In truth, however, the US sees Gül as more ideological than Erdogan and anti-Western, according to embassy dispatches based on statements from those close to Gül. Gül uses almost every opportunity to make Erdogan look bad, the documents claim, even talking badly about him in front of state visitors. Gül worked for a long time to become president and therefore Erdogan's equal. Erdogan tried to prevent his rise -- without success. In the summer of 2007 Gül took up residence in the presidential palace in Ankara.
US diplomats are likewise unflinching when it comes to Erdogan's advisor and foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. They say he understands little about politics outside of Ankara. They see this as unfortunate, because they want to see Turkey join the EU -- but they don't believe it will ever happen. In order to make progress toward EU accession, the US ambassador wrote, the government must "hire a couple thousand people skilled in English or other major EU languages and up to the bureaucratic demands of interfacing with the Eurocrats." The AKP, write US diplomats, had thus far employed mostly confidants from the Sunni brotherhoods.
Some AKP politicians, according to a US assessment, support Turkish membership in the EU for "murky" and "muddled" reasons, for example because they believe Turkey must spread Islam in Europe. A US dispatch from late 2004 reports that a member of a leading AKP think tank said that Turkey's role is "to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683."
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu largely shares this viewpoint and the Americans are alarmed by his imperialistic tone. In a summary of a speech by Davutoglu delivered in Sarajevo in January 2010, the US ambassador wrote: "His thesis: the Balkans, Caucasus and Middle East were all better off when under Ottoman control or influence; peace and progress prevailed. Alas the region has been ravaged by division and war ever since.... However, now Turkey is back, ready to lead or even unite. (Davutoglu: 'We will re-establish this (Ottoman) Balkan')."
Davutoglu's hubris and his neo-Ottoman vision is cause for US concern. Turkey has "Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources," reads the same 2010 cable. According to embassy dispatches from 2004, Defense Minister Mehmet Gönül warned of Davutoglu's Islamist influence on Erdogan. He is "exceptionally dangerous" Gönül told the US.
Under Erdogan, relations with Israel have dramatically deteriorated. The two governments are at odds over the war against Hamas in late 2008 and early 2009 and over the attack on the Gaza fleet earlier this year. The Israeli ambassador to Ankara, Gabby Levy, claimed in October 2009 that Erdogan was behind the cooling of relations: "He's a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously," Levy was quoted as saying in a confidential US embassy dispatch from October 2009.
The Americans are watching with concern as Erdogan distances NATO member-state Turkey further and further from the West. They are concerned about the country's stability. "Every day is a new one here, and no one can be certain where this whole choreography will fall out of whack," James Jeffrey, then the US ambassador in Turkey, wrote in late February 2010. "Then, look out."
Translated from the German by Josie Le Blond