Biden has a mountain to climb

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published 23.08.2016 19:59

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on his visit to Turkey on Wednesday.

There are only two topics of discussion during this much overdue visit by a senior U.S. official: The extradition of the leader of the cult that was behind the bloody coup attempt on July 15 and the U.S.'s continued support of the PKK terrorist organization's Syrian wing, the People's Democratic Union (PYD). Turkey will also convey its expectation of broader and active support from the U.S., which is supposedly a close ally, in the fight against DAESH.

At a time of increasing security threats in the region, strategic partnerships and cooperation are becoming ever more important. The number of countries facing direct terrorist attacks is increasing every day. The world of diplomacy is trying to survive under the dark shadow cast by international terrorism. The meaning and value of true partnerships have never been more important. Alliances and partnerships that fail to adapt and refuse present a common front against terrorist groups are destined to fall apart, with constituent parts defeated in detail.

Today, Turkey and the U.S., two allies that fought side by side, through thick and thin, during and after the Cold War, are suffering from a major breach of trust. The Turkish public simply no longer trusts the U.S. administration. Never have bilateral ties been this frayed, never have ordinary Turks been this disillusioned in the history of Turkey-U.S. relations. The mainly leftist anti-American sentiment worldwide is no longer one shared among fringe groups, but is the dominant attitude of the Turkish people, irrespective of their political, ethnic or religious affiliation. This is very unfortunate for the two allies that truly need each other and it is entirely the fault of the Obama administration.

When confronted with the most traumatic episode of the last half a century on July 15, the Turkish society as a whole demanded complete support from countries it considered friends. What it saw from the U.S. administration was far from friendly.

We can only hope Biden is aware of what is expected of him and that he is ready to present a wide range of confidence-building measures that intend to address the grievous mistakes committed by Washington, D.C. Turkey has its fill of pointless rhetoric or empty promises. Vice President Biden needs to do more than smile and shake hands, but offer a solid commitment to tackle the dual threats posed by the PYD and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). If not, his visit will be nothing but a part of Obama's delaying tactics and he will just be another U.S. official who enjoyed a kebab and the scenery.

If Biden fails to address Turkey's concerns, Obama will prove that he is just a lame duck president and Turkey will have to suspend its relations with the U.S. until a new administration, hopefully with a new foreign policy vision, arrives in Washington, D.C.

Turkish politics as a whole has never been as united as it is today. At a time like this, the country is confronted with terrorist groups like DAESH, the PKK or its Syrian wing, the PYD, that kill innocent civilians. Turkey feels abandoned by its allies and the rest of the international community on the issue of terrorism. Terrorism is an existential threat and there can be no negotiation on Turkey's future. The U.S., which has left Turkey alone against FETÖ, DAESH and the PKK, should not be surprised if Turkey turns its back on it at a time of need.

Unfortunately, for Turkey and the world, the Obama era, which began with so much hope, will forever be remembered as a blatant failure. The U.S. diplomacy's solution to any difficulty seems to be to bury its head in the sand. Its mistake may be to trust the wrong people at the wrong time or even just plain ignorance. We can only wait and see whether Biden will be able to persuade Turkey to give Obama just one more chance. From past experience, such an outcome can only be described as widely optimistic.

We can only hope that the new U.S. administration that will take office next February will employ officials proficient in diplomacy and knowledgeable in Turkey and the sentiments of the Turkish public. The Obama administration harmed vital U.S. interests by completely severing close ties with Turkey and did a disservice to both countries. The new administration has its work cut out for it.

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