Alwaght | Why Are Turkey-West Bonds Breaking?
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Alwaght | Why Are Turkey-West Bonds Breaking?

The strategic alliance between Turkey and the US was an unquestionable concept since the end of Second World War and until the early years of the 2000s. But since 2002 when Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in Turkey with its Islamic mindset marked the first signs of crack in ties of Turkey with the US and also the European countries. In fact, after 2002, a new approach took over the Turkish foreign policy with its basis being an intention to build a balance in the Turkish relations with Islamic world and the West.

Over the course of the past decade, the chasms between Ankara and the US, and the West as a whole, grew wider. They seriously displayed themselves in the developments of the West Asia region after 2011, when uprisings and then war swept the region, and also the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016. From this time on, Turkey went at odds with the US-led West in many regional cases. Even in some cases the Turkish leaders took tough stances against the West.

This trend continued to date. In past few days, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and Binali Yeldrim, the prime minister, applied a strong tone against the Western countries, giving the notion that Turkey is drawing new political borders with the West and the US. This claim can be substantiated with a look at the remarks of the two Turkish officials on October 22. Addressing the 33th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Erdogan cautioned against the Western plots against the Muslim world, adding that the West not only aims at exploiting oil, natural resources, or human resources of the Muslim states, but also seeks to destroy the Islamic civilization.

The Turkish leader directed further accusations against the West, asserting that western leaders want to drain the roots of the Muslims and cripple their countries. He further hailed the Muslims’ resistance to the Western waves of repression for two centuries. “The Muslims have been under attacks and repression of the West, but they have managed to survive. A dirty scenario is underway hitting the unity, properties, and very importantly, the future of the Muslim world. Terrorist groups such as Daesh (Arabic acronym from ISIS) Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and YPG have turned our region into a blood river. Now they are exposed, as we know where they have come from and who is feeding them. We no longer stay indifferent in the face of these criminals that abuse the name of Islam,” he argued.

Like Erdogan, Yidrim also lashed out at the US. He blasted the American trial of a Turkish-Iranian businessman, named Reza Zarrab, who is accused of money laundering and helping the Iranian government evade the US-imposed sanctions, saying that it was based on fake documents and “lies”. He further said that Turkey did not do anything in commerce against the country’s constitution or the international laws.

Additionally, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu was another official to bring under fire the Western sides. He touched on the recent row with NATO during the organization’s military drills that ended in Ankara’s withdrawing 40 troops it sent to the exercises, saying: “Turkey is not the country of 16 years ago. Turkey will stand firm against accusations, humiliation, and hostility.” During the NATO drills in Norway, a European officer used pictures of Erdogan and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, in an enemy chart.

These unprecedented stances of the Turkish officials can be focused on from the two aspects of content and political influence. On the first aspect, the Turkish president’s remarks are an exposition of the real face of the intentions of the Western countries, with the US at the center, behind their presence and role playing in the West Asia region’s developments. These remarks more than anything else can substantiate the veracity of the positions taken by the Axis of Resistance on the real nature of the policies and goals of the West in the region in the past decades. These Turkish comments can fuel an optimism about regional nations’ gradual awareness of the fact that Washington spares no efforts to realize its interests and implement its policies. They, furthermore, might know that what stands as basis to the American policies is solely its national own interests, and not cooperation and common advantage.

On the other side, the fact is that the new anti-Western standings of the Ankara leaders, including disclosing the nature of the Western plots and objectives, cannot come all of a sudden without previous knowledge. The reality is that the tensions hitting the Turkish ties with the West are a result of the conflict of interests and approaches on a variety of issues. Such contrariety pushes Erdogan to make comments of this type in a bid to put pressures on the West to wrest concessions, beside getting a toehold in the regional developments.

Here are the row-sparking issues between the two sides:

US hands in 2016 anti-Erdogan coup

Most significant case that hits the formerly strong bonds between Ankara and the US is the disclosure of the US involvement in the failed military coup of July 15, 2016. The documents as well as the confessions made by the coup-plotters made it clear that the Americans eyed to remove Erdogan government and raise to power a Turkish government that is closer to the West. This plot revealed the fact that for the West democracy and national sovereignty of the countries make sense only when they guarantee the Western interests. When the West is incapable of securing its interests in democratic conditions, it will not rule out any conspiracy to overthrow national governments and help pro-Western figures rise to power. All in all, the US complicity in the July power grab attempt made Erdogan assertively say that Turkey now can discriminate between its enemies and friends.

Turkey-US dispute over American backing for Syrian Kurds

The American support for the Kurdish factions of northern Syria has caused increasing distrust of the Turkish leaders in Washington. Providing various kinds of support for Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the US has entered a type of alliance with these forces. Turkey repeatedly said that it was opposed to this relation, but the Americans continue to train and equip their northern Syrian allies.

This is enough for Ankara to grow distrustful of the US. Now it is obvious for the Turkish leaders that Washington has started an anti-Ankara game using the pressure card of the PKK terrorist group. This pushes them to the notion that the US is openly working to impair Turkey and harm its national interests.

US and Turkey’s expansionist Islamism

There is another point for the two sides to dispute over. It is the opposite approaches of Washington and Ankara on a series of West Asian crises. Their foreign policy in many cases clash. Turkey’s AKP has embarked on a course to gain regional influence on the strength of expansionist Islamism. This attitude allures the Turks into advocating the Islamist movements in the region, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

But this is contrary to the American policy. Turkey’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood stances runs counter to the US regional strategy of having the back of its traditional ally Saudi Arabia which is highly antipathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood’s strength gain in the region. So, the Americans, backed by the Saudi money, responded to this policy by taking a course quite contrary to that of the Turks by confronting the Muslim Brotherhood. The first step was bringing down the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated government of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt by a military coup. The present-time strains on Qatar as an ally to Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood is part of this confrontation.

Besides, the Turks are at loggerheads with the Americans in regional crises like the Syrian conflict. Ankara since 2011, the year the Syrian crisis erupted, has called for establishment of safe zones in Syria’s north, specifically in areas standing between Azaz and Jarabulus cities in Aleppo province. But the Americans, along with the Europeans, blocked the proposal under various excuses.

The West’s pro-Kurdish stances motivated Ankara’s moving towards cooperation with the rival camp of Russia and Iran on the ongoing regional crises. The landmark outcome of the Turkish shift to Moscow and Tehran is Astana peace talks. The meeting on Wednesday of presidents of Russia, Iran, and Turkey in the Russian resort city of Sochi to prepare a political solution for Syria crisis was another factor echoing Turkish overhaul of policy.   

It can be suggested that in the new conditions a serious gap has appeared between Turkey and the Washington-led West. Erdogan and other Turkish leaders now conclude that the West cannot be a trustable ally. They, so, work for their interests via a range of measures, including closeness to Iran and Russia, designing defense plans out of framework of the NATO like buying Russian S-400 air defense systems, regularly blasting the West, and supporting the Axis of Resistance’s stances.

If this situation in two sides’ relations continues, cultural, religious, historical, and political differences can work as catalysts for wider chasms between Ankara and the West, though Turkey is in relative economic, military, and political entanglement with the West. 

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