Public Comment

New: Rex Tillerson

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday April 01, 2017 - 03:07:00 PM

It was profoundly disturbing to witness Rex Tillerson’s effusive greeting and photo op with Turkey’s leader, President Erdogan. Perhaps, Tillerson is unaware that Turkey is rapidly sliding towards a dictatorship. He failed to raise US concerns over mass arrests of protestors, a purge of political opponents and a fierce crackdown on the news media. President Trump has shown an unhealthy fascination for dictators – Egypt’s General Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the gun-toting Duterte of the Philippines. Turkey is set to hold a referendum next month which may extend Erdogan’s presidency to 2029. 

Currently, Turkey is waging a brutal war with the Kurdish minority which comprises twenty five percent of the population. Following the unsuccessful coup, Turkey has dismissed and imprisoned 130,000 people from their jobs. Over 6,300 academics have been fired and fifteen universities have been closed. A staggering number of journalists, fifty percent of the world’s total, are languishing in jail in Turkey. 

If Trump is serious about his promise to crush and defeat ISIS he needs to push for greater autonomy to the Kurdish minority. Tragically, the Kurds are fighting on three fronts, Assad’s Syrian fighters, ISIS and Turkey. 

Tillerson needs to resist Trump’s efforts to gut the State Department. Soft power is far more effective than relying on the barrel of a gun. Tillerson may be an expert on extracting oil from the ground but he is clearly a lightweight in statecraft.