Following Turkey’s vote against Iran sanctions, and Erdogan’s rhetoric on the flotilla raid, Philip Gordon, the Obama Administration top diplomat on European affairs, said earlier today that US is questioning the relationship with Turkey “in a new way”:
“We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but that needs to be demonstrated,” Gordon said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There are people asking questions about it in a way that is new, and that in itself is a bad thing that makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.”
On June 11, Turkey and Brazil both voted against further sanctions on Iran, a disappointing vote to the Obama Administration. On one hand, Turkey has applied to join the EU and is now a member of NATO, long hailed to be one of the only Muslim countries with a democracy and a western outlook. On the other hand Turkey has been strengthening ties with Iran. Turkey imports a significant portion of its natural gas from Iran and a Turkish company helped build the airport in Teheran. Turkey’s philosophy has changed, Turkey wants to play a significant role in regional relations. In order for that to occur it needs to develop its credibility with nations such as Syria and Iran.
One way to accomplish that is to “play hardball” at the U.N. Turkey was of course aware of the fact that its vote would not prevent the sanctions resolution from passing but a negative vote would be appreciated by Iran. Another way is to minimize its relationship with Israel. And indeed, Erdogan’s administration that supported the flotilla to Israel eventually used its outcome to do so.
US recognizes that Turkey is currently playing both sides, as Gordon added:
“There is a lot of questioning going on about Turkey’s orientation and its ongoing commitment to strategic partnership with the United States,” he said. “Turkey, as a NATO ally and a strong partner of the United States not only didn’t abstain but voted no, and I think that Americans haven’t understood why.”