US and Turkey: Allies or foes?
Are Turkey and the United States allies or enemies?
It appears that Turkey no longer considers the U.S. a trustworthy ally respecting the “spirit of alliance.” The U.S., meanwhile, obviously sees Turkey as a country at odds with American regional interests, which may even prompt tough sanctions.
Ankara and Washington do not see eye to eye on the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD). Ankara is particularly annoyed at the weapons, ammunition, and military training that the U.S. has been providing to the PYD and its military wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The U.S., meanwhile, accuses Turkey of sidelining, if not totally undermining, the fight against ISIL by turning its focus to eliminating the PYD.
Ankara wants the U.S. to immediately stop providing arms and weapons systems to the PYD. It also demands that the U.S. takes back the weapons systems it has so far provided to the PYD. For Ankara, the PYD is nothing more than the Syrian extension of the PKK, (as was recently underlined in an official intelligence report submitted to the U.S. Congress).
Differences between Ankara and Washington on priorities in Syria or how the PYD is being perceived is almost as sharp as black and white. Despite the fact that the PYD leader was a red-carpet guest of the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not so long ago, Turkey cannot allow itself to be besieged by a hostile PYD-administered belt along its border with Syria; it cannot allow northern Syria to become yet another area like the Qandil Mountain range in northern Iraq.
No one can dispute the U.S.’s determined fight against terrorism in the Middle East. But can a NATO ally intentionally provide arms and ammunition to an outlawed group knowing that such resources would most probably be used to attack an ally? Rockets landing in Turkish border towns are reported to be mostly American-made. Put the boot on the other foot: Would Americans be happy to see their sons murdered by Turkey-made arms? Can anyone blame Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for recently saying Ankara has “lost confidence” in the U.S. and now wants to see “action on the ground” rather than promises.
Of course, the issue of Iran is also driving a wedge between Ankara and Washington. At a recent trial in New York, a former deputy general manager of a state-owned Turkish bank, a minister, and scores of other Turks were accused of Iran sanctions-busting and money laundering. There is now talk in the U.S. of applying sanctions on Turkey.
The development of “Contra-like” situations in Turkey due to the U.S. sanctions on Iran should of course have been an issue for Turkish courts to decide on (if there was actually an effective judicial system here). Unfortunately, the issue was left to be resolved by an U.S. federal court in a rather humiliating manner. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning how Turkey can come under the threat of sanctions because of a few corrupt bank executives, ministers and officials?
Considering such a crisis of confidence between the two capitals, it should not be surprising to see relations replaced by an endemic “pot calling the kettle black” understanding.