Ankara and Washington: From the strategic alliance to the threatened partnership

Ankara and Washington: From the strategic alliance to the threatened partnership

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At the moment, US-Turkish relations are experiencing a state of extreme tension, a major emerging factor in the crisis between the two countries was the announcement by the US Treasury Department a few days ago to impose sanctions on the interior and justice ministers in Turkey over the detention of Pastor Andrew Branson, accused by Turkey to commit crimes of supporting the organization of ” Service “of the US-based preacher, Fathullah Gulen, and the PKK, both of which Ankara regards as terrorist movements. In response to the policy of reciprocity, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the freezing of any assets in Turkey that belong to the US interior and justice ministers. Erdogan said the US action on American pastor Andrew Branson was “inappropriate for a strategic partner and it is an insult to Turkey.”
This tension is not the first of its kind in the history of relations between the two countries in contemporary history. The United States of America imposed an arms embargo on Turkey in 1975 after its invasion of northern Cyprus. Turkey responded by closing all US bases in it. However, the matter did not indicate to the collapse of US-Turkish bilateral relations, although the solution to the problem was only after three years of protracted negotiations. But the circumstances are quite different. The list of differences between the two countries is long. It concerns the totality of their foreign political relations. It is also largely related to Turkey’s internal affairs, which the long-standing alliance for 70 years has made it very overlapping and influential, but from one side which is Washington.
The current crisis between Ankara and Washington started on the backdrop of President Trump and his deputy launching direct threats to impose “substantial sanctions” on Turkey if a US pastor tried in Turkey on charges related to the terrorism is not released. Ankara rejected this and confirmed that the Turkish judicial decision would be the ruling in this case. Interestingly, a major Turkish writers focused on the shift in the US position and the unprecedented attack on Turkey by Trump and his deputy , which is very much like the latter’s handling of Iran and North Korea file, warning of the presence of lobbies within the United States aimed at destroying relations between the two countries for the benefit of other parties which are seeking for it . So, as the United States raises its rhetoric to an unprecedented level with Turkey and direct threats to impose broad sanctions on it, senior Turkish officials stressed that their country “has not and will not be subject to threats from any party,” as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressing Trump that «Turkey will not be subject to your threats».
The question arises in this context why the United States of America is engaged in a diplomatic crisis with a strategic partner such as Turkey? The issue of the American pastor Andrew Branson is a judicial issue in the hands of the Turkish courts, and Washington knows that it is not a political issue. The Turkish government has no interest in creating a diplomatic crisis with it, and it has enough problems with it about Syria, the Kurdish terrorist parties and the Turkish-Russian and Iranian relations and others. Washington has a big precedent with Turkey on the same subject and the same arguments. Turkish judicial evidence is too much for the leader of the parallel organization, Fathullah Gulen, in the coup d’état of July 15, 2016. Ankara has repeatedly asked Washington to extradite him, living in Pennsylvania, and the USA say that the matter is in the hands of the American judiciary, despite the fact that the Turkish Ministry of Justice submitted two years ago to more than 100,000 legal documents condemning Gulen for the previous coup, terrorist acts and breaking the law. Why should Ankara accept US arguments about Gulen, while Washington does not commit itself to the same arguments against Pastor Branson?
The arguments presented by Washington are based on accusing Ankara of prosecuting Pastor Branson unjustly and that he is innocent and demands his release without trial. It also demands, as US State Department spokesman Heather Naort said, to lift Andrew Branson’s house arrest and return him to his home and this is a strange attitude and unacceptable by Turkish and international law, if he is innocent, as the US State Department spokesman says, it must be proved by a court judgment and not by a political decision, unless the United States of America does not recognize the law or the courts in Turkey.

Some analyzes consider the escalation of US President Donald Trump and his deputy, Michael Pence, against Turkey in connection with the imprisoned priest, an attempt to obtain the votes of the “Evangelical Belt” states in the USA during the next midterm elections in November. In this story, there are some of religious drama needed for the American public to compensate for the expected losses of Trump against the backdrop of the continuing scandal of Russia’s continuing interference in the election, the big attack of Democrats and liberals to win new seats in Congress, and to shake off some of the racist right – wing tendencies from Trump. The United States believes Turkey has gone too far in its opposition to US policy, and it has gone beyond the point of no return and is deepening its relationship with US adversaries, led by Russia, Iran and China. Turkey announced last week its rejection of the United States’ request to participate in sanctions against Iran. Turkey participated in the tenth round of the Sochi talks, and Turkey has vowed to play a major role in containing most of the Syrian armed opposition. Turkey has even gone ahead with the purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia, becoming the only NATO country to acquire sophisticated Russian weapons and all US attempts failed to cancel this deal .

As for the crisis from the Turkish perspective, there are several factors that contributed to its maturity: the failure of the Turkish bet on its allies in NATO, especially the United States of America when the Turkish air force dropped the Russian fighter Sukhoi on November 24, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly condemned to drop it on the border between Syria and Turkey and described it as a “stab in the back” of ” partners of the terrorists “. and threatened to shoot down any Turkish plane approaching the Syrian sky, Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked help from NATO and the United States, and the answer was contrary to what he hopes that the alliance does not intend to intervene, to find himself alone in the face of Russia, but the biggest shift was the failed coup attempt against him on July 15, 2016 , which Erdogan believes that the administration of former US president involved, at least indirectly, and accused his rival Fathullah Colin resident in the United States to master the coup attempt, and the United States refused Erdogan’s request to hand him over , here , the gap was increased in the relationship between the two countries, RegepErdoğan said the United States was aiming for his personal liquidation and concerns with US military support for the Kurdish forces in northern Syria were deepened , which Erdogan sees as a red line threatening Turkey’s territorial integrity. Erdogan has not been able to prevent the United States from increasing its reliance on Syrian Kurds and training tens of thousands of them on sophisticated weapons. And Erdogan began waving to change his direction by strengthening his relationship with Russia, which began with the signing of a number of agreements, including the construction of the South Gas pipeline from Russia to South and Central Europe through Turkey instead of Ukraine, along with the construction of nuclear plants and increase the volume of trade , Erdogan also believes that the United States and its European allies behind the recent economic crisis, which led to the deterioration of the price of the Turkish lira, and concerns have been increased , but the strong economic and military relations between Turkey and the United States and Europe prevent the release of anger indefinitely uncontrollable because the two parties will lose a lot noting that the Turkish economy is heavily dependent on American and European investments , in contrast, there are European concerns about the large Turkish community and its main defense lines from the east. All these dams have blocked anger for years, but the cracks have widened and concerns accumulated and became too large to be suppressed and Trump ‘s collision policy came to expand the size of the crack where Trump asked Erdogan to either be with him or against him, and the space of dodging reduced for Erdogan , who wanted to gain more time, and continued to put one foot with Russia and other with the USA , and jump between the ropes, relying on his skills and the unique geographical position of Turkey and its importance to NATO, and so both Turkey and the United States found that the time of calculation has come .

This diplomatic crisis in its American context has its deep roots between the two countries, which is due to decades of strong American influence in the Turkish military establishment, major changes in international politics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the attack on the two trade towers in New York in September 2001 , and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan in the same year and Iraq on 9 April 2003, and the entry of the era of hostility to Muslims and Islam in the world as an alternative to the conflict with the former communist system. This confirms that political ideology persists in the post-Cold War era but Western intellectual and political institutions do not claim that ideology ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The US-Turkish diplomatic crisis reaffirms that ideology is still doing its work in politics, and it isn’t true that it is ended with the end of the Cold War, it renews itself from socio-economic to religious ideology. These great intellectual cracks in international politics are almost reaching their final results with the return of Russian influence in other ways, the emergence of Chinese influence, the rise of the fascists and racist trends in the United States and Europe, and the reading of the Turkish-American conflict must be read within these contexts.

Muammar Faysal Khouli
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies