Why the UK was right to reject Erdogan’s COP26 security game

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Tom Rogan of the Washington Examiner writes on subjects that are important to us all.  Here he gives us a thorough explanation on why President Erdogen of Turkey canceled his attendance to the COP26 Climate Summit.  The Summit is headed by the UK and Italy.  The purpose of this entity is to work with all countries and joining forces of civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action in the years ahead.  Perhaps President Erdogen can utilize technology (virtual conferencing) to participate in this worthwhile cause.  We think, instead of using Mr. Rogan’s adjective at the end of his article, one can add “paranoid” or perhaps “self-preservation” to explain the Turkish President’s actions…but only he can tell us the real reasons.  Here’s the report:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey canceled his attendance at the COP26 climate summit after the British government refused his excessive security demands.

Britain was right not to give in to Erdogan’s ego.

According to Middle East Eye, Turkey had requested the same security provisions as afforded to the U.S. Erdogan told Turkish state media that he canceled his attendance after he learned “that the [security] standards we requested, which were rejected, were provided exceptionally for another country. We will not allow the dignity and honor of our country to be harmed.”

Erdogan’s words are ironically apt. An expanded presence of the Turkish presidential security division or TPPD would have posed a significant risk of harming the UK’s “dignity and honor.” After all, Erdogan has turned the TPPD into a thuggish gang. Formed by political loyalists, Erdogan’s security detail has two non-protective purposes. First, it feeds Erdogan’s vast ego (the president’s vast motorcade is a target of much teasing at home) and desire to be seen as a new Ottoman sultan. Second, it serves as a diplomatically immunized means to attack Erdogan’s critics.

It is the latter concern which most likely prompted Britain to reject Erdogan’s security requests for COP26.

It’s well understood by governments the world over what happens when Erdogan’s security detail gets latitude. There was the May 2017 incident in Washington, for example, in which Erdogan appeared to direct his security detail to attack peaceful protesters. But that’s just the start.

As I noted back in 2017, “[in 2016], TPPD officers attacked journalists outside the Washington-based Brookings Institution. A Secret Service agent had to restrain a TPPD officer from attacking protesters. During another U.S. visit, the TPPD decided to push Secret Service agents assigned to Erdogan’s detail. In a 2015 visit to Brussels, a TPPD officer attacked a Belgian government bodyguard. In 2009, the TPPD entered President Obama’s inner protective bubble. In 2011, then–prime minister Erdogan’s detail attacked security officers at U.N. headquarters.

In short, thuggery is a prerequisite for Erdogan’s protection details.

Accepting Erdogan’s demands would have risked street battles within the COP26 complex. It would also have been impractical to give Erdogan the same treatment as Biden.

Standing security arrangements allow U.S. presidents to travel with a full Secret Service detail while in the UK. Secret Service requests for extensive roadblocks are also generally provided by British authorities, rather than the rolling roadblocks employed when the Prime Minister and Queen are traveling. Perhaps apart from the Secret Service agent in charge and their shift supervisors, the UK does not allow Secret Service agents to carry their firearms. Secret Service Counter Assault Teams (responsible for repelling attacks so that the rest of the detail can cover and evacuate a protectee) are substituted with British military special forces or police counter-terrorism units. These provisions are resource intensive, and afforded only to the U.S. in support of the special relationship. Trust is the critical element to any effective protective arrangement. The UK and the U.S. have that trust.

The UK and Turkey lack it.

Regardless, at COP26, where literally hundreds of world leaders (all requiring both static and mobile protection) are gathered, it would be ludicrous for Erdogan to be granted Biden’s level of protection. This is a particular concern in Britain, which lacks the number of protection specialist officers available in some nations.

Put simply, Britain was right to tell Erdogan to accept its arrangements or stay home. Putin’s pet sultan has again been shown for what he is: a clown.

  • 11/3/2021
  • Tom Rogan