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Erdogan gets ready for rocky Biden years!

The incoming Biden administration’s foreign policy priorities and worldview have already started to affect the domestic political circumstances in Turkey.

Erdogan announced an upcoming wave of democratic reforms, without revealing any details.

Erdogan’s AKP Ministers started talk about police brutality, importance of human rights and rule of law.

He sent warm messages to both the EU and the U.S., saying that Turkey’s place is nowhere other than in Europe and that he wants to cooperate more closely with the U.S.

Was it only a coincidence that Turkey’s ruling party’s rhetoric has changed right after Biden has won the Presidential elections? Was it coincidence that Erdogan’s rhetoric has changed right after Erdogan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın on Nov. 11 met with Richard Moore, the chief of Britain’s MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, in the capital Ankara?

It is not a secret that Erdogan and President elect Biden has a history. That history has a lot of indications that Turkey will be one of the priorities of Biden foreign policy.  

It dates back to 2011 where President Obama and Erdogan shared different views in Syria.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden criticized Erdogan for supporting radical instruments in Syria including ISIS.

That’s why for example President Obama hesitated to militarily attack the Assad regime. They realized that radicals would most likely replace the Assad regime in Syria.

Back in 2014,  Biden called Erdogan an “autocrat” and said he would support the opposition’s efforts to defeat him.

Biden also implied that Turkey had helped the rise of ISIS by letting foreign fighters cross the border into Syria. He ultimately had to offer Erdogan an official apology.

Biden’s 2014 remarks recently went viral in Turkey, leading Erdogan to criticize him again.

Obama administration also warned Erdogan not to evade the sanctions against Iran.

Some Turkish officials, ministers and an Iranian businessman, Reza Zarrab close to Erdogan were convicted for evading sanctions against Iran in New York federal court.

Erdogan successfully prevented the implementation of sanctions against Turkey over business dealings with Iran (and its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system).

In his book, John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, claims that Trump assured Erdogan in 2018 that he would “take care of things” regarding a probe of a Turkish firm believed to be Turkey’s state-run Halkbank. The bank has since been criminally charged and pleaded not guilty to evading U.S. sanctions. A March 2021 trial date has been set and Trump will not be able to provide a shield for Erdogan this time.

Interestingly, when he came to power, President Trump preferred to fire a federal Prosecutor, Preet Bharara, and FBI director Comey, who were the leading figures investigating and prosecuting Erdogan’s efforts to evading sanctions against Iran.

President Trump pardoned his national security advisor, General Mike Flynn, who received some 560.000 dollars from Turkey for his illegal lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey.

Trump also gave Erdogan an almost free hand in his military operations in Syria.

Erdogan and his organizations in the U.S openly campaigned for Trump among Muslim communities during the elections.

After Trump leaves office, Erdogan will no longer benefit from this shield. Potential sanctions under a less friendly White House would not only damage the economy, but also undermine the international prestige of a NATO ally.

However, The U.S. needs its NATO ally Turkey for its efforts to contain Russia, counter Iran and deal with other crises in the Middle East. But relations between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to be strained which means that Biden Administration’s main focus would be the replacement of political leadership in Turkey and not removing Turkey from NATO.

Erdogan was the last leader of a NATO ally to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Meanwhile, Turkey’s main secular opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) immediately congratulated him.

Last week, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo visited Turkey but paid no visit to any official or political figure in Turkey.

Erdogan announced an upcoming wave of democratic reforms, without revealing any details.

He sent warm messages to both the EU and the U.S., saying that Turkey’s place is nowhere other than in Europe and that he wants to cooperate more closely with the U.S.

If Erdogan wants to avoid a crisis with the Biden administration, he should announce a general amnesty for all political prisoners in Turkey, starting with journalists and women with their babies.

Can Erdogan do that? He has proven to be pragmatic enough in the past.

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Aydogan Vatandas / Editor-in-Chief
Aydogan Vatandas / Editor-in-Chief
Aydoğan Vatandaş is an investigative journalist from Turkey, specializing in Political Science and International Relations. He is the author of 13 books, many of which have become bestsellers in Turkey. 'Reporting from the Bridge' and 'Hungry for Power: Erdogan's Witch Hunt and The Abuse of State Power' are the first two books published in English in the U.S

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