Turkey as a US Security Partner: RAND Corporation report

Dandelion Salad

Thanks to Cem for sending this to me. ~ Lo

by Cem Ertür
CASMII Columns

by RAND Corporation (source: RAND Corporation)
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Editor’s note: According to the Financial Times, US President George Bush and Russia’s President Putin decided at the NATO Summit in Bucharest that the alliance should welcome a missile defence system in Europe and extend it to Turkey and areas in the Balkans that would not be covered by current US plans. We publish below the relevant excerpts of a report by the RAND Corporation on US Foreign Policy towards Turkey. This report was released in the wake of the 27th Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations in Washington DC, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a keynote speaker. A recent article on Turkey may help to contextualise the arguments put forward in the RAND report.


In the future, … Turkey is likely to be drawn more heavily into the Middle East by the Kurdish issue, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the fallout from the crisis in Lebanon. Given its growing equities in the Middle East, as well as the current strains in U.S.–Turkish relations, Turkey will be even more reluctant to allow the United States to use its bases in the future, particularly the air base at Incirlik, to undertake combat operations in the Middle East.

Moreover, given the importance of the Kurdish issue for Turkish security, Turkey has strong reasons to pursue good ties with Iran and Syria, both of which share Turkey’s desire to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state. Turkey’s growing energy ties with Iran have reinforced interest in that particular relationship.

Thus, Turkey is unlikely to support U.S. policies aimed at isolating Iran and Syria or overthrowing the regimes in either country

While it does not perceive an existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, Ankara fears that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could destabilize the Gulf region… However, … Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is strongly opposed to a military strike against Tehran, which it believes could further destabilize the region. Thus, the United States could not count on the use of Turkish bases in any military operation against Iran. Indeed, such a strike could provoke a serious crisis in U.S.–Turkish relations and significantly exacerbate current strains with Ankara.

In the near term, however, the most important source of potential discord between the United States and Turkey is likely to be over how to deal with the terrorist attacks the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) conducts from sanctuaries in northern Iraq.

Ankara does not want to see a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq because that could lead to greater sectarian violence and draw in other outside powers—especially Iran and Syria, but possibly also Saudi Arabia. However, Turkey is adamantly opposed to increased deployment of U.S. troops in northern Iraq.

Turkey has essentially three options for countering the Iranian nuclear challenge:

• expand cooperation on missile defense with the United States and Israel
• beef up its conventional capabilities, especially medium-range missiles
• develop its own nuclear capability.

The third of these would clearly be a last resort. It would only be undertaken if there were a serious deterioration of Turkey’s security situation, i.e., if relations with the United States seriously deteriorated and if NATO’s security guarantees no longer appeared credible. But given Turkey’s current difficulties with Washington and Brussels—as well as the growing strength of nationalism in Turkey of late—the nuclear option cannot be entirely excluded.

The prospect that Iran may develop nuclear weapons is likely to heighten Turkish interest in missile defense. However, current U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic are designed to provide protection against long-range missile threats from Iran and North Korea. They exclude Turkey and parts of southern Europe. Therefore, as it shapes its approach to missile defense in the coming decade, the United States also needs to consider how this deployment will affect Turkish security. Otherwise, current plans—which leave Turkey exposed—could exacerbate Turkish security concerns and generate new strains in U.S.–Turkish relations.


Will Turkey be complicit in another war against another neighbour? by Cem Ertür