US Early Warning Radar
Turkey-KRG closeness on issues affecting the Middle East..
The Kurdistan Region and Turkey are important US allies, and the Middle East has become a key arena since the end of the Cold War. The recent end of the US military mission in Iraq and other possible future reductions in its Middle East footprint, may well have made the United States still more dependent on its alliance with Turkey and the Kurdistan region in the forwarding of US interests in the region.
These factors have led to frequent high-level consultation between the US, KRG and Turkey 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 Europe as a critical sign of Turkey’s interest in continued strategic cooperation with Washington. Congress allocates relatively small amounts of military and security assistance to Turkey compared with 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.
Gauging how US, KRG and Turkish interests coincide has become increasingly complicated and dynamic. The convergence of the US, KRG and Turkey on issues affecting the Middle East has increased. Middle Eastern leaders perceive a need for US help in encouraging regional democratic transition, and in countering actors and issues with the potential to undermine internal Arab and regional stability. These would include the Iranian and Syrian regimes, as well as terrorist groups and Turkey’s own ethnic Kurdish population issue.
Some US and European policymakers and analysts had voiced concern over Turkey’s reliability as a bilateral and NATO ally owing to its active opposition to United Nations sanctions against Iran and its deteriorating relationship with Israel. Congress has an interest in following the ongoing manifestations of domestic discontent in Turkey, but also in regard to Turkey with respect to the following issues: regional change in the Greater Middle East; the reconcilability of Turkey’s policies and actions 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; internationally mandated humanitarian and or military action that includes or may include the use of Turkish bases or territory; and limiting Iranian influence. There is also the three-way relationship between Israel, the US and Turkey: what are prospects for future Turkey-Israel relations, given recent signs of improvement? How might these relations affect US efforts at coordinating regional security? If Turkey-Israel tensions persist, should they affect the way in which Congress views Turkey’s status as a US ally?
The US is interested in Turkey’s accession to the European Union (a process which has currently reached a stalemate), in domestic political developments in Turkey, including the Kurdish issue, in promoting increased trade between the US and Turkey, and in Turkey’s role in the decades-long dispute between ethnic Greek and ethnic Turkish populations regarding the control of Cyprus. Turkey’s strategic position and regional influence is of interest to Congress and the Obama Administration. Turkey is a key NATO ally with several US and NATO military assets currently deployed to Turkish and NATO bases throughout the country.