Today, US-Turkish relations are undergoing a tense phase , which we have not seen since the AKP( the Justice and Development Party ) came to power in 2002 and reached the level of mutual economic sanctions between the two countries. There are several factors contributing to this. There have been major reasons for the tension of US-Turkish relations since the administration of former President Obama, which continued during the current administration despite the desire to improve them after years of deterioration, the latest of which was the crisis of the embassies of the two countries to stop issuing visas revealing the depth of tension relations. There are many reasons for this tension in:
US support for Syria’s Kurds : With the change in US administration on January 20, Turkey expects the Trump administration to reverse its previous administration’s policy of arming and supporting the People’s Protection Units, a mainly –Kurdish militia in Syria which are allied , according to the Turkish vision, with the PKK, which Ankara and the US classify as a terrorist organization . In addition to the Turkey’s rejection of the participation of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the liberation of the Syrian city of Al-Raqqa from the grip of ISIS. Indeed, they succeeded in liberating the city on 17 October from the grip of the organization and have full control of the city, after fourteen battles against “ISIS.”
The continued support of the Trump administration to the Kurds of Syria, which has strained relations during the Obama administration, angered Ankara because it sees that Washington has not taken into account Turkish fears that support and arming Kurdish forces threaten its national security and may lead to self-rule in northern Syria, along the Turkish border. Ankara says the US weapons backed the people’s protection units are used by the PKK against it.
Turkey’s detention of American citizens: The United States indicates that the Turkish regime arrested 10 Americans and some Turks working in the US diplomatic representations in Turkey on charges of having a relationship with Turkish preacher Fathullah Gulen , who Ankara claims was the mastermind of the failed coup in mid-July , Last year, as well as that the Turkish authorities prevent their American counterpart from legal communication with US detained citizens . Erdogan may use US detainees as a bargaining chip for the United States to extradite Colin. But Washington refuses to extradite him because Turkey has not given it clues to stand behind the failed coup.
The repercussions of the failed coup: Erdogan accuses the United States of involvement in the failed military coup against his rule, despite repeated US denial of the allegations. The charges come as the hostility of Turkish citizens to the USA rises, where the results of the poll by the Pew Research Center show that 72% of Turks view Washington as a greater security threat to their state than Russia and China. In addition to the arrest of the Turkish government US priest, Anderson after the failure of the coup, where the Turkish government accuses him of contact with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Gulen group.
Turkish policies contrary to the view of NATO members: Although the Turkish army is the largest in terms of its ground forces in the alliance after the United States, Ankara has recently begun to Twitter outside the European-American consensus, to strengthen relations with Russia and Iran, and support the Russian military intervention in Syria, which is not accepted by the Western powers, in addition to the purchase of Russian air defense system “S400”, is incompatible with the defense infrastructure of the alliance ,not to mention Erdogan’s anti-Alliance policies based on democracy, freedoms, human rights, and common defense, raising doubts about Ankara’s commitment to the alliance.
Turkey’s failure to comply with US sanctions on Iran: Turkey has violated the sanctions imposed by the international community led by the United States on Tehran because of its nuclear program to export large quantities of gold to Iran, in exchange for oil and natural gas, where the US federal prosecution is charging former officials , close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan , with conspiring with Reza Zerab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was arrested by US authorities on May 22, 2016, to evade sanctions against Iran. Despite issues of tension between the two countries, security and military relations between the two countries have not been affected by the economic and diplomatic crisis.
Turkey’s position on Israel: Given the unique relationship in international relations that brings together Israel and the United States, it is unacceptable to attack Israel by any state in the Middle East, especially if it is a Muslim. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when he was Turkish prime minister in 2009, described Israeli President Shimon Peres during the Davos conference when he described him as the child murderer, and through the crisis of the Mavi Marmara ship and the subsequent withdrawal of the ambassadors and the suspension of military cooperation between the two countries between 2010 and 2013, and up to the current crisis on the killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli soldiers on the border of the Gaza Strip, which led to the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara in a way described as humiliating. It seems that the Turkish president’s recent description of Israel – following the Knesset’s adoption of the Jewish state law – is “the most racist and most brutal state in the world.” Netanyahu responded that Turkey was entering in the Erdogan’s rule a dark dictatorship era. It is a clear evidence of the level of crisis in the relationship between the two countries .
Despite the economic and diplomatic crisis in the US-Turkish relations, it may seem that the military and security relations between them in Iraq and Syria have not been negatively affected by the crisis.
The Middle East site, based in London , has published an exclusive report revealing the continuing security and military ties between the United States and Turkey, despite the diplomatic crisis sparked by the continued detention of US Rev. Andrew Brunson. The report, translated by “Arab21”, indicates that while US President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions, the US military provided intelligence information that helped to target a senior Kurdish military commander. The site sees that the air strike is an evidence of continued military cooperation, which spilled from Iraq to Syria, despite the crisis sparked by the twitter by Donald Trump, which threatened the European economy. The report reveals that Ismail Ozden was killed on 15 August, after Turkish aircraft launched two air raids against the resistance units in Sinjar, a group of the PKK, which is considered by Turkey and the United States as a terrorist group, pointing out that this came after the American gave information to Turkey, Ozden’s car was bombed in the northern Iraq near the border with Syria.
The website quoted a diplomat who confirmed US support for Turkey , where the Pentagon did not deny his story and Pentagon Eric Bahon said : “We support Turkey’s efforts against PKK and recognize the real threat posed by the PKK to Turkey’s security,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Bahon said. Four Turkish diplomats told the Middle East News website that US-Turkish cooperation extends from the Syrian Manbaj to the Iraqi Sinjar and to new Iraqi-Turkish border, despite a crisis between the two countries with regard to Rev. Andrew Brunson. And of the diplomats said “The Pentagon is the ministry that cares about Turkish concerns and we will keep our cooperation with them while the Defense Department confirmed on Monday that military cooperation between the two countries remains strong despite the current crisis.”There is no break in the relationship with Turkey,” said Col. Rob Manning, director of media at the Pentagon.
According to the report, officials from the two countries have confirmed that the project to move forward is the joint patrols in Manbij, northern Syria, 25 km from the Turkish-Syrian border, where Manbaj has been a source of tension between the two countries since 2016, when the Syrian Democratic forces led by of the people ‘s protection units , entered the town, and controlled it by the support of the US military, pointing out that Turkey is dealing with the protection units of the people as an extension of PKK, which is waging a war of more than 30 years on Turkish soil, while Washington considers these units as an ally in the Fighting against the state organization . the website say that Washington and Ankara reached during the visit of Foreign Minister Mouloud Gawishoglu at the beginning of June to the agreement, through which the forces of protection of the people to withdraw from Manbaj, and replaced by joint patrols of Turkey and the United States to maintain security and stability in the city, Defense Minister James Matisse said on Thursday that ” The move is ready and officers are there and will start soon.”
The report quoted the acting Middle East envoy to the Foreign Office and the likely candidate for ambassador to Ankara, David Satterfield, as saying that the crisis between Turkey and the United States had not affected the Manbijg agreement. “What the parties agreed on in a road map in Manbaj was good, and encouraging.” According to the website, one of the diplomats who spoke with them repeated what was said by both Matisse and Satterfield, saying the deal may be progressing slowly, but even if it took more than expected, the joint patrols will begin soon. He noted that during a visit by a Turkish delegation to Washington This month, he spoke of Mpeng as an example of cooperation, in an attempt to resolve the diplomatic crisis resulting from the arrest of Brunson. The report quoted the Turkish diplomat as saying “Even if it is moving slowly, Munbaj is an example of how we can work together,” “That’s why we put it on the table when we were in Washington and told them why you would not accept another deal to work together in the issue of Brunson ? ”
The website notes that the visit ended without any solution, as the United States ignored two requests from Turkey to swap Brunson, stressing that “however, the cooperation on the subject of Manbeg will go as expected.” The report says that “Manbj is not the only subject in which cooperation between the two countries, but there are the Qandil Mountains in Sinjar, northern Iraq. After US support in the Sinjar operation last week, Turkey now expects the United States to share information about the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK forces are based. According to the site, the United States promised in a meeting between Matisse and his Turkish counterpart Noureddine Kankly in Brussels to share intelligence with Turkey to support its operations against PKK in Iraq. However, the four diplomats confirmed limited cooperation with the Pentagon, noting that the people’s protection units have not withdrawn yet from Manbij and the Kurds still control a quarter of Syria with US support. In Sinjar, US support for Turkey against resistance units because it uses the Sinjar Mountains to transport weapons and ammunition to the people’s protection units. The report quoted the diplomats as saying that America had cooperated with Turkey to pursue senior PKK leaders but was hesitant about other matters , indicating that the Iranian-backed popular crowed was operating in northern Iraq, so the Americans would prefer the control of the resistance units in Sinjar over the region , rather than pro-Iranian groups.
The website quoted a diplomat from the four , as a specialist in Iraq , as saying ” Ankara is working according to a big plan to clear the area from the resistance units in Sinjar ” and added “We know that most of them are Yazidis in the resistance units in Sinjar, and after the departure of the state organization, these Yazidi feel they need the resistance units in Sinjar to protect them” and “he continued:” We try to work and look for differences between Yazidis and resistance units in Sinjar, and end their dependence on this group. “The report pointed out that the main reason behind the Turkish efforts is the border crossing in the village of Ovakui between the Turkish and Syrian and the Iraqi borders indicating that the only crossing is located in the Khabur east of Okavoy, controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, while there is no crossing between Turkey and Iraq controlled by the Baghdad government. The site also states that the new crossing will be a direct link between Turkey and Iraq and to avoid the Kurdish areas indicating the both Turkey and Iraq are discussing the possibility of opening the crossing. Ankara expressed its willingness to build the road and repair the parts destroyed by ISIS. The report quoted the diplomat as saying “There are a lot of terrorist groups in the south of the planned gate, which will create an atmosphere of chaos, a suitable place for the terrorists to move freely,”. He added “The United States uses this freedom to cross borders, and to transfer weapons to the people’s protection units, but we have to clean the area from the terrorist groups to secure the road from Baghdad to the new gate.”
The site indicates that Turkey has begun talks with Washington about the crossing, and knows that the administration does not oppose the principle of this project; because it will increase the volume of trade exchange between Baghdad and Ankara, and reduce the dependence of Iraq on Iran, noting that Iraq currently has 10 crossings with Iran, where exchange with neighbor in the east. The report quoted the diplomat as saying Iran is unhappy with this crossing because it fears of the loss of the influence in Iraq, he added “Iran has 10 crossings with Iraq, and we have one crossing, which is not controlled by the Baghdad government,” the diplomat said. “We want to increase the size of trade with Iraq. And this will lead to the transfer of Kirkuk oil through the Turkish port of Jehan… If we succeed, Iraq will not depend on Iran to export oil, and that is why America supports the project. Middle East A concludes his report by pointing out that promises to support the project are not enough, as Ankara looks to stop America’s support for the resistance units in Sinjar.
However, this tension in relations may not last long, given the need of Turkey and the United States to each other, where Washington does not want to sacrifice Ankara as an influential ally in the region, as revealed by repeated visits to officials of the current administration of Turkey, headed by Vice President and Minister of Defense, and the meeting between Turkish and US presidents twice in nine months. At the same time, Ankara does not prefer to be a way from the Western powers and Washington because its alliance with Russia and Iran is temporarily imposed by the rapid developments in the Middle East. This tension is not expected to continue, given Ankara’s differing view of its regional role with Tehran and Turkey’s non-sacrifice to join the European Union. , and NATO membership, in exchange for interim relations with Russia.
Therefore, we believe that the common interests between the two countries and the strategic need for each other is greater than the point of no return. It should be noted, however, that Turkish relations with the West in general and with the United States in particular are undergoing a difficult phase of restructuring due to the erosion of the foundations on which they were based as we have mentioned above. The United States does not have the luxury of disengaging from strong Turkey and leaving it in the arms of other powers, such as Russia and China, and its options for this country are no more than the following options:
* The return of Turkey to the fold of obedience as it was before the year 2002 by targeting the government and the party who brought Turkey to this status (failed coup attempt, for example).
* The disruption of Turkey itself and hit its economy and to be engaged in to the side conflicts that drain their resources (support and funding of the PKK in Syria, currency manipulation, economic sanctions etc.).
As for Turkey, it may not bear the heavy cost of decoupling its political, economic and military ties with the West, especially in the absence of a reliable international partner. Therefore, it has only the strategic patience with caution for all planned schemes, which Turkey, the government and people have become aware and vigilant for it. Turkey also has a lot of force to play in the face of the challenges of the stage. Perhaps the most important of these papers is the realization that the disengagement with the West will not only be painful for it but for the West also (Turkey is also working on strengthening relations with Russia and purchase of quality weapons such as the (S400). Turkey today has a large global economic size and has a profound political impact on most of the region’s files, in which the West needs Turkey’s cooperation. Add to this its important geopolitical position and its distinctive military weight as NATO’s second largest army. All of these factors make Turkey a stubborn opponent that the West can not undermine or minimize it easily.
Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies