WikiLeaks: US Ambassador Deconstructs Erdogan

ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)–A report sent to the State Department by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman carrying the subject line “turkish p.m. Erdogan goes to washington: how strong a leader in the face of strong challenges?” attempts to sum up Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s character before a scheduled visit to Washington. The “confidential” report, leaked by WikiLeaks just yesterday, was dated Jan. 20, 2004 and was scheduled to be declassified on Jan. 7, 2014.


In the report, the ambassador lists topics that interest the Turkish PM, such as the intolerability of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, the opening of the border with Armenia, economic reform, a Cyprus settlement, cooperation on Iraq and against terrorist groups, and “the clearest possible signal” that the U.S. stands behind Erdogan’s government.

“Who are we dealing with?” asks Edelman. “…Charismatic, and possessing a common touch and phenomenal memory for faces and functions of thousands of party members across the country, Erdogan has a strong pragmatic core.”

Erdogan is “a natural politician” who “projects the image of the Tribune of Anatolia, ready to take on corruption and privilege and to defend conservative traditions.”

However, “[he] has traits which render him seriously vulnerable to miscalculating the political dynamic, especially in foreign affairs, and vulnerable to attacks by those who would disrupt his equilibrium,” states the report, which goes on to list five observations.

“First, overbearing pride. Second, unbridled ambition stemming from the belief God has anointed him to lead Turkey… Third, an authoritarian loner streak which prevents growth of a circle of strong and skillful advisors, a broad flow of fresh information to him, or development of effective communications among the party headquarters, government, and parliamentary group[s]. This streak also makes him exceptionally thin-skinned. Fourth, an overweening desire to stay in power which, despite his macho image, renders him fearful and prone to temporizing even at moments which call for swift and resolute decisions. Fifth, a distrust of women which manifests itself not only in occasional harsh public comments but also in his unwillingness to give women any meaningful decision-making authority in AK [party].”

The ambassador also lists the “rival centers of power,” highlighting reported rumors “of the tensions between Erdogan and [President Abdullah] Gul, with the latter appearing repeatedly to try to undercut Erdogan.”

“While his ultimate direction and success remain to be seen, at this time Erdogan is the only partner capable of advancing toward the U.S. vision of a successful, democratic Turkey integrated into Europe,” concludes Edelman.

Click here for the full report.


Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).


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