Ankara weighing challenges of probable Obama period

As for Turkish decision makers and politicians, there are a number of reasons to take into consideration while weighing between possible McCain and Obama terms.

Ankara weighing challenges of probable Obama period
As Barack Obama takes a huge stride toward becoming the first black US president, the relative unpredictability of changes in US foreign policy in the event of his eventual presidency has led to concern in the Turkish capital -- particularly due to Obama's inexperience compared to other candidates and his clear support for the official recognition of an alleged genocide of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on a promise of hope and change for Americans weary from years of war. Obama's victory sets up a November election contest against Republican John McCain that looks to be a clash of generations as well as a debate on Iraq, The Associated Press said yesterday -- summarizing what the contest between Obama and McCain means for the US.

As for Turkish decision makers and politicians, there are a number of reasons to take into consideration while weighing between possible McCain and Obama terms. Apparently, McCain's experience, including his knowledge of Turkey's strategic importance for Washington as well as his friendly attitude toward Turkey concerning Armenian allegations of genocide, make him a more favorable candidate for Ankara. Nevertheless, Turkish officials have ruled out such a choice while also playing down any kind of uneasiness with Obama's foreign policy rhetoric.

"This is an issue for US Democrats, and Turkey does not have any particular preference between Obama and McCain. Obama's remarks on the Armenian issue are actually not very different from those of past presidential candidates. It is a strong possibility that he will try to be more balanced on this issue once elected," Suat Kınıklıoğlu, a deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), told Today's Zaman yesterday.

Obama says he would withdraw US troops within 16 months of taking office in January 2009. Some analysts say that this is a disadvantage for Turkey as a quick withdrawal of US forces would leave it to deal with a neighbor in an even deeper quagmire.

Kınıklıoğlu, who was head of the German Marshall Fund's Turkey office before being elected to Parliament in July 2007, believes that a quick withdrawal is not in favor of US interests and that any move to withdraw if Obama is elected would be on a small scale in order to satisfy domestic expectations in the US.

On the Iranian issue, another important foreign policy issue of close interest to Ankara, Obama and McCain have very different approaches.

McCain backs much tougher financial and trade sanctions against Tehran, while Obama's position is open to dialogue and seems closer to Turkey. Ankara firmly favors the resolution of the Iranian nuclear dispute via diplomatic means.

Kınıklıoğlu said he believed that McCain would not ignore regional partners' stances on the Iran issue, particularly that of Turkey. "He would not like to repeat mistakes made ahead of the Iraqi war by ignoring regional partners," he said.

Egemen Bağış, a top foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sounded confident concerning probable effects of the outcome of US presidential election over US policy toward Turkey.

"Whoever is elected in the end, we will respect the outcome of the US citizens' will in compliance with our stance asking for respect for democracy in Turkey. Nonetheless, sitting in the presidential chair has always made one better understand Turkey's strategic importance to the US and its people, no matter what the president's ideology may be," Bağış, in charge of the AK Party's foreign policy affairs, added.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Haziran 2008, 13:05