Resetting U.S.-Turkish relations requires careful steps, warns new analysis
In an article for The Hill, Eric Mandel analyzes the complex relationship between the United States and Turkey over the past 20 years. He focuses on whether Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might align itself more closely with Western powers in the future.
Since coming to power, Erdoğan has steered Turkey down a more sectarian Islamist path, diverging from the U.S. vision of a secular, democratic Muslim ally, Mandel writes. Tensions have arisen over Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. forces to operate from its territory during the Iraq War and over U.S. harboring of Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of plotting the failed 2016 coup against Erdoğan.
Other issues include Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 missile system over Western alternatives, which violates U.S. sanctions and endangers NATO. The U.S. has punished Turkey for its ties to Russia and for violating sanctions. Turkey's closeness to groups such as Hamas and plans to evade Iran sanctions through Halkbank have heightened tensions.
But Turkey's proximity to rivals Russia and Iran makes it a key geopolitical player, Mandel argues. As Iran expands its influence in Syria and destabilizes the region, Turkey faces critical choices.
There are signs that Turkey may be reorienting itself toward the West, Mandel argues. Recent orthodox economic policies are aimed at attracting Western investors. Erdoğan's efforts to transport Israeli gas to Europe could spur economic ties if trust issues are resolved.
While there are positives, Turkey's opaque government and inadequate export controls raise investor concerns, Mandel notes, citing the 2023 State Department report. Data suggests that aligning with the West serves Turkey's interests more than Russia and Iran.
Mandel concludes that Turkey must balance key alliances while navigating Iran, Russia, and China. Mutual understanding is essential for harmonious U.S.-Turkish relations.