Will Biden turn his words against dictator Erdoğan into action?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Although the Turkish regime has been committing atrocities and massive human rights violations domestically and regionally since 2016, dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not faced any serious pressure from the Trump administration, except once in the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

That silence from the United States has been interpreted by analysts as a green light for Erdoğan to unlawfully intervene in sovereign countries and keep violating human rights internally!

US President Donald Trump with Pastor Branson and other former hostages.
US President Donald Trump with Pastor Branson and other former hostages.

In the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump was extremely tough and sanctioned Turkey's justice and interior ministers. Trump also had vocally threatened to “destroy the Turkish economy” if Turkey refuses to release Brunson.

This led to an immediate plunge in the Turkish currency.

Trump’s strong stance forced Erdoğan to kneel and release Pastor Brunson to prevent any further turbulences in the relations because the Turkish regime knows that they cannot stand a conflict with the US. However, apart from this incident, Turkey enjoyed four years of unchecked actions.

Generally, what we can learn from Brunson’s incident is that Turkey is weak and can be easily coerced to come back on track once there is a will from the US administration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Joe Biden at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on August 24, 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Joe Biden at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on August 24, 2016.

Now with Joe Biden coming to the White House next January, the reality might look completely different from Trump’s era, and Erdoğan could face unprecedented challenges that he may not survive from, especially at a time of a collapsing Turkish economy and lack of friends.

Biden is known for his support to the Kurds, which obviously is bad news for Erdoğan who used Trump's term to kill and invade Kurdish-held lands in Northeast Syria by utilizing jihadists who committed massive war crimes.

When Biden was asked about Turkey’s acts in the region, he answered without hesitation that Turkey will pay the price for its malign actions.

Furthermore, Biden openly attacked dictator Erdoğan and called him an “autocrat” and promised that he will work with the opposition parties in Turkey to topple Erdoğan’s rule. And in response to Biden’s words, the Turkish regime accused Biden of intervening in Turkey’s domestic matters.

Additionally, the future of Turkey as a member of NATO is under scrutiny after it bought the Russian S-400 system which exposes military equipment of the alliance to their main adversary - Moscow. Since Turkey acquired the system, calls from US senators have been ignored by the Trump administration to sanction Turkey under the CAATSA act.

Observers anticipate that Biden’s administration will correspond with the Congress and go forward in imposing sanctions on Turkey, which could include numbers of severe measures such as denying visas to officials, prevention access to the US-based Export-Import Bank, prohibition of export licenses and the prevention of any transactions with the US financial system.

Not only this, but Turkey’s provocation in the Aegean Sea against Greece, which is also a member of NATO, is another reason why Turkey might be removed from the alliance and face trouble with a Biden’s administration.

Michael Carpenter, a former adviser to Biden and likely a future member of Biden’s team, criticized Turkey’s foreign adventures in Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and in the Aegean calling their moves “not the actions of an ally”.

The Pentagon is also considering a plan to remove its airbase from Turkey to keep away from any stupid actions Turkey could take under Erdoğan’s leadership that could lead to a direct conflict with Russia.

Some experts believe that the US presence in İncirlik Air Base emboldens Erdoğan who thinks he is protected from foreign foes by the army of the strongest nation in the world.

Thus, a US withdraw will send a strong message and limit the dictator's foreign interventions.

Halkbank helped Iran evade U.S.-imposed sanctions.
Halkbank helped Iran evade U.S.-imposed sanctions.

Other issues are also expected to be on the table during Biden’s presidency, such as Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank which is about to face severe sanctions by US courts for helping Iran evade American sanctions.

Also, the ongoing dispute of North Cyprus and Turkey’s harbouring of radical Islamists are two major cases impacting the stability of the region.

Overall, Turkey surely must retreat from its offensive approach in the region or face difficult times in the near future. Biden is not Trump, and dictator Erdoğan needs to understand this fact.

Turkey is in no position to upset the US as it is already facing difficult time with the EU and the Arab world. Turkey has no more friends and losing the US as an ally will have severe consequences.

Yet the main question remains, will Biden turn his words against dictator Erdoğan into actions?

It is difficult to predict what is going to happen or how far the relationship is going to be deteriorated. We should not ignore some cards that Erdoğan is still holding against the West, and thus a complete break up with Turkey is not expected, but some tough measures are likely going to define the coming relationship between America and Turkey.

Abdulrahman Taleb, is a British-Arab researcher in Middle East North Africa studies.

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.