Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Joe Biden met on the margins of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15.
The White House statement read that “President Biden expressed his deep condolences to President Erdoğan and People of Türkiye on the acts of violence in Istanbul and made clear that the US stands with its NATO ally” during this short conversation.
The statement added that “President Biden expressed his appreciation to President Erdogan for his efforts to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which they both agreed has been critical to improving global food security amid Russia’s war and that the Initiative must continue.” “The two also discussed continuing close coordination on NATO Alliance issues and other issues of regional and global concern.”
The meeting was one day after Türkiye was shaken by a deadly bomb attack on Istanbul’s heart, Istiklal Street, where six people died and 81 were injured.
As Turkish people tried to recover from the shock of the attack and mourn their loss, one of the politicians’ statements drew widespread attention: Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reacted to the USA’s messages, refusing to accept condolences from American authorities.
The US Embassy had made a stereotypical statement after the attack that read, “The U.S. Mission in Türkiye is deeply saddened by the explosion in Istanbul this afternoon. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery for the injured.”
It was far from convincing the Turkish people. They saw that the bomber, who was said to have been trained and sent from Syria by the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) with the USA’s financial and weapon support, had been caught; Soylu’s reaction had a certain resonance in society, even among those who criticise him.
The interesting thing is that while Soylu was questioning the alliance of the USA, Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Director Hakan Fidan was preparing to meet US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Head Sergey Narishkin in Türkiye’s capital, Ankara. The meeting held at MIT’s headquarters in Ankara, which is called Castle “Kale,” was on an issue concerning global security: preventing the use of nuclear weapons in the Russia-Ukraine war.
How long can the US, which seeks cooperation with its “NATO ally,” evade Türkiye’s basic security needs with support messages?
That’s the question.
USA’s PKK, PKK’s USA dilemma
The PKK was founded in 1978. Among its founders were Abdullah Öcalan and current de facto administrators of the organization in Iraq, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan. The initial aim of the Marxist-Leninist organisation was to establish a Kurdish state on the lands of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Türkiye: Its flag still has the Red Star.
Under this Red Star flag, the PKK has allowed the US, which it had been seeing as an imperialist force, to use itself as a ground force against ISIS in Syria since 2014. Moreover, the USA has, for many years, regarded the PKK as a terrorist organization. A joint MIT-CIA operation enabled the capture of Öcalan in 1999.The US State Department has offered million-dollar rewards on information of three de facto directors of the PKK, Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan on charges of terrorism and drug smuggling. While the US Department of Defense considered the PKK a terrorist organisation, it established a front organisation called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the Syrian branch of the PKK, the PYD, and its armed force, the YPG, and started to provide assistance through that organisation.
The PKK thinks that it will stay in Syria forever, forgetting the USA’s withdrawal from Vietnam after 14 years and from Iraq after 18 years.
NATO membership for Sweden and Finland
The United States either thinks it will stay in Syria until it establishes a Kurdish state, or has realised that it is surrounded in Syria with Türkiye’s changing tactics of struggle after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Along with the (Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP-supported) Turkish military operations in Iraq and the MIT point-blank assassinations, the PKK chief Duran Kalkan, threatened in April that if the operations did not stop, they would “carry the war into the cities.” He also accused the Kurdish-issue focused People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, who condemned the attack on police lodgings in Mersin on September 26, of speaking in an “enemy language.”
For this reason, Kalkan propagated the allegation that Türkiye used chemical weapons as the US persuaded Türkiye to approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership to make Sweden and the European Union not agree with Ankara’s anti-terror demands. Following the Istanbul attack, he said that they would continue their terrorist attacks in cities.
The PKK wants the USA to hear its message more than it wants Türkiye to hear it.
The PKK wants the US to stop Türkiye, but the US has bigger expectations from Türkiye regarding the Russia-Ukraine war and global security interests.
However, Ankara is carrying out Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s NATO negotiations indirectly with Washington.
The last straw to break the camel’s back
Because, especially if Sweden starts to fulfil Türkiye’s demands, the US’s dilemma will become even more obvious. Because the US administration, which supported the PKK in Syria and continues to protect Fethullah Gülen and his illegal organization, which is behind the 15 July military coup attempt, with bureaucratic justifications.
But Türkiye, no matter how angry it is with the USA, knows that it gets its leverage against Russia from NATO, therefore from being in the same military alliance as the USA. With or without you…
The USA’s Türkiye dilemma and Türkiye’s USA dilemma do not end there.
Consider this: on the one hand, the United States calls itself “our dear NATO ally,” and on the other, it is hesitant to sell the F-16, which will strengthen NATO’s southern flank. Also, it wants to make it a condition of the sale that the jets won’t be used against Greece, which is also a NATO member.
The US stalemate is, in a way, between the White House and Congress, which still thinks it can bring the world into line with outdated economic and military sanctions.
Energy is accumulating on the fault lines in Türkiye-US relations. With this charge of energy, it’s hard to keep this relationship going for longer. Let’s see what the last sraw will be and when it will come.