August 4, 2012 - 13:13 AMT
A photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama holding a baseball bat while talking on the phone to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was intended to show their close relationship, a White House spokeswoman said, after the photo caused a stir in Turkey.
The two leaders spoke on Monday, July 30 to discuss the crisis in Syria, after which the photograph of Obama seated at his desk, talking on the phone while holding a bat autographed by black-American baseball great Hank Aaron, was released by the White House.
"The photo reveals from whom our Prime Minister receives orders to rule the country," Metin Lutfi Baydar, a lawmaker with Turkey's main opposition party the Republican People's Party (CHP), said in a statement.
CHP vice president Umut Oran asked through parliament if Erdogan had seen the picture and if he would take action against "an implicit insult to Turkey and its citizens".
Some newspapers took a more lighthearted view, with columnist Ahmet Hakan of Hurriyet writing: "We need to do something - retaliation seems to be the most reasonable method."
"Our prime minister needs to hold something in his hand as he's calling Obama," he added, suggesting as possible candidates a slipper, a belt or a rolling pin.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a written statement on Friday that her department had seen the commentary and speculation about the photo in the Turkish media.
The realization came only belatedly in Ankara when the White House released the photograph that United States President Barack Obama was holding a baseball bat with one hand as he made a phone call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday night.
The White House statement merely said Obama discussed with Erdogan how to "coordinate efforts to accelerate a political transition in Syria, which would include the departure of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad" and to share the "growing concerns" about the violence in Syria and the "deteriorating humanitarian conditions".
Why hold a baseball bat while on statecraft - and then publicize it? The Turks could see any number of reasons: Obama was likely grandstanding as a tough world leader; possibly, threatening Bashar; maybe, impressing Israel and Saudi Arabia - or, Iran and Russia. But they calmly concluded that Obama was conveying a blunt message to Erdogan to speed up the "regime change" in Syria: "Whack Bashar, ErdoganBey".
Indeed, the Turkish army is maneuvering with tanks on the Syrian border. But Erdogan is yet to take the momentous step of approaching the Turkish parliament for approval for the army to cross the border into the country. Erdogan is thinking furiously. He took a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ankara on Wednesday to oversee "war preparations" and inter alia realized that the Turkish armed forces are in great disarray.
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