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For the latter, there was little sense that the United States would constrain its actions in pursuit of a strategic advantage in the emerging security environment. The degree to which this was to transform the prevailing conflict environment was profound. The region has historically been one of the most conflict-prone in contemporary global politics. However, much of this was attributed to conventional armed conflicts between states—the Arab—Israeli wars, the Iran—Iraq War, the second Gulf War between the U.

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The Challenge of the Non-Arab Middle East As the pillars of the old regional system were undermined, the Middle East entered into a new phase in which the political and ideological norms, as well as the balance of power of the emerging order, were challenged by the regional powers that make up the non-Arab Middle East.

Israel, Iran, and Turkey have each put forward their own project for an alternative vision of regional order, founded on a set of power relationships, rules, and frameworks for regional identity fundamentally different than those which prevailed in the old regional order. Although these projects are not wholly new, they have acquired greater momentum in the current conflict environment and the inability of the Arab core to address the post-Arab uprising crises. Iran would portray the uprisings as essentially an extension of the Islamic revolution, reflecting an aspiration that the overthrow of entrenched regimes—especially in Egypt—would pave the way for a political opening through which Iran could expand its political reach into the Arab World.

The Arab uprisings, however, were not the breakthroughs that Iran had hoped for. Neither the parties of political Islam, nor the secular nationalist forces that contested their rise, would prove amenable to an opening with Tehran. In fact, the spread of the Arab Spring to Syria would confront Iran with a major strategic challenge to its Middle East policy.

The deployment of the Iranian regular military alongside the Quds force and the array of pro-Iranian Shia militias has placed it along a path toward confrontation with Israel, and potentially, the United States. As such, Turkey was not seen as a significant actor in the Middle East despite its proximity to the region and the historical legacy of its Ottoman past. Against this backdrop, the onset of the Arab uprisings was seen as a major strategic opportunity for Ankara.

Business as Usual: The U.S.‐Turkey Security Partnership

The outbreak of the Syrian civil war also presented Ankara with an acute security challenge. In addition to the burden posed by the influx of over three million refugees from Syria and Iraq, Turkey now had to contend with an incipient Kurdish presence in northwest Syria that would drag Ankara deep into the civil war there, a conflict over which it had little control.

At times, neo-Ottomanism has veered into a latent irredentism. This has been coupled with references to the vast expanse of territory that Turkey was forced to relinquish during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Transcending the Arab—Israeli Conflict? The Arab—Israeli conflict has long constituted a defining feature of the modern Middle East, forming its core axis of conflict.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in , its perennial conflict with the Arab World has formed a barrier to its integration with its regional neighborhood.

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As long as Israel continued to occupy Arab territory and forestalled the emergence of an independent Palestinian state, the prospect of normalizing relations with the Arab World remained politically unachievable. However, since the onset of the U. The advent of the Arab uprisings offered a potential window of opportunity to advance this project. The outbreak of the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, and Libya seemed to eclipse the Palestinian—Israeli conflict as the central focus of Middle East politics. In parallel, the rise of Iran presented a common challenge to both Israel and the Arab Gulf states, one that could potentially create a convergence of strategic interests against a mutual threat.

A number of developments indicated a cautious readiness on the part of certain Arab states to engage in such tacit cooperation with Israel, the most recent being the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman in October While this was not the first such visit by a high-level Israeli official to a Gulf capital, it gained special notoriety, given the anticipation that this might lead to a breakthrough in relations between Israel and a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC.

More and more, the course of Arab interactions with Israel seemed to proceed independent of the Palestinian issue. Should this be taken to its logical conclusion—with the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Gulf states and Israel—it would constitute a major transformation of the regional order. These criticisms were explicitly aimed at Arabian Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but they were also implicitly addressed to Turkey, NATO's only Muslim-majority member and an unruly partner that increasingly frustrated its trans-atlantic allies.

These latent tensions in the U. Turkey's continued support for opposition groups, and its intransigence on a solution that both ousted Assad and denied the Kurds an independent enclave in the north, proved a challenge to NATO's broader policy objectives. In more sensationalistic accounts, Turkey's divergent interests were extrapolated into an alleged complicity with ISIS. According to this narrative, Turkey's frustration with U. These were allegations of doubtful veracity.

The War In Syria: Turkey tells UN unhappy with safe zone progress

The watershed moment in U. At the time, Turkey's policies on Kobani were largely portrayed as refusing to help the besieged Kurds, a narrative that dovetailed with allegations of Turkish support for Islamist groups in Syria. This, however, was a factually erroneous characterization. More than , Kurds were allowed to cross into Turkey in the first days of the ISIS offensive, 18 and eventually the number exceeded , While Syria was an important aspect of the mutual frustration between Turkey and the United States, it was by no means the only one.

Another point of contention was Turkey's long-range missile-defense tender after Ankara rejected bids by its NATO allies in favor of a Chinese-built one.

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In perspective, however, these concerns were not endemic to recent years. He wrote that, while "an obituary for the demise of a half-century partnership is premature," understanding these new dynamics will be key to determining where Turkey's relationship with the United States will go. In a article for the same journal, Jonathan Eric Davis was already lamenting "the loss of Ankara as a reliable ally" and urging "a more active and engaged U. By late , Cagaptay's tone, too, had shifted from caution to eulogy over the direction of Turkey's relationship with the United States: "Turkey's experience with the AKP proves that Islamism in the country's foreign policy may not be so compatible with the West, after all.

Gates blamed Brussels for discouraging Turkey in its negotiations over joining the EU, while Barroso blamed Washington for turning public opinion against the West with the invasion of Iraq. The debate abroad was also reverberating at home.


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The leading foreign-policy figures of the opposition — especially three retired ambassadors: the secular CHP's Onur Oymen 40 and Faruk Logoglu 41 and the nationalist MHP's Deniz Bolukbasi 42 — voiced concerns about a fundamental transformation of Turkey's foreign policy under the AKP, coining what came to be known as the "axis shift" debate in Turkish politics.

Curiously, except for a few lone dissenters like Oguzlu, 43 Turkish scholars were quick to dismiss this line of reasoning: "The overwhelming majority of the Turkish experts studying Turkish foreign policy find the 'axis shift' argument an exaggeration and crude characterization," wrote Onis. Remarkably, the senior foreign-policy figures were signaling that Turkey sought to change the traditional algorithm of its relations with the United States.

Kalin was forewarning that, if Turkey were not accommodated as a new rising power center, the United States would risk a default in its relations in Turkey.


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  8. Yet, the American discourse remained fairly optimistic about Turkey's shift. Stephen Larrabee, "If managed properly, it could be an opportunity for Washington and its Western allies to use Turkey as a bridge to the Middle East. These discourses on Turkey's loss and rediscovery by the West were anchored in a flawed "presentism. The problem with these presentist arguments was that they conflated what Kenneth Waltz famously called the three levels of analysis — the individual, the domestic and the systemic contexts.

    Similarly, the domestic transformations in Turkey that are argued as rationales for excluding it from NATO's "value-based community" are by no means new. Consider the issue of anti-Americanism. The same is true of Turkey's careening towards authoritarianism. Turkey was never a bulwark of liberal-democratic values, but by and large, Turkey's Atlantic allies were rarely bothered by it. Turkey's much-maligned constitution, for example, was a legacy of the junta, which the United States had fully backed.

    Indeed, the secular establishment's authoritarian excesses through the s and s 68 were one reason the AKP victory was so widely celebrated. Ahmet Insel, for example, wrote, "[AKP's victory] created an unexpected possibility of exit from the authoritarian regime established after the military coup of September 12, Yet, despite some ominous signs, even the more astute observers of the political class remained tone-deaf. A tragic example is Hugh Pope. In , even as Gareth Jenkins 71 and Dani Rodrik 72 had been raising doubts about due process and factual inconsistencies in the now-discredited Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup-plot trials, Pope was convinced that the judges "would certainly not have taken so many high-profile people into custody unless they had an absolute certainty that this is a real case.

    Similarly, on the Kurdish problem, human rights and democratization took a backseat to security cooperation and alliance politics, in both the past and the present, as argued by a slew of commentators, from Eric Edelman 75 to Patrick Cockburn 76 to Dov Friedman 77 to Leela Jacinto. Turkey's democratic deficit, its authoritarian tendencies, and the strong undercurrents of anti-Americanism mentioned in the works of these commentators were always there.

    These concerns are by no means trivial. Why should it be different now? For the U. Hence, the question is whether conceptions of national interest, arrangements of power, or dynamics of dependency transformed in a way that would translate into a meaningful change in Turkey's security partnership with the United States and NATO. The answer is no, but the dominant discourse on Turkey is imbued with the comfort of a flawed presentism, which disguises the resilience of these overlapping interests at the systemic level.

    Despite the breadth of the literature on NATO-Turkey relations, the essential question of what it means to be allies is never explicitly discussed. Recalling David Phillips's argument that "[NATO] is a coalition of countries with shared values," is this really the case? If NATO is indeed a value-based community, what are these values? And what happens when security interests clash with the shared values? Two years into its its military intervention in Syria, Russia recently announced that that it will end its military operations in Syria.

    The roles played by tribes in several Arab states are growing and shifting from social tasks to security ones. Iran appears to have no interest in entering into a direct confrontation with the United States or Israel. It can be argued that the current Turkish foreign policy is based on the ideas of Prof. Ahmet Davuoglu, as illustrated in his book.

    Al-Qaeda enjoys an unprecedented organizational strength and geographical expansion, due to the growing power of its offshoots. Seemingly, Sudan may turn into a convergence point for a new alliance or regional axis comprising Turkey and Qatar. The fate of Syria in is arguably tied to keeping a balance between Iran, Turkey and Russia.