Why is now the time for an Erdogan visit to the White House?

With sanctions looming in Congress and a protest outside the White House, Washington is getting ready for Erdogan visit.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE)
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump will welcome Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to the White House.
Just a month ago, Trump threatened to “destroy” the Turkish economy if Erdogan were to continue his campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria, but that now seems like water under the bridge. The president had since made it clear that Syria is not a top priority for him. “Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand,” he said last month at the White House.
But with sanctions against Turkey looming in Congress, and strong bipartisan criticism about the Turkish offense in northern Syria, one might ask if this is the best time for Erdogan to visit Washington.
“Erdogan wants to signal that he remains in Trump’s good graces, that he was able to accomplish everything that we wanted to do vis-a-vis Syria and the Kurds while still being able to maintain a partnership with Trump,” Ned Price, a lecturer at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and former spokesperson for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told The Jerusalem Post.
“For Erdogan, it’s a win-win,” Price added. “He was able to accomplish his narrow goals in northern Syria, and he is able to show his constituents back at home that he is welcomed with open arms to the West Wing of the White House.”
Asked why Trump would invite Erdogan to Washington at this time, Piece said that “if he were to look at this solely through the lens of strategic American interests, welcoming Erdogan, especially at this time, is not the most logical thing to do. After all, Erdogan is the force behind the assault on one of our most effective partners on the ground in the region. The last time he was here, there was an assault on American reporters. There are still bitter memories of that. And with Congress still [discussing] both his Syria assaults, and more recently with the vote to condemn the Armenian genocide, now would not seem to be the right time to welcome Erdogan here.”
JONATHAN SCHANZER is senior vice president for research at FDD think tank in Washington. He told the Post that Erdogan is coming in a moment where his popularity in Washington is probably at its lowest.
“All of the controversy surrounding Trump’s decision to leave Syria has put a spotlight on Turkey and its policies in Syria,” said Schanzer. “He’s not well-loved in this town right now. At best, Erdogan will walk away having scored an Oval Office visit, and it will help him at home, but there’s very little that he can do here right now to win over bipartisan support in light of everything that Turkey has been doing.”
He told the Post that with new sanctions being discussed in Congress, the Turkish president is now beginning to pay the price for his foreign policy.
“When one looks at Trump’s foreign policy, Turkey seems to be at odds with every core pillar of it,” Schanzer said. “Whether it’s enforcing sanctions on Iran, isolating Hamas, countering the Muslim Brotherhood, defeating ISIS, or blocking Iran from gaining access to new territory in the Middle East. Turkey appears to be undermining all of these things, and Trump continues to turn a blind eye. I think that the president wants to tell his base that he has made a good decision in Syria, and that it is playing out for the better, and so he is committed to perpetuating that narrative with Erdogan.”
Erdogan, he added, “has found a president that is willing to work with him despite those issues. And I think he’s fortunate that there isn’t someone else in the White House that might be more offended by some of his other policies.”
Erdogan is also expected to face a couple of protests: one in front of the White House, which will take place before the meeting, and another one on Massachusetts Avenue, after the meeting.
“Erdogan continues to enjoy veto over many areas of US policy long after he and the Turkish government have turned their back on the US on a whole range of issues,” Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), who organize the protest, told the Post.
Asked why ANCA decided to organize the demonstration, Hamparian said that “Turkey long ago walked away from NATO, turned its back on the US and yet still expects to have a veto over US policy on issues, and that needs to end.”
He explained that “regional policies, support for allies, their policy on Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Armenia, their human rights record, the jailing of journalists – on all of these issues... Turkey cannot forsake every shared interest, every shared value that used to connect the two countries, and then still expect to dictate terms here in Washington.
“Erdogan is extremely open about the direction he’s taking his country. And I think every aspect of our political system here in America, especially here in Washington, has woken up to this fact. But the last holdout is the White House. We’re protesting to help bring that to an end.”