CHP rules out sanctions, threats on Turkey-US ties
First, it was Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu; then, it was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said that Turkey may shut down İncirlik military base and the radar site in Kürecik, Malatya in retaliation against a vote by the U.S. Congress that paves the way for sanctioning Turkey over its military operation into Syria and purchase of Russian weaponry.
Both the İncirlik base and the Kürecik radar site operate under separate bilateral agreements between Turkey and the United States. The legal foundation of the İncirlik base dates to 1980 when the two allies signed the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA), although it was built in the early 1950s. The base has long been regarded as the symbol of the Turkish-American strategic partnership particularly through the Cold War. Plus, it’s believed the facility still stores around 50 nuclear warheads
The legality of the Kürecik radar site is based on a memorandum of understanding the two countries inked in September 2011. Although Kürecik has already been hosting a radar site there since the 1950s, the new agreement has allowed expanding the capacity of the base so that it could function as part of NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense program.
Both facilities are still crucial for both the U.S. and NATO although many experts recall that the U.S. Army has built several important military bases in the entire region, particularly in Iraq and in the Gulf, and the role of the Incirlik may have been ignored for Washington.
However, an ongoing discussion over Turkey’s threats that it may terminate the use of these sites by the U.S. is much deeper and concerns not only bilateral ties with Washington but also Ankara’s commitments to its NATO responsibilities.
On the bilateral front, any action to this end would be seen, at best, as the break-off of Turkish-American relations and the end of an era. It’s a fact that ties have long been suffering from a number of different problems, but blocking the use of these sites by the U.S. would turn a new but difficult page on the history of two nations.
The NATO front is not very different, either. It should not be forgotten that both facilities play important roles in terms of NATO missions, particularly the Kürecik radar site, which sits on the core of the alliance’s missile defense scheme. Thus, any restriction on the use of these sites would hurt the principle of the collective security of NATO.
The U.S. response to Erdoğan’s statement on Incirlik and Kürecik will wait for a direct exchange of views with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, as suggested by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. However, it’s also noteworthy to underline the fact that Minister Akar is perhaps the dovish member of the cabinet in terms of ties with NATO members in comparison with Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu and others.
For many in Ankara, this threatening rhetoric is aiming to ring alarm bells in the U.S. administration before the Senate would vote a comprehensive sanction package in the coming days. However, some believe that things may be different this time.
From this perspective, it’s quite important to highlight a reconciliatory message given by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The leader of the main opposition party calls on the government to leave this rhetoric on Incirlik and Kürecik aside and engage in dialogue and diplomacy with the U.S. Equally, he also called on the U.S. to stop sanctioning Turkey.
Kılıçdaroğlu conveys the very message that Turkish-American ties are important and should be regarded in the context of a long-term perspective and not solely today’s conjuncture.