Bipartisan Letter to President Obama on Turkey

February 20, 2014

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Kali McNutt, FPI Director of External Affairs
Phone: 202-296-3322

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Led by Ambassador Morton I. Abramowitz and Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, eighty-four former U.S. lawmakers, government officials, and national security experts sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama today, urging him “to make it clear, privately and publicly, that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s autocratic actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.” 
 
In a news exclusive, The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reported on the letter, writing: “According to the experts and former officials, Obama has been turning a blind eye to Erdoğan's descent into autocracy.  In their opinion, this alarming trend in Turkey has accelerated since last summer, when Turkish authorities used a heavy hand to disperse street protests and Erdoğan denounced the protestors as 'looters' while blaming foreign conspirators for the unrest.”
 
The full text of the letter follows below.  The letter was organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for American Progress, Freedom House, and the Foreign Policy Initiative.


February 20, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly undermining a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic U.S.-Turkish partnership:  Turkey’s growing democracy.  We are writing because of our deep dismay at this development and to urge you to make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path. Silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdoğan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further.

Turkey is a long-time ally of the United States and one of only two democratic, stable partners we have in the Middle East.  But it might not remain either for long.  The response of Prime Minister Erdoğan to potential challenges to his rule—first large public protests beginning in May 2013, more recently allegations of massive corruption that reach the highest levels of his government—threaten to take Turkey from an imperfect democracy to an autocracy.  He and many in his party have abused their positions and compromised the rule of law by shutting down the investigations, dismissing or reassigning hundreds of prosecutors and thousands of police officers, muzzling the media, demonizing critics, and incriminating imagined foreign conspirators, including the U.S. ambassador.  Worse, the ruling AKP has pushed through institutional changes—such as bringing the judiciary under executive control and expanding state authority to censor the internet—that would eliminate the hallmarks of democracy: separation of powers, checks and balances, and civil liberties.

These developments have already roiled Turkey’s economy, polarized its society, and endangered its political stability.  Some might argue that because the United States has many interests with Turkey—not least of which is ending the violence in Syria and easing the suffering of its people—it should not risk alienating its ally. Should Turkey succumb to the authoritarian impulses currently on display, however, it would have profound implications for our ability to work together and, therefore, for our deepest interests.

We fear that Prime Minister Erdoğan and the Turkish public have taken American silence to mean that the Prime Minister retains U.S. support and can proceed as he wishes.  In the meanwhile, the damage to Turkey’s democracy keeps worsening.  We believe it is important now to make it clear, privately and publicly, that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s autocratic actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

Sincerely,

 Ambassador Morton I. AbramowitzJames Kirchick
 Elliott AbramsDr. Rachel Kleinfeld
 Dr. Kenneth AdelmanRepresentative James Thomas Kolbe
 Dr. David AdesnikDavid Kramer
 Ilan BermanIrina Krasovskaya
 Ambassador David BirenbaumDr. William Kristol
 Ambassador John R. BoltonDr. Robert J. Lieber
 Max BootSenator Joseph I. Lieberman
 Ellen BorkScott Lilly
 Ambassador L. Paul BremerDr. Aaron Lobel
 Dr. Eliot A. CohenMary Beth Long
 Senator Norm ColemanDr. Thomas G. Mahnken
 Susan CorkeDr. Michael Makovsky
 Dr. Svante CornellAnn Marlowe
 Ambassador William CourtneyClifford D. May
 Jack DavidStephen McInerney
 James S. DentonDavid A. Merkel
 Tom DineDr. Joshua Muravchik
 Ambassador Paula J. DobrianskyDr. Dana Villiers Negroponte
 Michael DoranGovernor Tim Pawlenty
 Mark DubowitzDr. Martin Peretz
 Dr. Colin DueckDanielle Pletka
 Charles DunneJohn Podhoretz
 Dr. Nicholas N. EberstadtArch Puddington
 Ambassador Eric S. EdelmanSenator Charles S. Robb
 Dr. Jeffrey GedminDr. Carla Anne Robbins
 Reuel Marc GerechtAmbassador Dennis Ross
 Carl GershmanDr. Michael Rubin
 Abe GreenwaldDr. Kori Schake
 Christopher J. GriffinDr. Jonathan Schanzer
 Lawrence J.  HaasRandy Scheunemann
 John P. HannahDan Senor
 Pete HegsethScott Siff
 John D. HolumDr. Anne-Marie Slaughter
 Brian HookJulianne Smith
 Peter R. HuessyGEN Charles F. Wald, USAF (Ret.)
 Dr. William C. InbodenPeter Wehner
 Bruce Pitcairn JacksonDr. Kenneth R. Weinstein
 Dr. Kenneth D. M. JensenDr. Michael Werz
 ADM Gregory Johnson, USN (Ret.)Leon Wieseltier
 Ambassador Robert G. JosephDr. Dov S. Zakheim
 Brian KatulisMortimer Zuckerman

 

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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