Near future of US-Turkey relations

Published 20.11.2014 02:05

U.S-Turkey relations haven't always been smooth, and there are often conflicts of interest and disagreements. The distinctive characteristics of U.S.-Turkey relations are that the problematic points in the relationship are disregarded and the two parties mainly focus on common benefits. However, three matters have recently undermined relations between the two countries.

The first one is the tension between Turkey and Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with the mediation of U.S. President Barack Obama but the rest of the dialogue could not be achieved. Due to Israel's latest operation in Gaza, the relations, which showed signs of improvement, were spoiled again. The U.S. government charges both Tel Aviv and Turkey in this case. However, Israel's strict and offensive attitude on peace in the Middle East prevents this tension from turning into pressure on Ankara.

The second source of tension stems from the fact that Kurdish oil got into the international markets via Turkey. The U.S. objected to this agreement "despite Iraq," and showed its objection by not allowing Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız's airplane into Iraqi airspace while he was heading to Irbil for the agreement. Ankara and Irbil did not give up the project despite the objections of the U.S. and Iraq. The Kurdish oil that entered international markets via Turkey now finds buyers in the world's energy markets. So far, Irbil has earned $2.8 billion of income from oil. It can be presumed that worries over the oil project might reoccur in the following periods on other subjects.

The third problematic point in Turkey-U.S. relations is the hesitant Syrian policy of the U.S., in which it first encouraged Turkey but then stepped back. Formerly asserting a Syrian project without Assad, the U.S. then got confused due to the resistance of Russia-Iran line and the question of who would replace Assad. Even though Assad used chemical weapons, Obama could not take the necessary steps regarding his promise. And as the danger posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) emerged, the U.S. omitted Assad from its primary agenda topics. Leaving Ankara alone on the matter of refugees, it also tried to make Turkey a battlefront in the fight against ISIS. While Ankara offered a fighting strategy against ISIS according to its own security priorities, the U.S. only offered temporary solutions to Turkey. Moreover, it started to build relations with Iran, one of the actors of the calamity in Syria, to help in the ISIS crisis. It also provided weapons to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian wing of the outlawed PKK. Turkey was responsive to this because the PKK is listed as a terrorist organization in the country. Obama's ideas on Syria, Assad, Iran, the PKK and ISIS are not yet clear. This will continue to cause tension between the two countries for a while more.

In the midst of all these developments, a new balance closely concerning Turkey-U.S. relations emerged in Washington. The Republicans won the Senate wing of Congress. Obama will rule the country in a rather compromised situation until 2016. The new balance is a chance to express Turkey's arguments more strongly in Washington. Obama has to make a bargain with the Republicans to rule the country until 2016. In order for his domestic policies to be approved, he might consider some demands of the Republicans that are close to Turkey's arguments in foreign politics.

This might lead Obama to change his stance, especially on the Syrian matter. It is known that the Republican senators defend Turkey's stance on the matter of Syrian policies. The Republicans have harshly criticized Obama on the grounds that he ignored Assad while they also demanded changing the country's fighting strategy against ISIS and the adoption of a new strategy, which would also cover Assad. It can be expected that those demands will be met in the short run. The first indications of Obama's giving up his policies ignoring Assad are on display, though hesitantly. Although the relations with Israel and the matter of Kurdish oil continue to remain as a shadow over U.S.-Turkey relations, Obama's new start with his policies towards Assad might make a clean break in relations between the two countries.

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