At an election campaign in Burdur, South-West Turkey, President Reccip Erdogan accused NATO of supporting ‘terrorists’ by giving them weapons while ignoring Turkey’s requests for the same.
“You give terrorists around 23,000 truckloads of weapons and tools through Iraq, but when we asked, you won’t even sell them to us”, he added.
Turkey is a member of NATO. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the alliance has been mostly engaged in the War on Terror post 9/11.
Many of the same reasons that EU member countries have been reluctant to allow Turkey to join the Union, namely human rights, use of the death penalty, and role of the military in daily life have become part of the reason for the tension between Turkey and NATO, especially the US lately.
Tensions have been building ever since President Trump announced that the US would withdraw troops from Northern Syria.
The US backed coalition in Syria extensively supports the Kurdish rebels (YPG) who are at war with ISIS. Turkey, however views these rebels as an extension of the banned KPP (Kurdish Worker’s party) which it has waged a decades long war with, where at least 40 000 people have died so far.
Turkey is currently engaged in war in Syria both with the Assad regime and the Kurdish militias. It currently has deployed at least 4000 – 8000 soldiers, aided by local collaborators/factions of the Syrian opposition according to Yeni Safek (Turkish conservative news).
The Turkish-Kurdish conflict and the US/NATO’s relationship with the Kurds only adds to the strained relationship between Turkey and the US.
Erdogan has accused the US of sheltering Fethullah Gulen, the preacher alleged to have been mastermind of the failed 2016 coup. Both the US and Gulen have denied such allegations. Also, the recent jailings of American Christian missionaries has been another source of tension.
The US has also threatened to renege on a delivery of F-35s in response to a Turkish deal to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems. At the Munich security summit last week, US Vice President Mike Pence said:
“We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries,” without referring to Turkey specifically.
Last week, Erdogan attended a joint summit with Putin and Iran’s PM Rouhani at a joint conference in Sochi, Russia instead of attending the Munich summit.
According to Scott B. MacDonald, chief economist for the credit research firm ‘Smith’s Research and Grading’:
“Iran, Russia and Turkey have different objectives in Syria, but they also have overlapping goals in the rest of Eurasia, run the risk of becoming economic extensions of China, and all three have strained relations with the West.”
SDF commander-in-chief, Mazloum Kobani, called for about 1,000 to 1,500 international forces to remain in northern Syria permanently. Many analysts believe that Turkey will engage in a genocide of Kurds if the US withdraws completely.
In this context, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his US counterpart Mike Pompeo held a phone call on Sunday to discuss the matter.