POMED Notes: Turkish-U.S. Relations in an Evolving Middle East
On Tuesday, Nursin Guney spoke about “Turkish-U.S. Relations in an Evolving Middle East” at Georgetown University in an event co-hosted by Georgetown’s Institute for Turkish Studies and the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. Guney is a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul and a member of the Istanbul-based Foundation of Balkan and Middle Eastern Studies. Guney’s remarks focused on the Arab Spring and its repercussions for Turkey and the U.S.
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Nursin Guney began by talking about opportunities for cooperation between Turkey, the Arab world and the U.S. after the Arab Spring. With geopolitical alliances in tatters and new non-state actors in ascendancy, it is increasingly important for Turkey and the U.S. to pool resources, fight extremists and build institutions. Obama’s rejection of Bush-era top-down foreign aid initiatives, which exacerbated religious and ethnic fault lines, has been a net positive in light of the recent grassroots Arab Spring revolts, Guney said. For its part, Turkey has continued to pursue good neighbor policies and side with the people of Syria and the greater MENA region, and Turkey has credibility and trust in the region where the U.S. does not, Guney explained. For example, Syrians are currently extremely disappointed in the weak U.S. response to the crisis there, which Guney attributed to Obama’s reluctance to repeat Bush’s mistakes. However, Washington and Ankara have many mutual interests, including new regional cooperation alliance between Tunisia, Egypt, the U.S. and Turkey. Tunisia and Turkey should serve as a model for democratic transition, Guney emphasized. Turkey has significant expectations from Washington, including more technical assistance for Turkish anti-terrorism units and a bolstered commitment to influencing the direction of the fight in Syria, including intensifying security assistance and establishing a safe zone in Northern Syria. Guney concluded by noting that security problems transcend borders, so the U.S. and Turkey have every reason to bolster cooperation.
During the Q&A, Guney played down brewing problems with Kurdistan and Armenia while acknowledging significant problems between Turkey and its neighbors. Guney said she “ doesn’t take seriously” the aggressive rhetoric between Israel and Turkey because the two countries have a mutual interest in preserving security and maintaining good relations. Turkey’s rocky relationship with Israel is also not hurting Turkey-U.S. relations, Guney claimed. The commercial atmosphere in Turkey has only gotten better since the Arab Spring and Turkey continues to pursue business ties with the West. Finally, turning to the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, Guney said Turkey will have high expectations for whoever is elected, including more military, economic, and energy cooperation. However, Guney claimed both the Turkish government and public prefer that Obama win the election.