Erdogan Threatened Europe with Refugees, now Demanding US abandon Syrian Kurds

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Reuters reports that Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan allegedly bullied European leaders and threatened to drown Europe in refugees if his terms were not met. He wanted 6 Bn Euros to keep the 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey happy enough in that country to discourage them from moving to Europe.

In the course of the meeting, Erdogan was alleged to have interrupted the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk repeatedly.

For all the world like a Donald Trump, Erdogan is said to have rebuked Juncker, who is from Luxembourg, for disrespecting him, belittling him by saying that Luxembourg is just a village in Turkish terms and that Turkey’s population is 80 million [a slight exaggeration].

Erdogan is said to have demanded 6 bn. euros [$6.7 bn] to keep the refugees in Turkey, but in the end settled for 3 bn. euros plus revival of Turkey’s application to join the European Union, plus visa-free travel for Turks to the European Union.

If this report is correct, Erdogan has become slightly unbalanced.

He had a tiff with another of his NATO allies on Monday, complaining bitterly about the visit of American official Brett McGurk to Kobane.

That city in Syria’s northeast was besieged by Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), and would have fallen had it not been for US airstrikes in support of the YPG guerrillas. The latter are considered by Turkey to be a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and so to be terrorists. The US disagrees, and has found them the most reliable ally against Daesh.

Erdogan said that the US had to choose between him and the terrorist Kurds.

But actually the US doesn’t have to choose, and won’t. The Department of Defense finds the Syrian Kurds irresistible as as partner because they are willing actually to fight Daesh. (Turkey, aside from a few air strikes, hasn’t done much about Daesh).

But Turkey is a NATO member, so the US will find some boilerplate language to make Ankara satisfied.

At a time when his plans for Syria are in deep trouble, Erdogan seems to be alienating the very allies he most needs with his bluster.

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Related video:

RT: “‘How can we trust you?’ Erdogan urges US to choose between him or Kurds”

16 Responses

  1. This is too cute. The Merkel government has announced, there should be no criticising of any sort, when it comes to our good allies in Istanbul.

    Merkel is busy cuddling up to Erdogan day and night and has basically demanded everyone else should although ignore Erdogans all out war on Kurds, human rights abuses, idiotic meddling in syria, etc…

    The german head of state sees in Erdogan the only person who can give her what she holds most dear in all the world: Her staying in power… -.-

    • “… what she holds most dear in all the world: Her staying in power… ”

      If Merkel only cared for power, she could have closed the borders months ago, and expel the refugees.

      Her position is extremely unpopular. She already burned through her entire political capital, by insisting that the asylum process is kept intact.

      To think she is politically motivated in this question is completely counter factual.

      • Well, she has turned from her first stance completely and now supports the turkish government, regardless how criminal that government acts if only they keep the refugees away.

        This seems more than a little opportunistic, but is consistent with the morale flexibility she has displayed many times before.

        Her refusal to close the borders might have more to do with the protests of the german industry against closing them.

        Why she put herself in that position in the first place? My guess is, she simply had no idea what she was getting herself into.

  2. Will Erdogan bring back the law against the “Kurdish” letters of the alphabet, that is X, W, and Q?
    X, W, & Q were finally legal to use in Oct. 2013.

    Looks like Erdogan has gone round the twist, and it’s a scary twist when, last month, he used Hitler as an example of a powerful presidency.

    And if Erdogan slips into megalomania, no telling what he will want to do. He is frightening.
    Ethnic repression can lead to “ethnic cleansing”, which equals genocide bowdlerized & spun.

  3. If the report is accurate? He’s shown entirely what he is, and how many lives he’ll take (to say nothing of freedoms) in his thirst for power. Also: He. Never. Was. A. Democrat.
    Now we can expect him to attempt small strikes (or larger!) against the YPG on the pretense that they’re aiding the PKK. This site hasn’t been covering those reports, but even the Guardian has picked them up.
    Of course, YPG is about the ONLY force in Syria fighting ISIS. Turkey, meanwhile, will do business with, and support, just about any Sunni force of any sort and is now cuddling up with the KSA, whose leaders he had excoriated not long ago.
    Ankara has also once again, as it did a few years ago, done all it could to derail talks by making Assad’s exit a precondition.
    &, oh, yeah, Bass was summoned to the Kaçak Saray on Monday

  4. Hard to believe that this is the same man who was successful for years in pursuing peace with the Kurds and good relations with all his neighbors and in the process performing a small economic miracle in Turkey. Has he lost his mind? Has something drastically altered his thinking? Or was he always like this at heart and just hiding it until he had consolidated power? Whatever it was, Erdogan is becoming increasingly deranged and dangerous. Not, of course, that various Europeans don’t need to be taken to task on their mishandling of the refugee crisis.

    • 1. Economic miracle was not his. Designed by CHP’s Kemal Dervis and overseen then by Ali Babacan until Tayyip broke with him.
      2. Good relations with the Kurds? Started after he broke his alliance MHP and the idiot Bahceli, who gave him what he wanted. Tayyip in mid 2000s was complaining that CHP didn’t kill Ocalan (who since ca. 2013 has been reportred as on board with the new Presidency Tayyip wants.
      2a. The break did not have to come. Erdogan was comfortable when His words (with small, symbolic actions) were rewarded with votes for AKP in the southeast. When HDP decided to run as a party and it began to seem probably that they’d clear 10%, that was the end of the “Kurdish initiative.” Didn’t help that Turkey was happy to let Syrian Kurds get slaughtered by ISIS and closed the border to Turkish Kurds, but now wants to intervene for the Sunni Islamists it has supported (including al Nusra) and gains nationalist support by protecting the Turkmens.
      So, yes, hiding it until he consolidated power, with US/EU cheering on as he “cleansed” the army with the help of the Gulenists, on whom he then turned and who almost certainly did deserve it.
      Democracy is a streetcar you ride until you get where you want to go. Then you get off” –Erdogan ca. 20 years ago.

  5. I bet a military aid package to Greece soon becomes popular. That will shut erdogen up for a bit.

  6. Hey Jaun and others –
    Please correct me if I am wrong. I think I am well informed but no expert, but . .
    I’ve been told by more than one ME authority that Daesh is totally dependent on Turkish support.
    If that is true, Turkey is the problem and not the solution, and the above article is pretty much blowing smoke, nicht war?

    • I don’t think Turkey supports Daesh. Jaysh al-Fateh (which includes al-Qaeda), probably yes. But Turkey is also apparently not terribly determined to do anything about Daesh.

    • Totally dependent, I do not know, but I thought Turkey has or had a thriving trade with ISIS in OIL.
      IMHO, Turkey is the problem.

  7. You don’t think Turkey supports Daesh. No it just buys oil off them and funds them, In exchange for no attacks on its soil.

  8. If Turkey ends up in a civil war, with the Kurds and Jihadists, then the resulting exodus to Europe will be unimaginable. Turks will become part of the EU, whether the Europeans like it or not. Hopefully saner minds will prevail in Turkey, and step back from Erdogan’s dreams of regional hegemony.

  9. Dear Professor Cole

    You are a master of understatement

    “If this report is correct, Erdogan has become slightly unbalanced.”

    Turkish forces are now reported bombing and shelling Kurdish held areas north of Aleppo. (15:00Z 13 Feb 2016)

    Only a matter of time before the Russian Air Force and the SAM show up. Then WWIII

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