Turkey: Ankara's Relations with Washington Hitting a Rough Patch?
This has not been a great week for Francis Ricciardone, the American ambassador in Turkey. Last Friday his embassy was attacked by a leftist suicide bomber, resulting in the death of a Turkish guard. The event should have brought Turkey and the United States closer, but only a few days after the attack, Ricciardone found himself being harshly criticized by government officials and summoned to the foreign ministry after he delivered comments questioning the fairness of Turkey's judicial system and the country's record on freedom of expression.
But the dustup over the ambassador's remarks is actually only one of several issues that are now threatening what is supposed to be yet another "golden age" in Turkey-US relations. While a few years ago the two countries didn't see eye-to-eye on a host of problems, particularly regarding Iran's nuclear program and Turkey's deteriorating relations with Israel, cooperation on dealing with the crisis in Syria, Ankara's distancing itself from Iran and an American push to forge a strong personal relationship between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have all helped bring Turkey-US ties to a renewed high point.
As Today's Zaman points out, Ankara and Washington are now having to contend with some simmering disputes that could threaten their "honeymoon." Regarding Iraq, Washington is unhappy with Ankara's push to develop independent energy deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government, fearing this could threaten the country's unity and lead to increased conflict between Baghad and Irbil. Regarding Syria, Ankara continues to be frustrated by Washington's continuing refusal to take a more aggressive stance regarding the toppling of the Assad regime and the arming of the rebels there. Even the issue of Israel has again come up, with the State Department describing Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's critical reaction to Israel's recent airstrike in Syria as "troubling" and saying that Washington had conveyed its displeasure through its embassy in Ankara, something which the Turks denied. (For more on Ankara's response to the Israeli strike in Syria, take a look at Michael Koplow's excellent blog post over at the Ottomans and Zionists blog.)
Put it all together, and the picture that emerges is one of two countries that will need to get to work in order to keep things from again deteriorating. More importantly, the renewed tension between Washington and Ankara raises the question of whether the two countries ever really entered a new golden age or if this was merely an act of alchemy?