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Is Turkey a Necessary Ally of the U.S.?

ImageRepresentative John Sarbanes asks the wrong question in his July 20 Huffington Post column, “Can America Rely on Turkey?” . Osman Bengur, TURKOFAMERICA Advisory Board Member  responds: The real question to ask is this: "Is Turkey a necessary ally of the U.S.?"

It is important to look at history and facts in answering this question. Turkey has been an important ally of the U.S. from the time
Turkey joined NATO in 1952. Turkish and U.S. troops fought and died alongside each other in Korea. Turkey stood with NATO as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism and with the largest military force in Europe, still serves as NATO’s vital eastern anchor.

Relationships between nations, even friendly ones, are complicated. To borrow Mr. Sarbanes’ word, it is naïve to think that our interests and policies will always be in alignment with our allies. One example is our relations with Great Britain, Germany and France; they are refusing to coordinate economic policies with the Obama Administration on the most important problem we face today, ending the recession. Nations we consider friends can disagree without being considered disloyal or unreliable.

It is a fact that upon a close vote of its democratically elected parliament, Turkey refused to permit U.S. troops to use Turkey to
establish a northern front in the Iraq war (unfortunate, but an example of democracy in action where more than 70% of Turks opposed the war in Iraq). Nevertheless, Turkey has been a valuable base for U.S. military operations that support U.S. troops in Iraq. Turkey is playing an important role in stabilizing Iraq and has also been engaged with the U.S. in Afghanistan in the fight against Al Qaeda.

The situation in Cyprus however, continues to be a festering sore for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Again, stereotypes are unhelpful in understanding the complexity of the problem and for finding constructive solutions. Since Greek Cypriots rejected the last United Nations plan for settlement in 2004 - a plan that was strongly backed by the EU and the U.S. - talks between the two sides have been plagued by misunderstanding and mistrust. Each side has its hawks and doves and neither side has been without fault. But both have much to lose if they fail to reach agreement on the bicommunal, bizonal solution that
is being negotiated. It is the U.S. role and in its interest to strongly encourage an agreement before the opportunity for a lasting
resolution is lost.

Turkey’s democracy is just 87 years young and still evolving. With EU accession requirements, important progress has been made, but Turkey’s democracy is not without growing pains. To put it in perspective, at the same time in our nation’s development as a democracy the U.S. was engaged in a bloody civil war over slavery.

Today’s Turkey is young, dynamic and becoming a powerful economic and political force in the Middle East and Caucuses region. As Hugh Pope, the Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director has written:

"Turkey's new engagement with the Middle East and the charismatic appeal of its leaders among Middle Eastern peoples have made it a player that the region that the world needs to take into account. Turkey has achieved notable economic expansion and has provided a living example to Middle Eastern societies of useful new ways to mix progress, tradition and democratisation".

With Turkey assuming a leadership role in the Middle East and living in a very tough region that includes neighbors like Iran, we shouldn’t expect or demand that Turkey’s interests always be aligned with ours. Still, the United States has important economic and national security interests in the region. The salient question to ask is this: Should Turkey, an emerging democratic power in the region, be an important ally of America?

The answer is a resounding yes.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07