We can mitigate threats together
FRANCIS RICCIARDONE*What are the common threats on Turkey and the US rising from current Middle East tensions?
In my view, pretty much all the security threats arising from regional tensions afflict both Turkey and the US, though usually unequally and in different ways. From the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the civil wars and state failures across the region, Turkey and the US share similar interests and purposes in resolving the conflicts and promoting the establishment of a regional order based on legitimate, well-governed states.
Obviously however, Turkey as a regional power, and to a great extent many of our other more proximate European allies, necessarily bear more immediate and often heavier impact of this failure or critical weaknesses of the rule of law -- which depends by definition on the existence of legitimate states. These threats obviously include terrorism and the terrible humanitarian catastrophe of the Syrian and other refugees. The critical threats of regional state failure and severe instability also include serious economic damage.
While the US is far from immune, geographic distance of course mitigates some of these consequences for the US. I believe both Turks and Americans, like our other European and regional partners, broadly understand that only together can we mitigate or end the threats. This will require a strategic meeting of the minds among The US, European, and regional nations and regions, which has eluded us all for decades, not just since the 2011 outbreak of popular revolts in Arab countries. The Israel-Palestine conflict marked the first violent and systemic failure of the post-Ottoman regional order of legitimate nation states.
How does the recent cooperation between Turkey and the US against ISIL affect mutual ties?
This cooperation has greatly advanced this past year and is vitally important. but the two sides evidently recognize the need for a still closer identity and definition of strategic purposes beyond defeating ISIS. With respect to the Syrian aspects of this problem, the multilateral diplomacy episodically underway again at Vienna can only help. That's necessary but not sufficient. Also necessary for regional stability is a resolution of the long-simmering PKK insurgency against the Turkish Republic. US and Turkish interests seem to me identical on that goal, though large elements of Turkish public and official opinion evidently persist in perceiving otherwise.
What has changed in the past year on Turkey’s international outlook?
Historically and broadly speaking, Turks have been keenly conscious that they live in an unstable and risky region, of pivotal importance to both West and East. Naturally the domestic political polarization, exacerbated this year as in many democracies during national elections, also extends to public opinion on regional and global policy issues.
*Vice President and Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council