden’s NATO membership, Erdoğan is still an unwelcome figure in Congress.

Turkey and the USA are not on the same page regarding the Kurdish issue, relations with Russia, and Iran. In short; other than a photo at the White House, there won’t be much gain for Erdoğan from this visit.

But is this situation sufficient for Erdoğan?

Of course, it is… Don’t pay attention to what they claim in Turkey. Starting with Erdoğan himself, all the AKP-MHP elite are eager to mend relations with the USA. Ultimately; Erdoğan received the invitation he had long awaited, achieving his desire.

Let’s see if Erdoğan, whose every trip is filled with scandals, can manage a trouble-free visit to the USA.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.
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