Turkey and the West: An unreliable alliance

An alliance is a relationship among individuals, countries or groups for a mutual benefit to gain or a common threat to repel, but when it comes to the alliance between Turkey and the West, its meaning changes a little bit. Today, Western countries have an awkward approach to Turkey, such as supporting terrorist groups that threaten the country’s national security or smearing Ankara’s counterterrorism operations.

Indeed, Turkey, in order to institutionalize its Westernization process and to protect itself from the Soviet threat, became a NATO member in 1952, and relied mainly on the United States for its security concerns. Since then, Turkey has been staunchly loyal to the Western alliance whose reliance is under question now as some disappointing incidents have made Turkey vulnerable to external attacks. Unfortunately, Turkey now feels more unsecure because of some NATO members’ support for terrorist groups that are at war with the Turkish state, not to mention the likely threats from a few hostile neighboring countries. In addition, Turkey has been also trying to be an EU member since 1959, but the EU’s hypocrisy or unwillingness regarding Turkey’s accession process is well-known.

Piri’s remarks

Turkey’s military offensive in Afrin, Operation Olive Branch, is the most recent case in the row in which Turkey sees its Western allies are not backing it, but on the opposite front. European Parliament (EP) member and EP Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri recently said in an interview: “For us, the Kurdish militia, the PKK and its variations are not a threat. There are no attacks by PKK in the Netherlands, Belgium or France. For us, when it comes to Syria, apart from the humanitarian catastrophe, the threat is ISIS [Daesh].” It is a pity that an EU official ignores the PKK threat just because European citizens are safe against it even though the EU accepts this separatist group as a designated terrorist organization. In this case, according to her view, a terrorist group can be fought against only if it is hurting EU states and citizens regardless of whom it kills in other countries. In other words, the PKK is a danger only if its members kill Dutch, Belgian or any other European citizens. But when Turkish citizens are targets of the PKK and its affiliated militias, the EU easily turns its back to it. What would be Europe’s approach if Daesh members lived in peace in Europe instead of bombing? Would EU executives turn a blind eye since it was not a threat to them?

Piri also baselessly blames Turkey for not giving priority to the fight against Daesh. Turkey has incurred Daesh attacks more than any of the European countries and it took territory from Daesh like al-Bab by fighting and offered to clear Raqqa together with U.S.-led coalition forces. Furthermore, Turkey attacked the PKK after Daesh became a secondary threat as the U.S. declared that Daesh had been defeated. Thus, Turkey attacks the primary organization, although Piri seems not to be aware of it.

Ankara-Washington ties

Turkish-U.S. relations have been deteriorating due to unilateral actions by the U.S. government, which include sheltering terrorist groups that have become a matter of existence for Turkey. While the U.S. and leading European countries give asylum to Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members involved in the failed coup in Turkey, Fetullah Gülen, the head of coup plot, lives in the foothills of the Poconos in Pennsylvania, comfortably without fear of being extradited, as the U.S. authorities do not seem to be dispatching him to Turkey any time soon. The reason cannot be judicial procedures, since thousands of files proving that Gülen and his followers were perpetrators of the coup are already in the hands of U.S. authorities.However, the U.S. sponsorship of the PKK through its affiliates in Syria has made the FETÖ be set aside for a while. Although some U.S. officials recognize the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an affiliate of the outlawed PKK, it has supplied some 4,800 trucks of weapons in the last three years as well as military training to YPG militants.

Thanks to the U.S. military, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – which are formed mostly by YPG forces – control 32 percent of Syria. As the Arab population in Syria has been displaced from occupied areas, a PYD-ruled terrorist statelet is about to be formed in northern Syria. If it happens, for the first time in the world a terrorist group will found a state with the assistance of the U.S., which is supposed to be fighting terrorism worldwide.

A Turkish proverb says: Camels bellow is because of the load on their backs. Turkey has warned the U.S. many times that the PKK and its Syrian extensions are threatening its unity and national security, as 40,000 people have died in the PKK’s fight against the Turkish state. Yet, the U.S. government has preferred to keep mute and continue to ally with the YPG. They claim the YPG has an important role in the fight against Daesh, but we show that it is completely a lie in the famous Raqqa incident. Besides, if the U.S. really wants to struggle against Daesh, Turkey is the most significant partner in the region that could kick Daesh militants out of some parts of Syria, as in Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016.

Media’s position

Unfortunately, the Western media is doing its best to legalize the PKK by not using ever calling them terrorists in stories, which instead glorify the group. What we call the PKK has been called Kurdish forces, U.S. allies and Kurds. Besides, Turkey is accused of fighting Kurds and invading Kurdish-populated areas recently, this time in Afrin, Syria, even though the Turkish military fight only the PKK’s Syrian affiliate YPG militants. Turkish troops had saved the Arab-populated town of al-Bab from Daesh terrorists in 2016, but at that time nobody claimed Turkey was fighting Arabs. What about Turkey’s operations in its own territories, e.g., in Giresun, Artvin and Trabzon where the majority of people are Turks? Can one argue that Turkey is fighting Turks there?Perhaps, the crucial damage such policies may cause will be rifts in the alliance. When Turkey called NATO members to help thwart the PKK threat permanently in the 1990s, the alliance left Turkey alone. Conversely, NATO did not refuse the U.S.’s request for joint invasion of Afghanistan after al-Qaida’s 9/11 attacks. A Turkish battalion is still deployed in Kabul as an element of NATO’s peacekeeping forces. In regard to these two contradictory decisions, we can argue that there is discrimination among members and priority concerning enemies in NATO. The current U.S.-YPG cooperation is not bearable since the U.S. will not defend Turkey, but also allies with the terrorist group.

Nevertheless, for our American allies, it is still Turkey doing wrong by attacking U.S.-allied forces that defeated Daesh without deaths of any American soldiers. Whether PKK militants command the same group or they also fight in Turkey and kill Turkish citizens with weapons from the U.S. is not something the U.S. government cares about. The paradox is that when the U.S. allies with a non-NATO entity – the YPG and PKK is not even a country, but deadly terrorist groups – NATO keeps silent. But, when Turkey buys missiles from a non-NATO member such as Russia, it is threatened with consequences. So again, there are two NATO members going into transactions with different groups or states but only the relatively weak one, Turkey, is cursed. Meanwhile, Turkey had to buy Russian S-400 missiles since the U.S. refused to sell it Patriot missiles. Leave the sales these heavy weapons aside, even rifles and guns are not allowed to be sold to Turkey as per the U.S.’s undeclared embargo.

It seems that alliance, common interests, threats and strategic partnership should be re-defined since an ally cannot ally with an enemy of its ally, individual interests cannot be prioritized to common interests, allies cannot threaten each other and strategic partners do not throw each other into peril.

Source Daily Sabah (https://www.dailysabah.com/op-ed/2018/02/12/turkey-and-the-west-an-unreliable-alliance )

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About the author

İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş is a columnist at Yeni Akit, a daily newspaper based in Istanbul.

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