Cheney in Ankara

You’ll recall that last month I mentioned an increase in Turkey’s troop commitment in Afghanistan and a more active Turkish role in pushing back against Iran’s nuclear program as likely chits for the U.S. signing off on its weeklong incursion into northern Iraq. Well, it seems that Dick cheney flew into Ankara today and met with Turkey’s president, prime minister and chief of staff to collect on both accounts. And in a further sign of America’s diminished standing in the region, he left more or less empty-handed. (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did issue a pro forma declaration urging Tehran to cooperate more fully with the IAEA.)

Now if this were a mob movie, some capo would be busy explaining to the Don in a husky whisper why someone had to get knee-capped, and quick, to keep people in the neighborhood from thinking we’d gone soft. Thing is, if this were a mob movie, chances are Cheney would be the capo sent to do the knee-capping.

So I’ll be keeping my eye on this one. Ankara isn’t too keen on appearing like Washington’s errand boy, so there might just be a short delay for appearance’s sake. The NATO summit two weeks from now, for instance, would make a nice, headline-grabbing forum for an Afghanistan announcement.

But if ‘No’ in this case really means ‘No,’ that’s a pretty big setback for American regional strategy.

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