This paper aims to make a detailed analysis of Ian O. Lesser’s new book “Beyond Suspicion Rethinking US-Turkish Relations” which was recently published and covers all important recent developments concerning Turkish-American relations. In order to that, first of all some details about the author and the book will be given. Secondly, a comprehensive summary of the book will be made. Thirdly, some events and ideas in the book will be critically analyzed in the light of some main concepts in Foreign Policy Analysis lesson. The paper will end up with a conclusion part that summarizes the main findings and most important points of the paper.
Ian O. Lesser is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the
in United States , where he studies Mediterranean affaires and Turkish politics in general. He is also the president of Mediterranean Advisors LLC, a consultancy specializing in geopolitical risk. He previously worked for Rand Cooperation as a senior analyst and a research manager. Lesser has also PhD degree in Public Policy discipline. His recent books and policy reports include Security and Strategy in the Washington Eastern Mediterranean (2006), Turkish Foreign Policy in an Age of Uncertainty (2003), ’s New Geopolitics (2001) and Countering the New Terrorism (1999). “Beyond Suspicion Rethinking US-Turkish Relations” is the latest book of Lesser and it covers the recent developments concerning Turkish-American relations. Although the book is only about 100 pages, it makes a good summary of the recent problems in US-Turkish relations and offers some ways to solve these problems. Greece
In the first introductory chapter, Ian O. Lesser summarizes the recent developments concerning US-Turkish relations. In his view, although Cold War conditions brought Turkey and USA together, they are not “natural allies” since they are geographically distant and have “no obvious balancing interest in relation to third powers” (Lesser, p. 11). Turkish-American partnership could serve for important purposes but it is not existential and “strategic partnership” concept often used by the Turkish side is rather exaggerated. Problems became first visible after Turkish Grand National Assembly’s failure to approve the plan to deploy substantial American forces via Turkey to Iraq on 1 March 2003. Second major source of crisis occurred when
soldiers attacked and arrested Turkish Special Forces in US on Kirkuk 4 July 2003. Numerous surveys show that today in Turkey anti-Americanism is the strongest political trend although it is based on enmity towards American government and its policies not towards American people (Lesser, p. 12). In addition to these problems, ’s own problems related to new social dynamics, civil-military relations, secularism-Islam clash and the hegemony of Justice and Development Party which has problems with other state institutions make the picture even more complex. Although it is very important, Turkey ’s relationship with European Union does not seem to be an alternative for Turkish-American relations and thus, the relation should be described and concretized in a new and future-oriented way. A more “nationalistic, inward-looking Turkey estranged from Europe and mired in its own social and political struggles” would not be a good choice for the West similar to a more Islamic-oriented Turkey that becomes closer to Middle-East (Lesser, p. 14). Turkey
In the second chapter (A Strategic Relationship Revisited), Lesser analyzes the history of Turkish-American relations and tries to take into account new variables. Turkish-American relations have a history of two centuries and it first started intensively in the 19th century on commercial and ecclesiastical levels (Lesser, p. 17). In the 19th century Ottoman State was a leading purchaser of surplus American arms and ammunition and American missionaries were very active in Ottoman territory (Lesser, p. 18). Although
took unitary and centralized Ottoman State as an example to itself rather then the federal France , growing influence of USA over USA increased day by day. The Treaty of Sevres which was seen as “Wilsonian in inspiration” forced Turks to make an Independence War against occupying Allied forces in order to establish their new modern unitary-state. “Sevres syndrome” is still very strong in Turkish mind according to Ian O. Lesser (Lesser, p. 19). Turkish rapprochement with Ottoman State which started in the National War of Independence stopped and USSR became a part of the Western world and a member of NATO after the Second World War. “Soviet threat” was the main motive that brought USA and Turkey together (Lesser, p. 20). Although Turkey and Turkey were close allies, they had many problems even in the Cold War period especially after the famous “Johnson letter” and Turkish “Cyprus Peace Operation” in 1974. US Congress implemented heavy embargos on USA but relationships never became tense as today. A new period between Turkey and Turkey started after the collapse of USA with the first Gulf War. Although the Chief of Turkish General Staff opposed to government’s decision and later resigned from his position, Özal government supported American plans and opened “İncirlik base” to help USA to invade Iraq and create a free zone starting from the 36th parallel (Lesser, p. 21). Turkish governments also subsequently supported “Provide Comfort” and “Northern Watch” decisions (Lesser, p. 22). However, the new process started with the rejection of 1 March 2003 memorandum changed the things rapidly between these two countries. USSR
The crisis could be much weaker if Mr. Erdoğan prior to his election did not encourage American government to make their plans according to İncirlik base and Turkish support for the invasion of Iraq (Lesser, p. 23). Turkey’s terrible economic situation after 2000-2001 economic crises and its participation into Afghanistan coalition forces made American strategists to think that Turkey “could not afford to say no” (Lesser, p. 23). Both Tayyip Erdoğan government’s and Turkish Armed Forces’ inability to manufacture consensus on the memorandum, forced Americans to make new plans externalizing
. Turkey later allowed “the fairly unrestricted use of İncirlik and Turkish airspace to give logistical support to coalition operations in Iraq” and today “75 % of the material shipped to Iraq for military and civilian purposes has gone through Turkey” (Lesser, p. 24). In O. Lesser’s view memorandum process was terribly managed by Bush and Erdoğan governments. Ian O. Lesser later discusses Turkey ’s roles in the region with concepts such as “bridge or barrier” and “pivot or model”. Lesser agrees that Turkey’s geopolitical situation provides an important strategic importance to country since Turkey is in the middle of crisis-prone areas and energy resources (Lesser, p. 25). Moreover, the presence of Turkic states and the Ottoman heritage allows Turkey to have a cultural and psychological close relationship with many countries of the world. For Turkey Europe, is seen mostly as a barrier with its increasing emphasis after the collapse of Turkey . However, USSR is also a bridge between West and the East and the North and the South. Turkey ’s pivotal role in energy transportation and cultural cleavage force other countries to make their plans according to this country’s preferences. Turkey has also the advantage of being a model for other Muslim countries since the country makes full-membership negotiations with EU and remains as the only secular and democratic country in the Muslim world. However, Turks generally approach to their portrayal as a model for the Muslim world in a bad way (Lesser, p. 26) since they attach more importance to their links with the Western world and secular state tradition. Turkey
Alongside with this discussion, Lesser underlines that both countries (
and USA ) have many similarities that facilitate to make a new strategic agreement. First of all, security-oriented thinking and approach is developed in both countries. Turkish fears against separatism or irredentism are similar to American war against international terrorism and the concept of homeland security. Secondly, “both societies have a relatively unreconstructed view of national sovereignty” (Lesser, p. 28). Both countries and societies strongly reject the European post-modern approach to sovereignty and want to have independent states. Thirdly, both countries do not fear or hesitate when an international mobilization (NATO or UN operations) is happening against a rogue state. Cyprus Peace Operation of Turkey and American invasion of Turkey are concrete examples of this tradition. Thus, Iraq and Turkey have many similarities unlike European tradition in international relations. The problems arise naturally because of differences rather than similarities. The first distinction between USA and Turkey is that USA is a global power that has many plans and calculations for many parts of the world. USA however remains as a regional power and Turkey ’s macro plans sometimes do not meet with USA ’s regional aims. Secondly, “the United States and Turkey differ substantially in their strategic patience and tenacity” (Lesser, p. 29). Turkey prefers status quo whereas Turkey always makes new plans and openings. This creates problems between two countries. Thirdly, “on a grand strategic level, the American tradition has combined elements of continental and maritime approaches, reflecting US development, interests and presence (Lesser, p. 29). Although there are these differences still two countries may agree on a new strategy in O. Lesser’s view. This is caused by the presence of USA ’s broad stakes in USA . Firstly, USA “has a stake in the stable political and economic evolution of Turkey” because Turkish development will have international positive implications (Lesser, p. 30). Secondly, USA looks to Turkey as “a partner in the management of regional challenges (such as Iraq, Iran, and the Black Sea) and some key functional issues (energy security, counterterrorism, relations between the Muslim world and the West)” (Lesser, p. 31). Thirdly, Turkey has an interest in USA as a contributor to American freedom of action in the direct, power-projection sense. For all these reasons, a new strategy is needed to be prepared between two countries. Turkey
In the third chapter (A New Turkey and Evolving Perspectives on the
) Ian O. Lesser focuses on the rise of anti-Americanism in United States . While anti-Americanism was a staple of the left-wing politics in the 1970’s, today Islamist and nationalist circles also use this rhetoric and anti-Americanism has become the single denominator of Turkish political discussions. Even, Turkish Armed Forces make public speeches criticizing American policies heavily and Turkey ’s attitude towards USA . This situation is mostly caused by the issues related to PKK, Turkey Northern Iraq, Armenian genocide resolution and . European Union’s double-standard attitudes towards Turkey also fuels this trend and strengthens anti-Western tendencies in the country. The nationalist resurgence can also be explained with the strong Kemalist tradition in the country. The deterioration of Turkey’s EU accession may strengthen this nationalist resurgence and nationalist-inspired violence could destabilize Turkey in Lesser’s view (Lesser, p. 38). Lesser gives the novel “Metal Storm” and tv series “ Cyprus ” as concrete examples of rising nationalism and anti-Americanism. In order to prevent nationalist wave to grow, JDP government as well as European and American officials should rethink of their relations and arrive at a consensus for the future-oriented strategies. The rise of the right in Valley of Wolves Europe and chauvinistic approaches to Turkish accession to EU should also be prevented since nationalism produces and fuels other nationalisms.
Secular-Islamists clash is another problem that
has to solve. Although JDP takes two important victories at elections, the polarization between secular and Islamic segments of the society grows rapidly. A 2006 study by TESEV shows that 51 % of Turks primarily identify themselves as Muslim rather than Turk (Lesser, p. 40). Although JDP seems to act as a liberal party until now, people who voted for the party seem to be more anti-American, anti-European and anti-liberal. The Islamization of Turkey through imam-hatip schools and rising new bourgeoisie of “Anatolian tigers” could turn into a dangerous situation if it is not controlled (Lesser, p. 40). However, regarding two main opposition parties CHP (Kemalist, nationalist left) and MHP (rightist nationalism), JDP seems to be the most liberal part in O. Lesser’s view (Lesser, p. 41). Turkey
Ian O. Lesser later turns on to explain the new foreign policy established by JDP governments with the supervision of Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu. Davutoğlu strategy first deals with a more expanded geography including
Asia, Africa and other areas relatively neglected in classical Turkish foreign policy. It also gives enormous emphasis to pre-Republican period and tries to use cultural, linguistic, historical, psychological ties with ex-Ottoman territories. JDP tries to rebalance and diversify Turkey’s interests and external policies (Lesser, p. 42). Davutoğlu aims to establish “zero problems” relations with ’s neighboring countries and use Turkey ’s “soft power” for international clashes in the region. He explains his understanding with the concept of “strategic depth” (Lesser, p. 42). This cannot be considered as a radical departure from Turkey ’s traditional foreign policy since it is rational, gradual and does not reject the past. However, this revision together with the global conjuncture poses a threat that “Turkey has never faced since the creation of the Republic in 1923” according to Chief of the Turkish General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt (Lesser, p. 43). Many strategists in Turkey in fact believe that the changing conditions force Turkey to get closer with Turkey , Iran and Syria . Especially, PKK and Northern Iraq problems are seen as existential clashes for many Turkish officials and politicians (Lesser, p. 44). The emergence of Russia Kurdistan would be the worst scenario since previously accepted this as crossing the red line. This would probably lead Turkey to engage a war with Turkey Northern Iraq and make ’s relations with the West even more problematic. JDP’s openings concerning relations with the Muslim world especially with Turkey and Syria make the picture more complex. Especially, JDP’s relations with Hamas have a terrible effect on Iran ’s relations with Turkey and Israel . Moreover, Turkey’s new energy agreement signed with Iran seems not to be a source of comfort for USA and Israel again (Lesser, p. 45). According to O. Lesser, Ankara’s new regional activism can support Western objectives if Turkey achieves to have a positive effect on the globalization and democratization of countries like Iran and Syria (Lesser, p. 46). USA could contribute to peace and the consensus of civilizations if it balances its position between the Western and Muslim world. Turkey ’s role in the Turkey Black Sea region is also very important for since Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group gains emphasis day by day. USA should also be careful with its relations to Turkey because Russia is the main energy source supplier of the country. Turco-Greek dispute over Russia Aegean seems to be calmed down after Ismail Cem-Yorgo Papandreou agreements but still remains as a very problematic topic. O. Lesser thinks that European states and USA should help Turkey to solve Cyprus problem (Lesser, p. 49). Cyprus ’s EU perspective and full membership accession process is also very important for not losing Turkey . Turkey
In the fourth chapter (Changing American Foreign Policy and the Bilateral Constituency), O. Lesser deals with changing American foreign policy and the bilateral constituency. According to Lesser, the overwhelming focus on counterterrorism “has led to the subordination of many traditional foreign policy priorities and spurred greater activism in areas seen as directly related to national security” (Lesser, p. 53). This new situation forces
and USA to develop a new strategy which seems to be missing today. Turkey should be aware of the fact that “American strategy is now less regional in nature” (Lesser, p. 54). In addition, Turkey ’s approach in Bush governments seems to be less NATO-centric. Secondly, Turkey should get used to USA’s active policy to transform societies and “shaking up things” in “rogue states” such as Iran and Syria (Lesser, p. 55). Turks until today seem to prefer status quo rather than American expansionism. Thirdly, USA at least some segments of the Turkish society seem not to be happy of their model role for Middle Eastern countries (moderate Islam discussions and polemics). Turkish people prefer to see Turkey’s role described in Euro-Atlantic terms and they are skeptical about the exportability of democracy to the Arab world (Lesser, p. 55). Lastly, both Turkey and USA should understand that Cold War conditions had changed and they should adapt themselves to new conditions. Turkey could try to establish a multi-dimensional foreign policy but Turkish officials show also know that USA does not want to create a bi-polar world and should do anything to prevent the rise of another group (Lesser, p. 56). In addition, the lack of an effective Turkish lobby in Washington could create further problems especially concerning so-called Armenian genocide resolutions (Lesser, p. 57). Although countries have good economic relations, without good planning the relations could be worse in the near future. Turkey
The fifth chapter is devoted to some core issues that create problems in Turkish-American relations. The most important problem is of course related to
, the Kurds and the PKK. Although JDP government “has encouraged a more open and active debate on the Kurdish issue” Iraq ’s south-eastern or Kurdish problem is not solved yet and the problem becomes even more painful since Northern Iraqi authorities logistically support PKK terrorism and make pan-Kurdist statements. Democratic Nation Party, the leading Kurdish nationalist party which has been represented by 20 deputies in TGNA, also does not hide that they have sympathy for a federative system and for developing close ties with Northern Iraq (Lesser, p. 61). Turkey Army also did not take any precaution against PKK and Turkish Armed Forces regularly lost their soldiers which cause a growing hatred towards US Northern Iraq and in USA . Many Turks believe that Turkey tries to create a free USA Kurdistan which would have expansionist aims against Turkish territorial integrity. USA and Iraqi authorities do not judge PKK as a major source of problem which is a big mistake since Turkey could make a military operation against PKK (Lesser, p. 62). Disintegration of Iraq would make the scene more troubled since the creation of a Kurdistan would not welcomed by the neighbors of Iraq and would never bring stability to the region. Turkish officials have positively reacted to Baker-Hamilton plan and especially to the delay of Kirkuk referendum (Lesser, p. 63). and USA should cooperate to solve this difficult situation in Turkey . Second important problem is related to counterterrorism strategy of two countries. Although after 11 September incident, American government declared a war against international terrorism in general, today Iraq does little effort to help USA in its struggle against PKK. PKK itself “does not have a history of targeting Americans or American institutions” and moreover, PJAK (a branch of PKK who is active in Iran) takes a lot of support from USA (Lesser, p. 66). Bush government created a mechanism to fight against PKK with the participation of two valuable generals Edip Başer and Joseph Ralston but this mechanism served for nothing. Moreover, Turkey and USA should cooperate to prevent European countries to host terrorists under the name of human rights since many radical Islamist organizations as well as PKK have offices in European capitals. PKK has even tv and radio channels in Turkey Europe but EU or European countries do nothing in ’s fight against terrorism. helping Turkey
The third source of problem is related to
and nuclear proliferation. Iran and Turkey has developed closer ties in the near past with the efforts of JDP governments and they seem to get along well for the moment. However, Iran was declared as a rogue state by the Bush government and Turkish-Iran rapprochement is not welcomed by American officials (Lesser, p. 67). Iran has recently signed an energy agreement with Turkey (Nabucco project) which caused a reaction from Iran . Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear technology is detrimental to American interests in the Middle-East and Turkey if it could not achieve to have a softening role for Iran should make a preference between Iran and USA in the future. Washington ’s access to nuclear power would also be dangerous for Iran since Turkey had showed its intention to export revolution ideology previously towards Iran . In fact, O. Lesser admits that “Turkey and US share an interest in forestalling the emergence of a nuclear Iran” but Ankara prefers diplomatic ways whereas Washington concentrates on using power and arms (Lesser, p. 69). Considering the negative image of Turkey in the country, USA may not support American aggression towards Turkey without having made a complete strategic agreement with Iran . American approach to transformation in the USA Middle East could be problematic for if it is not based on using soft-power. Turkey would probably support USA in making diplomacy to promote democracy, human rights and free-market economics in Middle Eastern countries but when it comes to war Turkish public opinion would not allow Turkish officials to support USA (Lesser, p. 70). Especially, the failure of Turkey ’s full accession to EU would orientate Turkey to develop better relations with its neighbors and the Muslim world in general and this could prevent American plans of Greater Middle East. Energy security is another important part of Turkish-American relations. Turkey’s energy policies “will have implications for American strategy in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East” (Lesser, p. 73). Turkey ’s dependence on Turkey and Russia concerning energy may not allow Iran to develop a better relation with Turkey . USA
In the last conclusion chapter, Ian O. Lesser focuses on different scenarios about the future of Turkish-American relations. The first scenario is about “strategic estrangement” (Lesser, p. 85). If disagreements over Iraq and PKK and other issues are not solved; Turkey could be driven away from its Western partners towards a more “Eurasian, Middle Eastern or inward-looking and nationalistic posture” (Lesser, p. 86). Here, Lesser believes that Islamism and Islamists are preferable to nationalists and nationalism. This scenario is the nightmare for Turkish-American relations since it will surely bring confrontation of two countries. Second scenario will take place if Turkey and USA achieve to develop a “revived strategic partnership” resembling to the cooperation during the Cold War (Lesser, p. 87). This scenario absolutely requires the resolution of many troubled issues such as the territorial integrity of
, the fate of Iraq , the elimination of PKK, the withdrawal of Armenian resolution bills in US Congress and the fate of Iran etc. This scenario is the ideal one but it is not easy to make this available. A third scenario could take place if a “retainable” or sustainable relationship is agreed between two sides. Kirkuk and USA may not agree on every issue but at least they could create a sustainable way in order not to have enmity and polarization. For this scenario, Turkey and its effects on Iraq ’s existential problem of Kurdish secessionism could play a major role. The third scenario could bring the first scenario easily if it is not well studied (Lesser, p. 88). Ian O. Lesser ends his book with some advices to American side such as promoting democracy in Turkey without taking sides and flaming the polarization in the country and try to find resolutions for Turkey ’s problems. In fact, what Ian O. Lesser basically advises to both sides is to bring together as soon as possible and to discuss everything openly to determine a new strategy realistically without having further confrontations. Turkey
Finally, in my opinion Ian O. Lesser’s book “Beyond Suspicion Rethinking US-Turkish Relations” makes a very good summary of recent developments concerning Turkish-American relations. The historical background, the nature and the recent problems of this relation are very well explained and argued. However, Lesser might to be too optimistic in judging all sides as rational and seeking for national interests. Furthermore, the enormous volatility in Turkish politics, the role of Turkish Armed Forces and the strong cultural traits of Turkish society are not included to his picture. As far as I am concerned, if USA does not reconsider its Kurd policy, its relations with Turkey will always be problematic. This could force
to get closer with new Eurasian powers such as Turkey , China , Russia , India etc. and Middle Eastern countries instead of European Union. In fact, these countries’ approaches to Turkish interests seem more advantageous for Turkey in some areas. However, a change in American foreign policy that will support Turkey’s indivisible integrity and secular system might encourage Turkey to cooperate more with the West on the issues related to Iran, Afghanistan and Israel.
- Lesser, Ian O., “Beyond Suspicion Rethinking US-Turkish Relations”, 2007,
for Scholars Woodrow Wilson International Center
- Neack Laura, “The New Foreign Policy
and Comparative Foreign Policy in the 21st Century” U.S.
 “Today, the strategic quality of the relationship can no longer be taken for granted” (Lesser, pp 14).
 “The March 2003 episode was the product of mismanagement on both sides.” (Lesser, p. 24).
 “Both cultures are relatively security-conscious.” (Lesser, p. 27).
 “Both countries have actually had a relatively high threshold for international intervention, accompanied by a willingness to act massively and decisively when this threshold in crossed.” (Lesser, p. 28).
 “Recent surveys indicate that Turkish public attitudes toward the
are now the most negative in United States Europe.” (Lesser, p. 34).
 “Turkey has a strong tradition of nationalism an sovereignty-consciousness, and this vigorous, un-reconstructed nationalism has been closely associated with the emergence of republican Turkey, the Kemalist outlook, and the persistence of the strong state.” (Lesser, p. 37).