The one thing you can say about this President is that he has an impressive sense of timing. Unfortunately it tends to be bad timing. First there was the disastrous meeting with the Russians in the wake of his firing former FBI Director James Comey. The optics could not be worst . . . until the meeting got worse with the alleged disclosure of code name intelligence from an ally. That meeting was held at the request of Russian president Vladimir Putin and then the Russians releases pictures taken by its state-run media organization, Tass, to the embarrassment of the Administration. Now, after Trump has threatened to cancel daily press briefings and change libel laws to allow easier lawsuits against the media, he is meeting with one of the one of the world’s most authoritarian figures, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump was previously criticized for calling Erdogan to congratulate him for acquiring near dictatorial powers in a close referendum. The last leader that anyone would want commiserating with Trump at this moment is Erdogan who has arrested journalists and critics alike in a crackdown on free speech and the free press.
Erdogan will be trying to get Trump to reverse his decision to arm to Kurdish fighters who remain the most effective warriors against ISIS. Trump wants to supply small arms, machine guns, armored vehicles and other military hardware to the Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Erdogan views the Kurds as a threat and has classified them all as terrorists.
While Trump is unlikely to reverse the decision, there is a concern that he might give up Fethullah Gulen a cleric and critic of Erdogan. Erdogan has wanted to arrest Gulen for years and most recently accused him of complicity in the attempt coup against him. He has used the coup to arrest all of his perceived opponents and fire tens of thousands of teachers and others in his rollback of civil liberties.
Hopefully, Erdogan will not give Trump advice on how tranquil life has become as Turkish leader after he eradicated protections for the free press and arrested people for the exercise of free speech. Ironically, while (he later insisted that he did not refuse), there are many sitting in Turkish jails who would wish he would avoid the hand of Erdogan. The fact is that Turkey remains an important ally in the region. However, Erdogan has destroyed the secular traditions of that country and introduced increasing Islamic influences over the government. While Trump cannot be criticized for meeting with him, he should not give up with the Kurds or Gulen to please this aspiring dictator.