Davutoglu says Obama's biggest failure was inaction in Syria

Turkey's former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu says that the policies of the Obama administration had mirrored those of the George W Bush era. He adds that the US is not learning from Obama's failures.

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Ahmet Davutoglu is currently a member of the Turkish parliament, and belongs to the ruling AK Party. He has had a seat at the table for many of the major events in Middle East foreign policy during the last decade.

Updated Feb 21, 2017

Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that inaction by the administration of former US President Barack Obama in Egypt and Syria had "encouraged dictators to commit further atrocities to retain power, fed the extremist narrative and undermined democracy."

Obama’s biggest foreign policy failure was in 2013, when he was ambiguous "in his response to the breach of his red lines in Syria and to the military coup in Egypt,"  Davutoglu said, in an exclusive op-ed published in the Middle East Eye.

He said the move also sent signals to others that they could count on US inaction and added that 2013 was key to the exponential expansion of Daesh in 2014.

"Obama's policies mirrored George W Bush-era policies"

“Most of the malaises associated with [George W Bush’s] half-baked and short-sighted policy of interventionism, particularly but not exclusively in the Middle East, were mirrored in Obama’s misplaced policy of withdrawal from the Middle East,” Davutoglu said.

“The idea and mindset of ‘withdrawal’ from the Middle East seems to have afforded the Obama administration the space to pursue inconsequential, ineffective and irresponsible policies towards the region.” 

Davutoglu, who served as the prime minister of Turkey between August 2014 and May 2016 and as foreign minister from May 2009 until August 2014, also said he believes that the Obama administration's objective in Iraq was “getting out” rather than “getting Iraq right.”

"US not learning the lessons of Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures"

The three major foreign policy failures of the US during the past decade were the Israel-Syria peace talks, the handling of the Syrian conflict and the Iran deal, according to Davutoglu.

The former Turkish premier said the first failure was when he led the Turkish mediators, who presided over peace talks between Israel and Syria. The talks were hoped to produce a framework agreement for a peace deal by the end of 2008.

"Instead, the bid was derailed by Israel’s decision to invade Gaza," he said.

“We naturally felt betrayed by the fact that Israel had once again chosen war at the very moment that the prospect of a peace deal with Syria was becoming attainable,” Davutoglu said, “and that they failed to inform us about their intention to go to war, despite the fact that Israel’s then-prime minister Ehud Olmert had a long talk over dinner with our then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey only days before the invasion.”

In the second instance cited by the former prime minister, he held six hours of talks with Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad in August 2011. Assad had agreed to a 14-point framework for a peaceful transition and a two-week period in which to declare it.

“We informed our American counterpart about the deal. Yet the US administration was rushing to declare the Assad regime as illegitimate, which it did only a week after we agreed upon the framework deal. Needless to say, during the same time period, the Assad regime also violated the terms of this framework deal several times. Thereafter, we also cut all the contacts with the regime."

Talking about the nuclear deal with Iran, Davutoglu writes that Obama had to settle for a less favourable deal than the one that Turkey and Brazil had negotiated with Tehran in May 2010.

The former Turkish prime minister said he and then-foreign minister of Brazil Celso Amorim had negotiated with Tehran for 17 hours without a break in May 2010. They then informed the US about their intention to settle the dispute.

“We expected a positive response from Washington, but the Obama administration rebuffed the deal, only because it wasn’t achieved by the P5+1."

"Trump's ban biggest gift for 9/11 perpetrators"

The idea behind al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks in the US was to "drive a wedge between peoples, religions, societies and civilisations," according to Davutoglu.

Trump's "Muslim ban will reward these perpetrators with a gift that they could never have imagined before,“ he added.

Professor. Davutoglu calls the ban an “institutionalisation of Islamophobia as a government policy of a superpower” that will increase polarisation worldwide and "activate the fault lines in societies, religions and civilisations."

He further says, “The securitisation of Islam and Muslims will drive a further wedge not only between the US and its own Muslim population, but also between the US and the larger Islamic world.”

It is an irony of history that Trump signed the Muslim ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day, "when the guiding principle of this remembrance should have been never to again stigmatise any people, religion or society collectively," according to the former Turkish premier.

Shifting of US embassy to Jerusalem

Davutoglu also warned of future dangers, such as Trump’s plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which, according to him if implemented, would be a “fatal mistake.”

He says the move would be detrimental to US interests, most probably spark a bloody conflict between Palestine and Israel, and torpedo any chance of a two-state solution.

Also the relocation would further destabilise the region with a “further cycle of violence and bloodshed” that would “provide fertile political ground for extremism of all sorts to thrive in the region.”

“Jerusalem is not only Jerusalem,” Davutoglu says. “It is not only a disputed issue between Israel and Palestine or even the Arabs as a whole, but is a much bigger potential source of friction."


TRTWorld and agencies