From Abby Phillip, POLITICO: Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has made it a priority to cultivate a stronger American alliance with Turkey , a secular, Muslim-majority country that has for decades occupied a pivotal position between the West and other Islamic nations.
But the U.S. partnership with Turkey, which Obama hailed in a 2009 speech in Ankara, became strained yet again, when the president announced the beginning of aerial strikes against the Libyan regime led by Col. Muammar Qadhafi — and when Turkey delayed his plan to hand over responsibility for a no-fly zone to NATO.
Urgent, high-level U.S. diplomacy ultimately secured Turkey’s cooperation in allowing NATO air patrols over Libya. …
When it came time to secure NATO’s cooperation with the handover of the no-fly zone and implementation of the humanitarian mission, the administration again was forced to mediate a conflict between France and Turkey, which sought to limit the scope of NATO’s military involvement in Libya. To resolve the stalemate, Obama placed two phone calls to Erdogan on Libya in recent weeks, pushing for consensus on NATO’s role in Libya.
But the final compromise came after a series of high-level calls between the Turkish foreign minister and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The Turks also needed a compromise here,” said Henri Barkey, a former State Department official for Middle East policy. “If there was no deal, the White House would have been mightily pissed … it would have been a bridge too far for the Turks to cross because there have been so many instances when the Turks have been very difficult for the U.S. recently. One more would have taxed Obama’s patience.”
In 2009, the Turks nearly scuttled a historic agreement with Armenia that Clinton had personally traveled to Europe to secure. Turkey has also strengthened ties with Iran in defiance of U.S. and United Nations sanctions, to the annoyance of many within the Obama administration. (photo: AP)