And Regional Democratic Transition
The challenges to US interests in the Middle East have changed over time, and relations between the US and Turkey, an important ally since the Cold War era, have also evolved. Congress allocates considerably less in military and security assistance to Turkey than in the past, but still plays an active role in shaping and overseeing US relations with Turkey. Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for US interests. US policymakers are closely observing the domestic unrest that began in late May 2013 and spread across Turkey in June to determine how it may impact on US interests.
Gauging how US and Turkish interests coincide has become increasingly complicated and dynamic. The closeness of the US and Turkey on issues affecting the Middle East has increased since 2011 due to Turkish leaders perceiving a need for US help in encouraging a transition to democracy in the region while countering actors with the potential to undermine internal Turkish and regional stability. Potential destabilizing factors include the Iranian and Syrian regimes as well as terrorists from Turkey’s own ethnic Kurdish population. Moreover, the United States may be more dependent on its alliance with Turkey to forward US interests in the region because of the recent end of the US military mission in Iraq, coupled with other possible future reductions in its Middle Eastern footprint. These factors have led to frequent high-level US-Turkey consultation on developments in Syria and the broader region. In addition, US officials reportedly interpreted Turkey’s agreement in September 2011 to host a US early warning radar as part of a NATO missile defense system for Europe1 as a critical sign of Turkey’s interest in continued strategic cooperation with Washington. During 2010, some US and European policymakers and analysts had voiced concern about Turkey’s reliability as a bilateral and NATO ally owing to its active opposition to United Nations sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program and its deteriorating relationship with Israel.
In addition to following the ongoing manifestations of domestic discontent in Turkey, Congress also has a considerable interest in regard of Turkey with respect to the following issues and questions: addressing Regional Change in the Greater Middle East; whether Turkey’s policies and actions are reconcilable with US interests in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Afghanistan with regard to political and material support for populations, opposition movements, and transitional governments; existing and potential sanctions against autocratic regimes; and internationally-mandated humanitarian and military action that includes or may include the use of Turkish bases or territory.