US election seen from Turkey: Turkish people have "a very negative perception of Joe Biden"

US election seen from Turkey: Turkish people have "a very negative perception of Joe Biden"

İpek Yezdani is an international freelance journalist based in Turkey. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Carlos Santamaria: In your opinion, what are two or three issues that people in Turkey are concerned about regarding the upcoming US election?

IY: There are several very important critical issues for Turkey-US relations. One of them is, of course, Syria. During the Obama administration, there was huge support for the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria. During the Trump administration, this support has continued for a while. The Turkish government considers the YPG as a terrorist organization, but on the other hand, Turkey is an ally, a NATO ally, maybe one of the strongest US allies in the Middle East. We has been fighting against this terrorist organization for decades, so this is a very important issue for Turkey.

The second important issue is US sanctions against Turkey after the Turkish bank Halkbank broke US sanctions against Iran. But the Trump administration has managed to limit these sanctions to a very low level.

Another important issue is the Fethullah Gülen movement. Gülen is an Islamic scholar who lives in Pennsylvania. His presence in the US is a big problem for Turkey-US relations because the Turkish government considers him the mastermind of the coup attempt in 2016. Turkey has been asking the US to give him back for many years.


CS: And what do Turkish people think about the relationship between President Trump and your President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan?

IY: Turkish people think that there's a very good relationship between Trump and Erdoğan. The Turkish government believes that Erdoğan can manage to have good relations with Trump based on his personal dialogue with Trump rather than on the rules of international relations. Their relations are based, actually, on the two leaders' personal dialogue. So there is this perception in the Turkish public as well. And the Turkish public mostly thinks that continuing the Trump administration will be more favorable for Turkey.

CS: So the sentiment in Turkey is that the country overall benefited from the 2016 outcome, from Trump's victory?

IY: Yes, definitely. Because his rival back then, Hillary Clinton, was known for her close relationship with the Gülen movement. And most of the public opinion was that if Hillary Clinton won, it would be really bad for Turkey.

CS: Is that perception widespread, or is it more outside of Istanbul, where most of Erdoğan's power base lies?

IY: To be honest with you I think people in rural areas don't much care about who is elected in the US. They don't even know who the candidates are. I'm talking about people who follow the news, who are interested in these issues or who are involved in politics in Turkey. The general perception was that Hillary Clinton would not be good for Turkey.

On the other hand, Donald Trump wrote a letter to Erdoğan, telling him "Don't be a fool" [over invading northern Syria]. There was a huge outrage in Turkey. But even though the letter was full of insults, people forgot about that, and also the government also forgot about that. And the Turkish government continued trying to have good relations with the Trump administration.

And I think they got the result of their efforts because Trump decided to withdraw US forces from Syria. The policies of Trump regarding Syria are mostly in favor of Turkey.

CS: So, what would you say the stakes are for Turkey if Trump is reelected, or Joe Biden wins?

IY: If Trump wins, the Turkish government and the Turkish public think that it would be much more favorable for Turkey because of good relations with Trump. If you remember, Trump has also several times mentioned that "Erdoğan is a great guy, I have very good relations with him." Trump also had this kind of rhetoric regarding Erdoğan most of the time.

CS: Is that appeal to Erdoğan's ego important in Turkey?

IY: Definitely. It's very important for Erdoğan's image in the public eye, because in Turkey most of the mainstream media is under the control of the government. And when Trump says something like this, it becomes huge news here. And, you know, the perception is like "look, our president can convince President Trump in the way that he wants to convince him." Maybe I am exaggerating right now, but it is seen as though "Erdoğan bends the knee of Trump."

CS: So what happened with the letter? How was that perceived in Turkey?

IY: Of course, it was perceived in a very negative way. There was a lot of reaction. There was outrage among the public and especially the opposition parties. They criticized the government a lot over this letter, and they blamed it for being weak on Trump. But still, the letter was forgotten. And the Turkish government continued its business as usual with the Trump administration.

CS: What do people in Turkey think about Joe Biden?

IY: Right now, there's a very negative perception of Joe Biden, especially because of an interview with the New York Times where Biden said his aim is to unseat Erdoğan. And he openly said that we are going to make Turkey pay the price for what they have done until today. Even the opposition parties have criticized Joe Biden, saying that Turkey is an independent nation and you're not the architect of this nation anymore. So you cannot interfere in Turkey's domestic politics.

CS: If Biden is elected, how do you think Erdoğan is going to handle the relationship with him?

IY: I think it's going to be really difficult for Erdoğan because Biden already has a lot of prejudices about Turkey. Biden says many wrong things about the Kurdish minority in parliament, and about Turkey's purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. Clearly, he is not being well informed about Turkey.

This interview is part of the GZERO project Global voices on the US election, which you can find in full here.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

More Show less

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

More Show less

80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

More Show less

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

More Show less

For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Does alcohol help bring the world together?

GZERO World Clips

How should athletes protest at the Olympics?

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal