By Chris Den Hond via orient XXITranslated from French by Noël Burch.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is having a rough go of it. Joe Biden’s election means a toughening of US-Turkish relations. And on the home front, Erdoğan finds himself increasingly isolated, since his only political allies are the dangerous Grey Wolves, the radical right-wing MHP movement. With elections coming up in 2023, Erdoğan seems to have lost his touch and is grasping at straws, even attacking the LGBT community.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces grim prospects, leastwise as far as his relations with the USA are concerned, but also on several domestic and regional fronts. With Joe Biden in the White House now, the Turkish president has to fear a tougher US attitude towards his country than under the Trump administration. One of the new US President’s first appointments was making Brett McGurk White House adviser for the Middle East. In 2015, McGurk supervised the international military coalition in Syria. He resigned in 2018 after Donald Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Syria, leaving the Turkish army free to attack the Syrian Kurds. His return to the forefront is not to everyone’s taste in Ankara.

Ragip Duran, former correspondent for the BBC, Agence France-Presse and Libération, believes, like most analysts, that “the party in power in Turkey, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) was not at all happy about Biden’s election. In fact, Erdoğan was one of the last to send a message of congratulations. Moreover, Brett McGurk’s appointment as Middle East Co-ordinator was perceived as a slap in the face by the pro-governmental Turkish media and the AKP.” In the eyes of the reporter, who served a gaol sentence in the nineties merely for publishing an article, there are many reasons why Erdoğan is annoyed. “There was a business relationship between Trump’s and Erdoğan’s families. Trump has personal economic interests in Turkey with two huge buildings in Istanbul, the Trump Towers. And Erdoğan is also afraid that President Biden will prevent him from carrying out military operations in Syria, Iraq, and Libya or in Nagarno-Karabakh. Anthony Blinken, the new Secretary of State, has already made it perfectly clear that Washington will be on the side of the Cypriots, the Greeks and the Kurds.”

And Fehim Taştekin adds that “Turkey is a member of NATO, which determines its entire foreign policy. There can be temporary conflicts and small-scale influence peddling, but at the end of the day, that alliance with the USA through NATO remains decisive. This is why Erdoğan is making eyes at Biden, but it all has a phoney ring about it.” Tastekin is a Turkish journalist with Al Monitor and has collaborated on newspapers like Radikal and Harriyet, as well as with the main opposition TV channel, IMC, now shut down by Erdoğan. Like most of the people I’ve interviewed, he left Turkey to be able to carry on his work as a journalist. “Without Russia’s permission, Erdoğan could never have gone into Syria,” he continues. “Those operations were aimed at the Kurds, not the Islamic State. The Strategic goal is to prevent the Kurds from establishing a corridor between Qamichli, Kobanî and Afrin. But Erdoğan won’t drop the US in favour of Russia. His calculation is simple enough: if he can improve Russo-Turkish relations a little, he can blackmail the US and the EU on account of Turkey’s geostrategic importance.”

The partnership between the US and the Kurds in Syria had infuriated Erdoğan because he’d begun using the US against Russia. But now he needs to rebalance his relations with those two superpowers after having flirted with Russia to get support for Turkish interventions in Syria and purchasing its S-400 missiles. Now the Turkish president feels the wind shifting and is making eyes at the West.

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