How will Turkey and the US government relations evolve?

Since the coup on July 15th, AKP government has been developing strong ties with Russia, Iran, and Syrian government. It is even claimed that Erdogan and Bashar Assad met in Astana, Kazakhstan moderated by Russia, September 12, 2017 [1].  The Turkish government and military officials have often been visiting both Russia and Iran, recently. Moreover, Erdogan has been accusing the US and Europe plotting the military coup in domestic politics for a year.  The recent developments show that the relationship between Erdogan government and the US is very volatile. There are several examples to shed light on that claim. Also, there are important questions that can draw the picture of the relationship in the near future.

  1. Rebel groups supported by the US and Turkey are Sunni whereas, Iran and Syria are Shite. If Turkey changes his side from the Us to Iran and Russia, how would these Sunni groups be affected? What will they do? Would they only leave Syria or spread out to the world and pose a terror threat?
  2. For the recent years, the US government actively support Kurdish forces. Can Erdogan use his allied rebel groups in Syria to fight against Kurds?

Furthermore, there are recent developments that can divert the trajectory of the relationship between Turkey and the US:

  • Consequences of the staged coup on July 15th and the purge of the secular intellectuals
  • Increasing influence of pro-Russian and pro-Iran groups in government
  • Case of Reza Zarrab and Zafer Caglayan (former minister of economy) case for bypassing US sanctions on Iran [2]
  • Case of Erdogan’s security guards (two of them arrested and issued warrant for 12 security guards) [3]
  • Purchase of Boeing aircraft by Turkey that will cost $11B
  • Speculation of that Turkey buy S-400 missiles from Russia
  • Detaining foreign journalist, pastors or human activist in custody
  • Leakage of US troops base locations in Syria

Firstly, I will primarily talk about the leakage of the map of base locations of us forces in Syria in this article. The news was published by Erdogan’s state media called Anatolian Agency on July 17, 2017 [4]. The Anatolian agency released/ leaked the US soldiers base-locations map in Syria. The release of this critical information, either accidentally or deliberately, was not a proper action to be expected from an ally. The reporter claimed that it is not the officials who provided him the location of the bases, but he found out them, which does not seem to an excuse for a state-paid news reporter. That said, one of the strongest possibility is that the map was leaked from someone who wants to put Turkey against the US and possibly force Turkey to change its side in Syria. Then, the question is who or which groups might want this switch in Syria?

Some groups want to put Turkey against  the US and possibly force Turkey to change its side in Syria. Then, the question is who or which groups might want this switch in Syria?

Since the beginning of the turmoil in Syria, Turkish government acted in tandem with the US stance. However, certain groups in Turkey, including pro-Iran, radical political Islamists, and pro-Russians, want to get Turkish soldiers to pit against the US troops in the field. Erdogan has been using rebel groups in Syria as proxy forces to shape his domestic politics (Erdogan’s goal). That said, there might be at least two reasons for the recent leakage of the base locations:

  1. Since the US is very sensitive about its soldiers, Erdogan aimed to use this as leverage against the US.
  2. By doing so, he provided his proxy rebel groups more space to securely move so they would be aware where the US soldiers are

Even though Erdogan prefers anti-western speech and rhetoric in domestic politics, he is well-aware of the need for the West/USA for political and military reasons. Thus, he has been eliminating and silencing the opposition by accusing them of their alliance with the West.

On the other hand, as he strives to get along with the West, he also tries to force them to continue their alliance with Erdogan. He has been using some leverages against the West, such as threatening Europe with sending refuges or exporting terrorist. He has already detained some of the foreign journalists, human right activists, and even pastors.

Additionally, Erdogan knows that he does not have the power to punish USA soldiers. Maybe he can sometimes try armed power on Kurds, but he will not fight against the USA. Especially, after purged all selected and well-educated officers/ generals/ admirals/ diplomats/ bureaucrats. He knows he is not powerful. Turkish Air Force was having very well trained and educated pilots before the coup attempt. But after the purge, now TAF requesting master teacher pilots from Pakistan for training!

Erdogan is not the only actor in Turkey now. Especially after the purge of Western-minded elites, pro-Russian ultra-nationalists led by Dogu Perincek are increasing their influence in Turkish politics.

Our conclusion is: Iran or Russia is motivating these groups to engage with the US soldiers despite Erdogan. The mass purge of pro-western officers and generals from military will give pro-Russians and pro-Iranians, who are more influential by the power gap, the opportunity to take Turkey from the Western axis. Then, there will not be any option/ power to get relations well with the USA for Turkey anymore.

It is possible to think that, in a close circle of Erdogan, some pro-Iran advisors and pro-Russian/anti-western generals/admirals have excellent relations with Iran and Russia. For example, Special Forces Commander LTG Zekai Aksakalı is known to have good relations with pro-Russian. As a sign of these good relations, Turkey seems or bluff the US to buy S-400 and getting more engaged with Iran.

What can be a reaction / should have been:

Although Erdogan may seem to be a real puppet, he is a selfish actor, which makes him a person with no values. Apart from balancing the powers inside Turkey, he is trying to reconcile the West with Russia. Consequently, Russia’s influence is increasing in the region. If the West does not want to lose a partner like Turkey; USA and Western Powers should:

  • Express support for democracy, separation of powers, checks and balances, justice and human rights in Turkey
  • Separation of Erdogan from Turkey; otherwise any attack on Erdogan would consolidate AKP supporters
  • Erdogan is perfectly managing the public perception in a way that the US had planned the coup attempt of July 15th, 2016. However, the gaps and the controversies in his argument are being revealed in the court trials. However, the media, which is either supporting or bandwagoning with him, does not declare the full text of the court statements of so-called ‘coup plotters.’ So, the US and the West should insist on international observers to participate in the trials of the coup attempt. Besides, the US and West should stand out for publicly open courts for the coup attempt.







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