Trump's Phone Call to Erdogan: Was It a Mistake?

Let's provide the most important answer right away – yes, it was!

Who is Tayyip Erdoğan, anyway?  Before anything else, he is a hardcore Islamist who dreams of transforming Turkey into a jihadist state.  He is also the man who informed his people a long time ago that if democracy is the destination of a train ride, the traveler (whose name is Erdoğan, of course) can get off the train at any station he chooses.

The extremely important referendum designed to determine the future of Turkey ended with Erdoğan's declaration that he had won the majority of the vote.  The U.S. Department of State granted recognition to Erdoğan's claim that it was he who won the support of the Turkish people.

The Turkish statesman also declared that his alleged victory had been achieved by a slim majority, but nevertheless, the voters had supported his decision to concentrate the entire quantity of real power in his hands.  The opposition, meanwhile, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Erdoğan's attempt to transform Turkey into a presidential republic by establishing his personal dictatorship.

One of the main arguments of the opposition was that the emergency continued throughout the conduct of the referendum, which fact didn't provide the necessary conditions for fair elections.  In addition, the Turkish TV was broadcasting only the opinions and the analyses of the supporters of Erdoğan but none of the statements of his rivals or enemies.  Finally, pointing out the tough requirements of the emergency imposed over the country, the authorities banned almost all public events planned by the opposition.

At the same time, many Turkish military officers and journalists have been imprisoned, and according to a rather revealing census, over 70% of the electorate are afraid of the dictatorial practices and intentions of their president, who wants to remain president for ever (1).

The international background of the Turkish referendum is as complicated as the internal one.  So far, it was only President Trump who personally presented his premature congratulations, which contained, of course, the official American recognition of the dubious victory of Erdoğan.  The leaders of Russia, China, and   heads of state of other countries, and members of the European Union, are delaying their recognition of the Turkish regime.

The question involving Washington's decision to accept the limitless power of a rather dubious politician is this: why was such an important move accomplished with such speed?  This speed, in combination with the complete absence of commentaries related to the personality and the record of Erdoğan on the eve and in the aftermath of the referendum, speaks volumes about the absence of a serious discussion preceding the decision of President Trump to place a personal phone call to Erdoğan.  It creates the impression that lessons that could have been extracted from rather important events out of recent U.S. and Turkish history have been ignored.

To start with, the American people were never informed about the existence of the secret alliance between President Obama and President Erdoğan.  This important connection was the factor behind the length and the cruelty of the Syrian Civil War.  The American-Turkish "cooperation" was working smoothly and effectively.  Obama was supposed to turn a blind eye to the arrival of thousands of jihadists to Turkey, while Erdoğan oversaw dispatching the candidates for the membership of the jihadist's cruel and fanatical force into Syria.  Another form of Turkish participation in the Syrian war would have been clearly visible to anyone who would care to take look on the map.  Such a glance would reveal that the location of the ISIS human resources in training, and all facilities necessary for the continuation of the war were located within walking distance of the Turkish border.

The third important dimension of a brutal intervention into the Syrian conflict were the actions of Turkish authorities regarding the movement of large groups of refugees into Europe.  In other words, Erdoğan was the main culprit for the tragic dynamics of his all-out support for the jihadist cause, which expressed itself in the movement of thousands of radicalized fanatics into Syria, while at the same time, large multitudes of displaced victims of the war were directed to enter illegally the countries of the European Union.

At the same time, the dismal American failure in the Middle East, born out of the actions or the passivity of President Obama, has been underlined by the active Russian military involvement on the side of the Syrian government.  As a result, President Putin won back all positions lost in the Middle East by the Soviet Union in the past, while the failure of President Obama brought about the end of many aspects of the American influence or leadership in the area.

One of the most tragic and dangerous dimensions of the absence of an American strategy in the Middle East was the lack of any alternative approach that could have been developed by the Republican rivals of President Obama.  Perhaps the best reason for such an assessment was the fact that the Republican members of Congress didn't make any issue out of the strange proposal they received from the Obama administration to support a half-billion-dollar loan designed for the training of the recruits of the Free Syrian Army on Saudi Arabian territory.  The fact that there were only eight or ten candidates for the generously funded U.S.-sponsored training in the sands of sunny Saudi Arabia, and the entire idea has been silently abandoned without even a murmur from the members of the Congress, or from the representatives' electronic or printed media.

Turning back to President Trump's phone call to Erdoğan, it was a mistake for two reasons.  On the one hand, this action of POTUS creates the wrong impression that Erdoğan is able to dupe Trump the same way he managed to dupe Obama.  On the other hand, the president may well have created the impression among the numerous Kurdish enemies of Erdoğan that they have been abandoned and betrayed by the United States.

Georgy Gounev teaches the ideology and strategy of radical Islam within the framework of the Emeritus Program of Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, Calif.  He is the author of the book The Dark Side of the Crescent Moon. The Islamization of Europe and its Impact on the American- Russian Relations, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, N.J., and London, U.K., 2014.

1) The author obtained firsthand information by phone from a Turkish journalist back in August of 2016.

Let's provide the most important answer right away – yes, it was!

Who is Tayyip Erdoğan, anyway?  Before anything else, he is a hardcore Islamist who dreams of transforming Turkey into a jihadist state.  He is also the man who informed his people a long time ago that if democracy is the destination of a train ride, the traveler (whose name is Erdoğan, of course) can get off the train at any station he chooses.

The extremely important referendum designed to determine the future of Turkey ended with Erdoğan's declaration that he had won the majority of the vote.  The U.S. Department of State granted recognition to Erdoğan's claim that it was he who won the support of the Turkish people.

The Turkish statesman also declared that his alleged victory had been achieved by a slim majority, but nevertheless, the voters had supported his decision to concentrate the entire quantity of real power in his hands.  The opposition, meanwhile, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Erdoğan's attempt to transform Turkey into a presidential republic by establishing his personal dictatorship.

One of the main arguments of the opposition was that the emergency continued throughout the conduct of the referendum, which fact didn't provide the necessary conditions for fair elections.  In addition, the Turkish TV was broadcasting only the opinions and the analyses of the supporters of Erdoğan but none of the statements of his rivals or enemies.  Finally, pointing out the tough requirements of the emergency imposed over the country, the authorities banned almost all public events planned by the opposition.

At the same time, many Turkish military officers and journalists have been imprisoned, and according to a rather revealing census, over 70% of the electorate are afraid of the dictatorial practices and intentions of their president, who wants to remain president for ever (1).

The international background of the Turkish referendum is as complicated as the internal one.  So far, it was only President Trump who personally presented his premature congratulations, which contained, of course, the official American recognition of the dubious victory of Erdoğan.  The leaders of Russia, China, and   heads of state of other countries, and members of the European Union, are delaying their recognition of the Turkish regime.

The question involving Washington's decision to accept the limitless power of a rather dubious politician is this: why was such an important move accomplished with such speed?  This speed, in combination with the complete absence of commentaries related to the personality and the record of Erdoğan on the eve and in the aftermath of the referendum, speaks volumes about the absence of a serious discussion preceding the decision of President Trump to place a personal phone call to Erdoğan.  It creates the impression that lessons that could have been extracted from rather important events out of recent U.S. and Turkish history have been ignored.

To start with, the American people were never informed about the existence of the secret alliance between President Obama and President Erdoğan.  This important connection was the factor behind the length and the cruelty of the Syrian Civil War.  The American-Turkish "cooperation" was working smoothly and effectively.  Obama was supposed to turn a blind eye to the arrival of thousands of jihadists to Turkey, while Erdoğan oversaw dispatching the candidates for the membership of the jihadist's cruel and fanatical force into Syria.  Another form of Turkish participation in the Syrian war would have been clearly visible to anyone who would care to take look on the map.  Such a glance would reveal that the location of the ISIS human resources in training, and all facilities necessary for the continuation of the war were located within walking distance of the Turkish border.

The third important dimension of a brutal intervention into the Syrian conflict were the actions of Turkish authorities regarding the movement of large groups of refugees into Europe.  In other words, Erdoğan was the main culprit for the tragic dynamics of his all-out support for the jihadist cause, which expressed itself in the movement of thousands of radicalized fanatics into Syria, while at the same time, large multitudes of displaced victims of the war were directed to enter illegally the countries of the European Union.

At the same time, the dismal American failure in the Middle East, born out of the actions or the passivity of President Obama, has been underlined by the active Russian military involvement on the side of the Syrian government.  As a result, President Putin won back all positions lost in the Middle East by the Soviet Union in the past, while the failure of President Obama brought about the end of many aspects of the American influence or leadership in the area.

One of the most tragic and dangerous dimensions of the absence of an American strategy in the Middle East was the lack of any alternative approach that could have been developed by the Republican rivals of President Obama.  Perhaps the best reason for such an assessment was the fact that the Republican members of Congress didn't make any issue out of the strange proposal they received from the Obama administration to support a half-billion-dollar loan designed for the training of the recruits of the Free Syrian Army on Saudi Arabian territory.  The fact that there were only eight or ten candidates for the generously funded U.S.-sponsored training in the sands of sunny Saudi Arabia, and the entire idea has been silently abandoned without even a murmur from the members of the Congress, or from the representatives' electronic or printed media.

Turning back to President Trump's phone call to Erdoğan, it was a mistake for two reasons.  On the one hand, this action of POTUS creates the wrong impression that Erdoğan is able to dupe Trump the same way he managed to dupe Obama.  On the other hand, the president may well have created the impression among the numerous Kurdish enemies of Erdoğan that they have been abandoned and betrayed by the United States.

Georgy Gounev teaches the ideology and strategy of radical Islam within the framework of the Emeritus Program of Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, Calif.  He is the author of the book The Dark Side of the Crescent Moon. The Islamization of Europe and its Impact on the American- Russian Relations, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, N.J., and London, U.K., 2014.

1) The author obtained firsthand information by phone from a Turkish journalist back in August of 2016.