BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For many years, the Turkish government has hired numerous American companies in Washington, D.C., to lobby and carry out public relations on its behalf.
Hiring such companies is very expensive and most of the time, it is a waste of money, as they produce more paperwork than actual results. But once in a while, they can draft and help publish opinion articles (op-eds) in American newspapers on behalf of Turkish officials and arrange their visits and meetings in the United States.
The Turkish government is obligated to spend large amounts of money to hire such companies because it cannot rely on the Turkish-American community to lobby or do PR on its behalf, no matter how much funding is provided from Ankara. The same situation applies to the Azerbaijani government and the Azeri-American community. Neither the Turkish nor Azeri communities are very active in American politics and have not existed in the United States as long as the Armenian community. This is why Turkey and Azerbaijan rely on paid lobbyists to advance their interests in the United States.
Given the recent turmoil in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, one of the PR firms hired by the Turkish government was probably asked to draft an opinion column on behalf of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and use its contacts to have that article published in The New York Times.
Naturally, the column had to reflect the views of Erdogan rather than those of the PR firm. It would have been interesting to compare the first draft of what the American PR firm first suggested to the final version as revised by Erdogan’s staff.
Judging from the content of Erdogan’s article, one can tell that the PR firm’s proposed text, written delicately and professionally, was not accepted by Ankara. Instead, what The New York Times ended up publishing is a typical bombastic article reflecting Erdogan’s dictatorial and pompous stand! Having rejected the PR firm’s more diplomatic text, Erdogan has made his article useless in having any positive effect on the American public and government.
Erdogan’s August 10, 2018 critical article was titled: “How Turkey Sees the Crisis With the U.S.,” and subtitled: “Unilateral actions against Turkey by the United States will undermine American interests and force Turkey to look for other friends and allies.”
The reader would be turned off right away from the article’s title by its confrontational tone and threatening language inappropriate for resolving any kind of a dispute. Here are a few examples of Erdogan’s questionable opinions expressed in his controversial op-ed column:
— “…The United States has repeatedly and consistently failed to understand and respect the Turkish people’s concerns.”
How about the Turkish leader’s need to understand and respect the concerns of the American people? The tail does not wag the dog! Erdogan does not comprehend that Turkey needs the United States more than the U.S. needs Turkey. For far too long, because of weak leadership in Washington, the Turkish government has gotten away with its inappropriate behavior as a NATO member and U.S. ally. The more American leaders accommodated Turkish misbehavior, the more antagonistic they have become. If decades ago, the United States had put Turkey in its place, it would have learned to behave as a junior U.S. partner, and not as a bully!
— Erdogan warned: “Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy…. Turkey has alternatives. Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”
This is an empty threat. Turkey is free to turn to Russia or China and lose the support of the United States and Western Europe. It is high time for NATO to consider kicking Turkey out of the alliance. Good riddance!
— Erdogan also accused the United States of arming Kurdish fighters in Syria and using these weapons against Turkey “in Syria, Iraq and Turkey” itself.
First of all, it is a lie that U.S. weapons were used by Kurds in Turkey. Secondly, Turkish forces have no business invading Syria and Iraq, thus violating their territorial sovereignty.
Erdogan went on to counter Pres. Trump’s request to free the unfairly held American pastor, Andrew Brunson, by asking the United States to respect Turkey’s “judicial process.” What judicial process under Erdogan’s dictatorship? Thousands of Turks have been in jail without any due process or an iota of guilt. If Erdogan had any brains, he would have ordered the release of Pastor Brunson a long time ago, thus avoiding an unnecessary conflict with the United States. Because Erdogan and his junior brother, Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, are so unhinged, they have generated negative publicity against Turkey and Azerbaijan that no PR company can fix, no matter how much money it is paid.
Interestingly, The New York Times published an editorial on the same day as Erdogan’s article, condemning the Turkish leader’s “unscrupulous behavior” for holding Pastor Brunson on “trumped-up charges,” and asking: “is Turkey still an American ally?”
Ironically, The New York Times editorial destroyed any benefit Erdogan was expecting from the publication of his propaganda article, thus wasting the large amount of money Turkey spent on public relations.