Tension between Ankara and Washington: the reasons and possible scenarios

Tension between Ankara and Washington: the reasons and possible scenarios

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Dr.Salim M.Al Zanoon

Despite the tense political relationship between Washington and Ankara over the past years, the economic interests and trade relations and investments between them continued to rise , as US investments in the Turkish market exceeded 110 billion dollars during the period from 2000 to 2017, and trade exchanges between the two parties reached to 20.5 billion Dollars.
However, since the beginning of this year, political differences have been reflected in the economic interests between the two countries, for a number of reasons related to the dispute over the regional files and approaching the midterm elections of Congress, and in the light of the current developments it is not possible that the relationship between the two countries to reach the stage of no return and It is not possible to go back to the previous era, thus posing scenarios for the future of the current crisis.

First: the reasons for the escalation of tension.
1. Midterm elections for Congress.
Trump’s moves toward Turkey come in the wake of the arrest of the US pastor as part of the election campaign led by the republican Party in preparation for November’s midterm elections, seeking the votes of the Evangelical Belt, which is controlled by 24 fundamentalist Protestant groups including 10 states extended from south-east to mid-south of the United States, in compensation for the expected losses on the background of Russian intervention in the elections, as well as the attack of the Democratic Party and liberals to change the equation in Congress.

2. Controversy over regional files.
The most important of which is the continuation of American support for the Kurds, the opposition of Turkey to the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, the announcement of the continued import of Iranian oil and gas, the Turkish position opposing the deal on the Palestinian issue, the dispute over the S400 missile deal Ankara is seeking to buy from Moscow, the dispute over the issue of (Fathullah Gulen), and the mutual economic war that began in March after Washington imposed a new customs tariff, which Ankara responded to by imposing new customs duties and the reaction of Turkey to impose customs fees on US goods.
Second: Possible scenarios.
There is a growing erosion in the relationship between the two countries, but in the light of the intertwining of many complex and interlocking files, as well as common interests, relations can not reach the stage of no return, and it is not possible to return to what it was before, to raise a number of possible scenarios for the relationship between the two countries .

Scenario I: Continuation of the status quo.
In the presence of a number of tense , interlocking and complex issues between the two parties, and at the same time the existence of mutual interests between them, pushing for the survival of the status quo without escalation to the extent of estrangement or fundamental improvement in the relationship, and several factors support this scenario , the most important of which are : Washington’s desire to prevent rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, Turkey’s desire to maintain a balance in the relationship between Washington and Moscow, continued diplomatic communication between them despite the crisis.
Scenario II: Containment of the crisis.
If Washington decides to impose further sanctions on Ankara, preventing it from obtaining loans from international institutions, imposing fines on the Turkish central bank, punishing Turkish companies and individuals, revising its exemption from customs duties, and preventing the sale of arms or delivery of F35 aircraft, and Ankara’s perception of the consequences of a complete economic collapse and the possibility of chaos and instability , Ankara will be forced to reach understandings on some issues.
Scenario III: the increase of escalation.
It is possible that Ankara will take a series of measures in response to US sanctions, such as completing the Russian missile system deal, insisting on pursuing the US pastor trial, dealing with Tehran under the sanctions imposed on it recently and replacing the dollar in local currency for economic dealings with Russia, China, and Iran prompting Washington to impose more sanctions, leading to an escalation.

In the light of the common interests, and Ankara’s understanding of the consequences of the crisis on the state of economy and stability, and in the light of the Turkish experience and reached an implicit agreement with Germany for the release of the German journalist “Deniz Yogel” in exchange for normalization of economic relations with the European Union, so a crisis containment scenario would be the most likely scenario , ultimately Turkey will seek to reach a settlement with the United States on some complex and interrelated issues.

Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies