The United States’ Uncomfortable Relations with Turkey

The United States’ attempts to micromanage other countries’ policies and actions in the Middle East have put the United States in a number of uncomfortable situations, observes Doug Bandow for a new piece in Forbes.

Turkey joined NATO during the Cold War when its strategic value outweighed its lack of democracy. Furthermore, current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instituted reforms that won European and U.S. favor for Turkey and encouraged the United States to continue its long policy of relying on military bases in Turkey to conduct military activities in the Middle East.

However, Bandow notes that Turkey’s relationship with Europe and the United States began to weaken in 2010 as Erdogan became more authoritarian and aggressive, and as he “pushed a more fundamentalist Islam into the public sphere.”

Since then, Erdogan has attempted to pull the United States into a war against his former ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and risked war with Russia by shooting down a Russian fighter plane last fall. Additionally, Erdogan largely turned a blind eye to ISIS activity within Turkey’s borders.

When the Turkish military launched a coup against Erdogan on July 15, 2016, the United States scrambled to show its support for him because of the perceived need to keep friendly access to Turkish bases and airfields. Such behavior, Bandow argues, “shows how hard it is to stop meddling once you start.”

Bandow concludes that because the United States insists on intervening in the Middle East, “the U.S. has found itself forced to embrace [Erdogan], a man who cannot be trusted to support people’s liberty at home or fight Islamic radicalism abroad.” This should raise serious questions about the United States’ relationship with Turkey as well as U.S. objectives in the Middle East.

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