When it comes to ascertaining what the US actually thinks of a country, judge not what the US says but what the US does. This is particularly true in respect of the US military. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that the US is drastically cutting back operational flights out of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. This comes after Germany pulled its NATO forces out of Incirlik last year amid disputes with the Turkish government regarding Germany inspections of the facilities.
Now it would appear that the United States is considering a similar move out of Incirlik. The US based Military Times reports,
“In January, for instance, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs were shifted from Incirlik to Afghanistan. U.S. Air Forces Central Command officially said that the move was for the purpose of shifting focus from fighting ISIS to fighting the Taliban.
While Turkey didn’t impose any formal restrictions on the use of the base, American officials told the Wall Street Journal that flying out of there has become difficult, as the base is constantly held as a leverage point by Turkish authorities”.
The writing appears to be on the wall, for a US pivot away from Turkey as a base for pan-Middle Eastern operations, with Jordan becoming the new de-facto location for NATO in the Middle East. This should not be surprising given the state of rapidly declining US-Turkey relations, while Jordan remains reliably subservient to the US, as Amman has few major geopolitical ambitions of its own, quite unlike Erdogan’s Turkey.
While the US backing of PKK aligned YPG Kurdish militants in Syria is widely considered the proximate cause of the deterioration in relations between Turkey and the US, fundamentally, this was merely the straw which broke the camel’s back. In reality, it is the close relationship between the United States and the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) that commenced the declining relations between two former allies.
On 15 July, 2016, the FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) organised a coup against the Turkish Republic which took the lives of 240, while injuring thousands. The biggest shock to the stability of 21st century Turkey ultimately failed thanks to Russian intelligence tipping off Turkey’s President Erdogan so that he could regroup and send a message to his supporters and the legitimate security services.
The FETO currently has sleeper cells throughout Turkey in spite of being banned, while it has set up operations in both Albania and the United States. The group’s founder Fetullah Gulen currently lives in exile in the United States where the authorities have not only refused to hand Gulen over to the Turkish authorities, but also failed to even acknowledge his seditious organisation as a terrorist group, even though members of the FETO have been arrested in Turkey for working in American consulates.
Crucially, when President Erdogan accused the US of having a hand in the FETO organised coup attempt of 2016, the US casually dismissed the allegations while failing to overtly condemn the coup itself. Russia by contrast, vehemently condemned the coup, in spite of its proximity in time to the Turkish shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in late 2015.
Far from simply peacefully allowing Turkey to complete its multipolar pivot to the wider Eurasian world, the US seems intent on molesting Turkey’s sovereign decision making as much as possible. The US is clearly unhappy that Turkey is cooperating with Russia and Iran via the Astana Format for peace in Syria. Likewise, the US cannot be happy that Turkey has intensified its energy cooperation with Russia and its security cooperation with Iran. The recent building of a border wall between Turkey and Iran to cut off Iranian PJAK terrorists from their allies in the Turkey based PKK, has been a further example that in spite of the rhetoric regarding Syria, it remains in the joint interests of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria not to allow radical Kurdish terrorist groups to supply each other across national borders in the region.
Thus, while conventional wisdom dictates that the US simply doesn’t care about Turkey’s concerns regarding Washington’s use of pro-PKK Kurdish militants as proxies in Syria, in reality the US might be purposefully provoking Turkey to see how much it takes before Turkey responds.
Since the US is clearly at odds with Erdogan and his government on issues ranging from Turkey’s attempts to purchase Russian S-400 weapons to the US alliance with what Turkey considers a terror group (the YPG/PKK), one could see how the US might want to test the waters and see how far they can push Turkey before Ankara pushes back. Already, the US has expressed its dissatisfaction with Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch which threatens to expand further east into US occupied territory, with negotiations on the matter still appearing tenuous at best. What better way to attempt to delay or stop these Turkish ambitions than to allow more Kurdish militants and the most radicalised ones at that, to flood into Afrin?
The US is not about to do to Turkey what it did to Libya in 2011 or Iraq in 2003, owing to Turkey’s strength and its position in NATO, but clearly the US would like to agitate internal factions in Turkey ranging from the PKK, to the FETO, to Takfiri sleepers, to other anti-government groups in an attempt to bring about a Turkish leadership that is more amiable to America’s strategy. Thus, one sees a future scenario wherein currently frosty US-Turkey relations could turn into overtly hostile relations.
There is no altruism in geopolitics. Ecuador has housed Julian Assange to increase the prestige of an otherwise poor South American country and to trust its charismatic former President Rafael Correa onto a wider global stage. This worked and now Correa’s less glamorous though still left-wing successor simply wants the Assange issue to go away. Likewise, the US is housing Fethullah Gulen not because the American people enjoy the man’s company. Clearly, the US wants leverage against Turkey and perhaps they want something more, perhaps they want regime change. While many in Syria, Greece, Armenia and elsewhere also want regime change in Turkey, the kind of regime change the US wants is a very different kind of regime change. The US is almost certainly salivating at the prospect of replacing a fiercely independent and outspoken Erdogan with a pliable Gulenist who owes his power to the United States. Washington certainly is not looking to put a Greek Patriarch or an Armenian activist in power, much though many alt-media opponents of Erdogan might wish otherwise.
The gradual move away from Incirlik appears to be the first step towards an increasingly hostile dislodging of Turkey from NATO via the backdoor. While the US still maintains nuclear weapons at Incirlik, so too were nuclear weapons in the USSR scattered across the borders of what after 1991 became independent states. So too might it be with NATO, once Turkey finally exits the alliance. What was recently unthinkable is becoming increasingly probable.