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Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy questions and considerations for Members of Congress. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time. Turkey's economic dynamism and geopolitical importance have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, and has close economic links with the European Union, its increased economic and military self-reliance since the Cold War allows Turkey relatively greater opportunity for an assertive role in foreign policy. The record of U.S.-Turkey cooperation during the Obama Administration has been mixed. To some extent it mirrors the complexities that past U.S. Administrations faced with Turkey in reconciling alignment on general foreign policy objectives with substantive points of disagreement.
Greater Turkish independence of action and continuing political transformation appear to have been mutually reinforcing—with both led for more than a decade by President (previously Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, it remains unclear how Turkey might reconcile majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with secular governance and protection of individual freedoms and minority rights, including with regard to Turkey's Kurdish citizens.
Since the United States assembled an international coalition in 2014 to counter the Islamic State organization in both Iraq and Syria, Turkey's role vis-à-vis its two southern neighbors became more consequential. Congress has shown considerable interest in the nature and level of Turkey's cooperation, including with respect to flows of foreign fighters, supplies, and oil to and from Syria. In the summer of 2015, the United States and Turkey began coordinating airstrikes against the Islamic State from Turkish territory, as part of a larger arrangement that may contemplate clearing the Islamic State from a specific area in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border. Such an arrangement, however, appears to face political and operational obstacles. The United States faces challenges in simultaneously partnering with Turkey and with Syrian Kurdish fighters who have proven to be effective against the Islamic State, but are affiliated with the Kurdish militant group PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), which recently resumed hostilities with the Turkish government.
Congress also focuses on the following subjects regarding Turkey, among others:
Congressional action to influence arms sales to and trade with Turkey, efforts to counter the Islamic State and to shape political outcomes in Syria and Iraq, and the U.S. relationship with Iran and with various Kurdish groups could have implications for the bilateral alliance, as could any linkage of these issues with U.S.-Turkey dealings on matters regarding Israel, Armenia, Cyprus, and non-NATO countries such as China and Russia.
As global challenges to U.S. interests have changed over time, U.S. relations with Turkey—an important North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally since the Cold War era—have evolved. Several Turkish foreign and domestic policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. Though the United States and Turkey have many values and interests in common, they periodically face challenges in harmonizing their priorities and actions. This may stem partly from differences in how each of the two countries evaluates the other's importance in securing and advancing its interests and accordingly determines the extent to which it is willing to compromise within the bilateral relationship.
Since the United States assembled an international coalition in 2014 to counter the Islamic State organization (IS, also known as Daesh, ISIS, or ISIL) in both Iraq and Syria ("Operation Inherent Resolve"), Turkey's role vis-à-vis its two southern neighbors, which was already critically important to U.S.-Turkey relations, became even more consequential. The following aspects of Turkey's involvement in Syria and Iraq are of particular interest for Congress:
Members of Congress regularly engage on a number of other issues involving Turkey, including:
Many U.S. policymakers also are interested in the largely stalemated prospects of Turkish accession to the European Union (EU)1 and in promoting increased trade with Turkey.
According to the Turkish Coalition of America, a non-governmental organization that promotes positive Turkish-American relations, as of early October 2015, there are at least 146 Members (141 of whom are voting Members) of Congress (including four Senators) in the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans.2
Since the 1980s, Turkey has experienced fundamental internal change—particularly the economic empowerment of a middle class from its Anatolian heartland that emphasizes Sunni Muslim values. This change helped fuel continuing political transformation led by the Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) and President (formerly Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced air-doe-wan) after the AKP won governing majorities in three successive parliamentary elections—2002, 2007, and 2011—in the midst of an unprecedented spate of economic growth in Turkey. For decades since its founding in the 1920s, the Turkish republic had relied upon its military, judiciary, and other bastions of its Kemalist (a term inspired by Turkey's republican founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk) "secular elite" to protect it from political and ideological extremes—sacrificing at least some of its democratic vitality in the process.
Through the AKP's electoral victories, popular referenda, court decisions, and other political developments within the existing constitutional order, Turkey has changed into a more civilian-led system that increasingly reflects the new middle class's dedication to market economics and conservative values. However, many Turkish citizens and outside observers express concern that Erdogan and the AKP have taken Turkey in a more authoritarian or "illiberally democratic"3 direction and are seeking to consolidate their hold on power.4 Debate persists about whether Erdogan's governing style and impact are of greater or lesser concern than those of past Turkish leaders with authoritarian tendencies. Criticisms of Erdogan and the AKP and calls for greater pluralism and rule of law are tempered by assertions from many observers that Turkey remains more democratic, prosperous, and tolerant of various lifestyles than in past eras. Some commentators also note that the implications of a change in leadership would be uncertain.
Turkish parliamentary elections scheduled for November 1, 2015, will take place amid controversies regarding power, constitutional democracy, and civil liberties in Turkey; renewed Turkish-Kurdish conflict with the potential to destabilize significant areas of the country (see "The Kurdish Issue" below); security concerns regarding Syria and Iraq; and economic anxieties. For an overview of recent developments, see CRS Report R44000, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, by [author name scrubbed]. For information on external views, see "U.S. and International Views on Turkish Domestic Developments" below.
The usual contentiousness of Turkish politics had intensified over the past two-plus years due to (1) widespread domestic protests in June 2013 and the authorities' vigorous response to them; and (2) various steps taken by the government to strengthen the position of elected officials within the system following December 2013 corruption-related arrests of figures with government ties.5 Several documents and audio recordings apparently reinforcing the corruption-related allegations had been anonymously leaked over the Internet. These leaks included phone calls purported to be between then Prime Minister Erdogan and his son Bilal (Erdogan vigorously denies the calls' authenticity) discussing the transfer of large sums of money. Erdogan and his AKP colleagues alleged the existence of an operation to monitor their communications, possibly with outside help—reinforcing conspiracy theories regarding U.S. or other international involvement.6
Erdogan blamed the Fethullah Gulen movement, an influential array of civil society groups that had largely made common cause with the AKP during its first decade in power (see textbox below), for bringing the corruption charges due to political motivations. Erdogan now portrays the movement as his opponents and even as a terrorist group despite the movement's disavowal of violence. A number of government investigations and actions appear calculated to weaken the Gulen movement and organizations affiliated with it,7 and to weaken other government critics or perceived critics or dissenters. President Erdogan has asked President Obama to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey, but U.S. officials apparently have determined that Turkey has to date provided insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Gulen to merit U.S. compliance with the extradition request.8
Fethullah Gulen Movement9
The Fethullah Gulen movement (or community) is a multifaceted array of individuals and organizations in Turkey and other countries around the world. This apparently includes schools10 and other organizations11 located in the United States. Such individuals and organizations tend to subscribe to or sympathize with the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, a former Turkish state imam who is now a permanent U.S. resident.12 Gulen preaches a distinctly Turkish brand of Islam that condemns terrorism,13 promotes interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural understanding, and can function in concert with secular democratic mechanisms and modern economic and technological modes of living. The Gulen movement became a Turkey-wide grassroots movement in the 1980s as part of the emergence of the new conservative Turkish middle class.
There is widespread speculation that Gulen movement adherents or sympathizers occupy influential positions within Turkey's civil service. Gulen and his close supporters insist that in any event, he does not hierarchically control Turkish state employees or any others who, through their public or private activities, align themselves with him and his teachings.14 This point is actively debated inside and outside of Turkey.
Many observers claim that the movement used its social connectedness, international reach, and media clout15 to ally itself with the Erdogan-led AKP during its first decade in power, as both groups sought to curb the military's control over civilian politics. After the AKP's 2011 electoral victory and subsequent developments climaxing with the December 2013 corruption charges and government response, the relationship underwent a significant reversal.16 Many of the movement's adherents and sympathizers were among the most vocal supporters of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer (Balyoz) prosecutions and convictions, which dealt with alleged military-centered networks and plots aimed at overthrowing or undermining the AKP government,17 and have been mostly overturned in the past two years. It is unclear that either the AKP or the Gulen movement has viable substitutes to fill the roles that each has previously played in support of the other. Gulen insists that he does not ally himself with specific political parties or candidates, but rather advocates for his supporters to back leaders who embody "values of democracy, universal human rights and freedoms."18
After a majority of voters chose Erdogan as president in August 2014 over two other candidates in Turkey's first direct election for that office, he claimed a popular mandate and announced his intention to forge an "executive presidency" actively engaged in directing the affairs of state. This vision is generally seen as interpreting the president's constitutional powers more broadly than Erdogan's predecessors in the office did. After Erdogan was elected president, he designated then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (dah-voot-oh-loo) to serve as prime minister, though Erdogan reportedly remains the ultimate decisionmaker on most significant policy issues.
In addition, Erdogan is reportedly seeking to have the AKP gain enough electoral support to facilitate a change to Turkey's constitution. Such a change would establish a formal presidential system that may be subject to fewer checks and balances than such systems in the United States and other president-led democracies.19
In June 2015 parliamentary elections, the AKP fell short of a majority, let alone the supermajority that would have enabled it to hold a popular referendum on a "presidential system." Some of the seats the AKP had counted on went to the Peoples' Democratic Party (Halklarin Demokratik Partisi, HDP)—a party rooted in the Kurdish nationalist movement—when the HDP crossed Turkey's 10% minimum electoral threshold in the elections.
Sources: Anadolu Agency and BBC.
Notes: Official percentages reported by Turkey's Supreme Election Board for the AKP and CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, or Republican People's Party) were 40.87% and 24.95%. The MHP stands for Milliyetci Hareket Partisi, or Nationalist Action Party.
If the AKP falls short of a parliamentary majority again in November, as polls indicate may happen,20 it is unclear what would ensue. Would financial and political pressure build for a coalition government? Would an inconclusive result enable Erdogan to leverage his popularity; personal control or influence over key economic, bureaucratic, and media networks; and the constitutional prerogatives he already claims (presiding in the Cabinet and national security council, appointing judges and key bureaucrats, having some controls over the legislative process) to maintain or expand his existing de facto power? Would recently marginalized AKP leaders consider forming a new political party?21 It will take time to know the extent to which Erdogan's power may be checked, and whether any such checks are more likely to stoke authoritarian ambitions among other individuals or groups in Turkey, or lead to greater overall pluralism and rule of law.
Ethnic Kurds reportedly constitute approximately 18% of Turkey's population, though claims regarding their numbers vary. Kurds are largely concentrated in urban areas and the relatively impoverished southeastern region of the country, but pockets exist throughout the country. Kurdish reluctance to recognize Turkish state authority in various parts of the southeast—a dynamic that also exists between Kurds and national governments in Iraq, Iran, and Syria—and harsh Turkish measures to quell Kurdish identity- and rights-based claims and demands have fed tensions that have periodically worsened since the foundation of the republic in 1923. Since 1984, the Turkish military has waged an on-and-off struggle to put down a separatist insurgency and urban terrorism campaign by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane (PKK).22 The initially secessionist demands of the PKK have since ostensibly evolved toward the less ambitious goal of greater cultural and political autonomy.23
The struggle between Turkish authorities and the PKK was most intense during the 1990s, but resumed in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, following a lull. According to the U.S. government, the PKK partially finances its activities through criminal activities, including its operation of a Europe-wide drug trafficking network.24 The PKK uses safe havens in areas of northern Iraq controlled by Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to coordinate and launch attacks. The Turkish military's approach to neutralizing the PKK has been routinely criticized by Western governments and human rights organizations for being overly hard on ethnic Kurds—thousands have been imprisoned and hundreds of thousands have been displaced or had their livelihoods disrupted for suspected PKK involvement or sympathies.
Amid internal conflict in Syria since 2011, the PKK's Syrian sister organization, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat, or PYD), has gained a measure of control over some swaths of Kurdish-populated territory near Syria's border with Turkey. Initially, this development raised questions for Turkey about the possibility of another base of support for PKK training, leadership, and operations.25 However, as the PYD's militia, the People's Protection Units (Yekineyen Parastina Gel, or YPG) has arguably become the most effective U.S. partnered anti-IS ground force in Syria, and has consolidated its territorial control further in 2014 and 2015, these events also have contributed to a dynamic of ethnic Turkish-Kurdish retrenchment in Turkey fed by, among other things:
PKK Designations by U.S. Government
Foreign Terrorist Organization
Specially Designated Global Terrorist
Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker
Since mid-2014, direct PKK military action to help repel the Islamic State and defend northern Iraqi territory controlled by the KRG has complicated Turkish efforts to obtain outside support for reducing the group's potency. The PKK's role in countering the Islamic State and its track record of not targeting Americans has periodically led some commentators to question whether it should remain a U.S.-designated terrorist group.26 However, the mid-2015 resumption of Turkey-PKK violence (as described below) may complicate any such reconsideration.
Largely due to a number of contentious domestic developments and electoral campaigns (many of which are discussed above), as well as to the PKK's refusal to withdraw its militants from Turkey, the Turkey-PKK peace process stalled. In the fall of 2014, Erdogan's prolonged delay in providing defensive support and relief to the largely Kurdish-populated town of Kobane, Syria (other than in admitting its refugees), may have been a major contributing factor in exacerbating Turkish-Kurdish retrenchment and motivating many Kurds to transfer their political loyalties from the AKP to the HDP in the June 2015 elections.28
The PKK called an end to its cease-fire in July 2015, shortly after Turkey resumed military action against PKK targets in Turkey and northern Iraq. Subsequently, Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of terrorism suspects in southeastern Turkey and Turkey-PKK violence has resulted in hundreds of casualties. The following is one Turkish journalist's explanation of key contributing factors to the resumption of violence:
Kurdish Hezbollah (aka Turkish Hezbollah), a Sunni Islamist organization (unaffiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite Islamist group) with historical animus against the PKK, apparently collaborated in the past with Turkish nationalists connected to the "deep state." Since 2013, supporters of Kurdish Hezbollah's new political arm known as the Free Cause Party (Hur Dava Partisi, or more commonly "Huda-Par") have reportedly been involved in clashes with PKK supporters at various times of tension.29
In early 2015, AKP leaders suggested involving Huda-Par more directly in government efforts to reach a political solution with Kurds, leading some observers to suggest that the AKP was seeking to weaken the PKK by pitting Huda-Par against it.30 Huda-Par and the Islamic State appear to appeal to similar Kurdish Islamist constituencies.
the growing strength of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq and the civil war in Syria have given a boost to Kurdish nationalism and have been advantageous for the PKK. PKK leadership, aware of the fact that the government was not sincere in advancing the peace process, was ensuring its readiness during the cease-fire period in case the process failed.31
U.S. officials, while supportive of Turkey's prerogative to defend itself from attacks, have advised Turkey to show restraint and proportionality in its actions against the PKK, while also expressing a desire that the parties resolve their differences peaceably. Many European officials call for an immediate end to violence and resumption of peace talks.32
The future trajectory of Turkey-PKK violence and political negotiation may depend on a number of factors, including:
The AKP's political successes have been aided considerably by robust Turkish economic growth since the early 2000s. Growth rates, fueled by diversified Turkish conglomerates (such as Koc and Sabanci) from traditional urban centers as well as "Anatolian tigers" (small- to medium-sized, export-oriented businesses concentrated in central and southern Turkey), have been comparable at times in the past decade and a half to those of China, India, and other major developing economies. A March 2014 analysis stated that Turkey's citizens were 43% better off economically then than when Erdogan became prime minister in 2003.34
(in billions of current $)
GDP (per capita)
Foreign Total Trade (percentage of GDP)
Sources: World Bank Database, IMF; Global Finance and Hazine Kontroleri Dernegi; Kemal Kirisci, "TTIP's Enlargement and the Case of Turkey," Woodrow Wilson Center and Istanbul Policy Center, January 2015.
The dependence of Turkey's economy on foreign capital and exports led to challenges in recent years stemming from the economic slowdown in the EU, Turkey's main trading partner, and from the U.S. Federal Reserve's tightening of monetary policy. Growth has slowed from about 8.8% in 2011 to between 2% and 4% in the years since.
Government regulation and intervention have the potential to affect Turkey's economic trajectory. Although Turkey's central bank cut its key policy interest rate from 10% in early 2014 to 7.5% in 2015, President Erdogan has publicly called for larger cuts. The politicization of the issue appears to have factored into the continued fall of Turkey's lira against the dollar, along with the general political uncertainty in Turkey and downward pressure on a number of emerging market currencies in anticipation of future Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.35 Most analyses of Turkey's economy express optimism about its fiscal position and banking system, while noting that Turkey's relatively large current account deficit makes it more vulnerable than most economies to higher U.S. borrowing costs.
Some observers assert that the "low-hanging fruit"—numerous large infrastructure projects and the scaling up of low-technology manufacturing—that largely drove the previous decade's economic success is unlikely to produce similar results going forward.36 Structural economic goals for Turkey include incentivizing greater research and development to encourage Turkish technological innovation and global competitiveness, harmonizing the educational system with future workforce needs, encouraging domestic savings, and increasing and diversifying energy supplies to meet ever-growing consumption demands.
Turkey's importance as a regional energy transport hub elevates its increasing relevance for world energy markets while also providing Turkey with opportunities to satisfy its own growing domestic energy needs. Turkey's location has made it a key country in the U.S. and European effort to establish a southern corridor for natural gas transit from diverse sources.38 However, Turkey's dependence on external sources—particularly oil and natural gas from Russia and Iran (see "Iran" below)—may constrain its foreign policy somewhat.39 Turkey has preliminarily agreed to a proposed Russian project known as "Turkish Stream," in which a pipeline would traverse Turkish territory and/or territorial waters, reportedly in exchange for discounts to Turkey on purchases of Russian natural gas. The likelihood of implementing this proposal is a subject of ongoing speculation.40
As part of a broad Turkish strategy to reduce the country's current dependence on a few foreign sources, Turkey appears to be trying to diversify its energy imports. In late 2011, Turkey and Azerbaijan reached deals for the transit of natural gas to and through Turkey41 via a proposed Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), with gas projected to begin to flow by 2018. The deals have attracted attention as a potentially significant precedent for transporting non-Russian, non-Iranian energy to Europe. In June 2013, the consortium that controls the Azerbaijani gas fields selected to have TANAP connect with a proposed Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to Italy.42 Turkey has also sought to increase energy imports from Iraq, including through dealings with the KRG involving northern Iraqi oil and gas reserves and pipelines.
Source: Graphic created by CRS. Map boundaries and information generated by [author name scrubbed] using data from the Department of State (2015); Esri (2014); IHS Pipeline Data (June 2015 and August 2015); Gazprom (http://www.gazprom.com/f/posts/64/656707/map_tur_potok_eng.jpg, undated); BOTAS map (http://www.botas.gov.tr/images/maps/BotasGenel_full.png, undated).
Notes: All locations are approximate.
Another part of Turkey's strategy to become more energy independent is to increase domestic energy production. Turkey has entered into an agreement with a subsidiary of Rosatom (Russia's state-run nuclear company) to have it build and operate what would be Turkey's first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu near the Mediterranean port of Mersin. Construction, which had been planned for several years but was delayed by safety considerations raised at least in part by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi incident in Japan, began in April 2015. According to a media report, "A second plant is due to be built by a French-Japanese consortium in the northern Black Sea city of Sinop, while a third plant, the location of which is yet to be finalized, is also planned."43
There have been many situations in which the United States and Turkey have made common cause during their decades-long alliance in NATO, but their strategic cooperation also has a history of complications. This is based largely on divergences in how the two countries' leaders have assessed their respective interests given different geographical positions, threat perceptions, and roles in regional and global political and security architectures. Domestic politics in both countries have also played a role. Yet, both countries have continued to affirm the importance of an enduring strategic relationship. A number of policy differences have arisen in the past few years. It remains unclear whether these differences are mainly the latest manifestations of structural tension, or whether they signal a more substantive change in the bilateral relationship.
Since the early years of AKP rule, President (formerly Prime Minister) Erdogan and Prime Minister (formerly Foreign Minister) Ahmet Davutoglu have consistently articulated an ambitious foreign policy vision. This vision—aspects of which Davutoglu has expressed at times through phrases such as "strategic depth" or "zero problems with neighbors"—draws upon Turkey's historical, cultural, and religious knowledge of and ties with other regional actors, as well as its soft power appeal.44 Erdogan, Davutoglu, and other Turkish leaders often indicate to the United States and other countries that Turkey's unique regional status as a Muslim-majority democracy with a robust economy and membership in NATO can help maintain stability in surrounding geographical areas, and also promote greater political and trade liberalization in neighboring countries.
Turkey has become a more influential actor in the Middle East in the past decade, having sought to leverage the regional status discussed above. However, recent foreign and domestic policy developments may have rendered Turkey less potent or desirable than once generally supposed as a shaper of regional outcomes, a model for neighboring countries, and a facilitator of U.S. interests.45 Still, it remains a key regional power that shares linkages and characteristics with the West that may distinguish it from other potentially region-shaping Muslim-majority powers such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Therefore, working with Turkey is likely to remain relevant for the advancement of U.S. interests in the increasingly volatile region.46 This may be especially true if there are significant changes in U.S. relations with Iran that affect the larger regional context of widespread instability and complex alignments among various states and non-state actors. Nevertheless, engagement with Turkey—critical as it might be on specific issues—is unlikely to overshadow other aspects of a U.S. multilateral approach to addressing problems in the region.
Turkey's NATO membership and economic interdependence with Europe appear to have contributed to important Turkish decisions to rely on, and partner with, sources of Western strength. However, as Turkey has prospered under these circumstances, its economic success has driven its efforts to seek greater overall self-reliance and independence in foreign policy.
Domestic political changes since 2002 from a military-guided leadership to a civilian one based largely on conservative Sunni Muslim majority sentiment may have heightened Turkish leaders' reluctance to support Western military action (such as ongoing action in Syria and Iraq), which many Turks describe as targeting Sunni Muslims.47 According to one U.S.-based analyst, "Sunni sectarianism and Islamic romanticism in pursuit of Muslim Brotherhood priorities"48 have helped drive Turkish foreign policy in recent years. Such perceptions may have led to or reinforced differences between Turkey and the United States on issues such as:
When popular Arab uprisings broke out in a number of countries in 2011, Turkey largely aligned itself with the U.S. policy of supporting nascent regional democratic movements. Subsequent Turkish policy differences with the United States may stem in part from Turkish leaders' apparent claims that the United States abandoned this initial democratic support for a stance that seems to prioritize stability and the avoidance of direct military intervention—leaving Turkey largely isolated.51
Turkish leaders also manifest concern that U.S. expectations of Turkish cooperation regarding Syria and Iraq are insufficiently sensitive to Turkey's domestic pressures and security vulnerabilities. Turkey faces the significant burden of hosting refugees from both Syria and Iraq; more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees have entered Turkey since 2011, and they are particularly concentrated in its south and its main urban centers. Erdogan (first as prime minister and now as president) and President Obama reportedly have had less direct interaction since 2013, perhaps owing to differences over both foreign policy and the Turkish government's handling of domestic affairs.52 Yet, as described below, Turkey is partnering with the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in a number of ways.
The U.S.-Turkey alliance has long centered on the defense relationship, both bilaterally and within NATO, including joint action since the end of the Cold War in the Balkans, Middle East, and Afghanistan. Turkey's location near several global hotspots makes the continuing availability of its territory for the stationing and transport of arms, cargo, and personnel valuable for the United States and NATO. Turkey also controls access to and from the Black Sea through its straits pursuant to the Montreux Convention of 1936. Turkey's hosting of a U.S./NATO early warning missile defense radar and the transformation earlier this decade of a NATO air command unit in Izmir into a ground forces command appear to have reinforced Turkey's strategic importance for the alliance.
As the military's political influence within Turkey has declined, civilian leaders have assumed primary responsibility for national security decisions. Changes in the Turkish power structure present a challenge for U.S. officials accustomed to military interlocutors in adjusting future modes of bilateral interaction.53 Moreover, the Turkish parliamentary decision in 2003 not to allow U.S. forces to use its territory to open a northern front in Iraq significantly affected U.S.-Turkey relations and showed the United States that it could no longer rely primarily on past legacies of cooperation and close ties with the Turkish military.
Sources: Department of Defense, NATO, and various media outlets; adapted by CRS.
Notes: All locations are approximate. All bases are under Turkish sovereignty, with portions of them used for limited purposes by the U.S. military and NATO. The U.S. and German Patriot missile batteries are scheduled to be withdrawn by October 2015 and January 2016, respectively.
On a number of occasions throughout the history of the U.S.-Turkey alliance, events or developments have led to the withdrawal of U.S. military assets from Turkey or restrictions on U.S. use of its territory and/or airspace. These include:
Additionally, on some occasions when Congress has considered resolutions characterizing World War I-era actions by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey's predecessor state) against Armenians as "genocide," Turkish officials have threatened to curtail U.S. access to Turkish bases.
It is unclear how Turkey's involvement in active military operations against the Islamic State organization and the PKK, as well as its procurement relationships with other countries, might affect its requests and prospects for receiving additional U.S. military equipment. Discussions within NATO about potential problems (both from a technology-sharing and from a strategic standpoint) with Turkey's preliminarily announced intention in 2013 to co-develop a Turkish Long Range Air and Missile Defense System (T-LORAMIDS) with a Chinese state-run company may have played a major role in getting Turkey to reconsider this intention.56 The tender for T-LORAMIDS remains open. If the system is ever developed, it now appears more likely that Turkey would partner with European- or U.S.-based companies rather than the Chinese company.57
U.S. military and security assistance programs for Turkey are designed to cultivate closeness in relationships and practices between Turkish military officers and security officials and their U.S. counterparts. These programs also seek to counter terrorist and criminal networks that are active in the region, including those which historically have operated within and across Turkey's borders.58 In April 2013, Turkish police stated that in February they had detained conspirators in potential Al Qaeda-linked terrorist plots against the U.S. embassy in Ankara and two other sites.59
U.S. State Department FY2016 Bilateral Aid Request for Turkey
IMET: $3.2 million
Total: $3.85 million
Since 1948, the United States has provided Turkey with approximately $13.8 billion in overall military assistance (nearly $8.2 billion in grants and $5.6 billion in loans). Current annual military and security grant assistance, however, is limited to approximately $3-$5 million annually in International Military Education and Training (IMET); and Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR) funds.
Despite the general lack of progress in Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU, the EU provides Turkey hundreds of millions of dollars in annual pre-accession financial and technical assistance aimed at harmonizing its economy, society, bureaucracy, and political system with those of EU members.60
U.S. and European Union (EU) officials and observers have perhaps become more attuned to concerns regarding civil liberties and checks and balances in Turkey,61 partly because of these issues' potential to affect internal stability and electoral outcomes in Turkey, as well as the country's economic viability and regional political role. In March 2015, 74 Senators signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry protesting media repression and censorship in Turkey,62 following a similar February 2015 letter signed by 89 Representatives.63 However, Obama Administration officials have largely limited explicit criticisms to instances of direct media constraints on U.S.-based companies, such as the spring 2014 bans on Twitter and YouTube (in the run-up to important nationwide local elections) that were later overturned by Turkey's constitutional court. Restraint on U.S. officials' part might reflect their desire to avoid getting enmeshed in domestic policy disputes that seem to be linked at least partly to contests for power among various Turkish parties and groups.
It is unclear to what extent non-Turkish actors will play a significant role in resolving unanswered questions regarding Turkey's commitment to democracy and limited government, its secular-religious balance, and its Kurdish question. Erdogan and his supporters periodically resort to Western criticism in apparent efforts to galvanize domestic political support against outside influences.64 For example, during his presidential campaign in August 2014, Erdogan publicly criticized a private letter from the four co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations, characterizing it as a threat that called for a response.65
Given its customs union with the EU, Turkey has sought inclusion in the potential Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) that is being negotiated between the United States and the EU. Currently, the U.S. position is that the T-TIP negotiations are already complex, and including additional trading partners may further complicate the negotiations and prospects for concluding a comprehensive and high-standard agreement.66 Additionally, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker publicly identified some specific trade policy "obstacles" to including Turkey in T-TIP negotiations during an October 2014 trip there.67 Therefore, one analyst has suggested that Turkey might consider pursuing other options either to involve Turkey in T-TIP after its creation or to increase trade preferences with the United States and/or EU.68 Given Turkey's concerns about the potential for T-TIP negotiations to affect its trade relations with both sides, in May 2013 the United States and Turkey agreed to form a High Level Committee (HLC) "to assess such potential impacts and seek new ways to promote bilateral trade and investment, and have since held several working level consultations under the HLC."69
In late July 2015, Turkish officials confirmed that they would allow the United States and other members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State organization to use Turkish territory and airspace for anti-IS airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, significantly easing the logistical burdens of coalition operations.70 The Obama Administration and Turkish officials agreed to these arrangements as part of a larger plan to coordinate U.S.-Turkey action to counter the Islamic State. Since the anti-IS coalition formed a year ago, Turkish officials had previously limited Turkey-based coalition operations to surveillance flights, reportedly as a means of insisting on a "safe zone" in Syria and seeking U.S. support for more aggressive efforts to oust the Iranian-backed Syrian government.
U.S. airstrikes from Incirlik air base commenced in August. Additionally in late July, Turkey took its first open, direct military action against the Islamic State in Syria and detained hundreds of terrorism-related suspects (see timeline below). In late August, the first joint U.S.-Turkey airstrikes against IS targets in Syria reportedly took place.
Shortly after the arrival of U.S. aircraft, the United States and Germany announced the imminent withdrawal of Patriot missile defense batteries that the two countries have operated in southern Turkey since early 2013 under NATO command and control, deeming the batteries no longer necessary to defend against Syrian missile threats.71 Spain operates a Patriot battery under NATO auspices in Adana, and has announced its intention to continue doing so.72
Many observers speculate that Turkey's increased coordination with the United States is aimed at gaining greater influence over the unfolding geopolitical, ethnic, and sectarian struggle along the Turkey-Syria frontier.73 Shortly after Turkey commenced military strikes against the Islamic State in Syria in late July, Turkey resumed hostilities with the PKK, as discussed above (see timeline below for more context). Since the fall 2014 crisis in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, a number of analysts have speculated that Turkey is more concerned about containing Kurdish political aspirations (which potentially have cross-border implications) than countering Islamist extremism at and within its borders.74 Turkey is reportedly worried about recent YPG gains and U.S.-PYD/YPG coordination, which raise the possibility of YPG control over most of Syria's northern border.75 In September 2015, Prime Minister Davutoglu said:
By mounting operations against [IS] and the PKK at the same time, we also prevented the PKK from legitimizing itself. Until the PYD changes its stance, we will continue to see it in the same way that we see the PKK.76
Many commentators have criticized Turkey for focusing its military firepower far more on the PKK than on the Islamic State, with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stating that Turkish anti-IS action was "overdue" prior to Turkey joining airstrikes in late August.77 U.S. officials are also reportedly urging Turkey to show restraint in anti-PKK action so as not to undermine anti-IS efforts involving the YPG. Although the United States has considered the PKK to be a terrorist group since 1997, it does not apply this characterization to the Syrian Kurdish PYD/YPG. A State Department deputy spokesperson said in an October 20, 2014, daily press briefing that "the PYD is a different group than the PKK legally, under United States law." In a September 21, 2015, daily press briefing, the State Department spokesperson said that the United States does not consider the YPG to be a terrorist organization, and that despite Turkish concerns about the group, a coalition of the willing does not "have to agree on every issue".
Even if political disagreements or complications do not prevent the United States and Turkey from eventually moving forward with establishing some sort of patrolled zone, who might secure such an area on the ground remains unclear. Turkey clearly rejects the notion of permitting Syrian Kurdish forces (PYD/YPG) to occupy the area. Meanwhile, media reports indicate that the United States is unwilling to accept the presence of Islamist-led Syrian opposition forces that Turkey and various Arab Gulf states are reportedly supporting.80 It is also unclear whether Syrian fighters trained with U.S. support or non-Islamist Syrian rebels—the groups that appear to be acceptable to both countries—could viably patrol the area. Some Syrian fighters have reportedly received U.S.-backed training in central Turkey (Kirsehir), but without an indigenous base of support, they face significant challenges in building up numerical strength and establishing themselves as a credible force once reinserted in Syria.81 Difficulties with the U.S. train-and-equip effort to date have reportedly exacerbated doubts about the viability of an "IS free" zone.82
(as of July 2015)
Note: Despite the nomenclature used in the figure, U.S. officials have been cited (as mentioned above) as characterizing the area depicted as solely for the clearing of IS forces, not as an "approximate safe zone."
Some Turkish officials have voiced hopes that an "IS free" area might eventually serve as a refuge for Syrian civilians, including some of the more than 1.9 million refugees currently in Turkey. U.S. officials have warned against forced repatriation of Syrians.
Sources: Drawn from contemporaneous media accounts and analyses.
Congress and other U.S. policymakers, along with many international actors, have shown significant concern about the use of Turkish territory by various groups and individuals involved in Syria's conflict—including foreign fighters from around the world—for transit, safe haven, and smuggling. According to National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Nicholas Rasmussen, in February 2015 congressional hearing testimony,
There is no single pipeline for foreign fighter travel into and out of Syria. Violent extremists take different routes, including land, air and sea. Most routes do involve transit through Turkey because of its geographic proximity to the Syrian border areas where most of these groups operate.84
In the initial stages of the Syrian conflict, Turkey and various Arab Gulf states reportedly provided direct support to Syrian opposition groups, in some cases reportedly with U.S. facilitation or consultation. At that point, Turkish authorities were allowing use of their territory for arms shipments and personnel movements.85 During 2013 and 2014, as the makeup of the Syrian opposition became increasingly complex, with jihadist groups emerging as among the most effective fighters, Turkey and other regional states were reportedly slower than the United States and other international actors in curtailing activities seen as bolstering Sunni Islamist radicals. This may largely reflect priorities they may have to oust the Iran-backed Asad regime. Some reports raised the possibility that Turkish intelligence may have provided material support to the Islamic State in at least one instance,86 and possibly exchanged as many as 180 Islamic State fighters to secure the September 2014 release of 49 hostages taken three months earlier at the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq.87 A few months after the Islamic State's summer 2014 takeover of considerable portions of Iraqi territory, Vice President Joe Biden said that Turkey and other countries had contributed to a sectarian proxy war in an attempt to oust Asad, and that President Erdogan had told him "we let too many people through, now we are trying to seal the border."88 Erdogan responded by publicly denying that he had made those statements to Biden, and Biden subsequently issued an apology.89
Most sources and U.S. officials acknowledge that, in response to international pressure90 and growing Turkish official recognition of threats posed to Turkish security by the Islamic State and other jihadists, Turkey has introduced or bolstered existing initiatives over the past year aimed at (1) preventing potential foreign fighters from entering Turkey, (2) preventing those who enter Turkey from traveling to Syria, and (3) curbing illicit oil smuggling used to finance jihadist activities.91 According to a Turkish government source,92 these measures include:
However, Turkey faces ongoing challenges in pursuing policies that can simultaneously provide a humanitarian corridor for refugees and humanitarian assistance while clamping down on foreign fighter flows and smuggling.
NCTC Director Rasmussen, in his February 2015 congressional testimony, maintained that successfully stemming the flow of foreign fighters would require comprehensive partnership with Turkey in a number of fields, including intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomacy. He said that Turkish cooperation was "profoundly effective" in some areas, but also said, "Turkey will always look at its interests through the prism of their own sense of self-interest, and how they prioritize particular requests that we make for cooperation doesn't always align with our prioritization."94
In giving congressional testimony in February 2015 on the flow of foreign fighters, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper characterized Turkey's laws as "permissive" and expressed hope that Turkish leaders would change them to more stringently control transit through the country.95 In response to a request to provide further information related to Clapper's statements, U.S. government officials based in Turkey96 have stated that the Turkish government has increased implementation of "existing laws and administrative actions over the last year to interdict potential [foreign fighters]," and has asserted that it is "in the process of carrying out a comparison study of current [counterterrorism] statutes in European countries" for purposes of compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178. Nevertheless, the U.S. officials seek to increase bilateral information sharing despite limitations to such sharing in Turkish procedural law. They also would support changes to Turkey's anti-terrorism laws that help Turkey comply with UNSCR 2178 requirements to cover a fuller range of activity that they assert should be criminalized to address foreign fighter issues.97
In addition to apparent divergences with the United States in how Turkey accords priority to countering threats it perceives from the Islamic State, the Asad regime, and various Kurdish groups, Turkish officials cited in various media reports point to a number of difficulties they face in completely cutting off the flow of fighters to Syria. The long border with Syria is difficult to completely seal, and Turkey faces challenges in blocking foreign fighters at ports of entry because they change their routes and appearances in anticipation of countermeasures.98 According to one source, "Turkish officials also say they are limited by restraints on intelligence sharing from Western countries, which they say has improved but remains inadequate."99 Turkish officials insist that Turkey "cannot deport or arrest individuals at a whim and that it needs actionable intelligence or clear criminal indicators. Otherwise it risks being cast as draconian – and losing some of its appeal as a tourist destination."100
Turkish officials also say that the European countries of origin for many of the foreign fighters accessing Syria through Turkey need to "fix the problem at its root, stopping the demonization of Islam in Europe, which [Turkish officials] say contributes to radicalization in the first place."101 Reportedly, in conjunction with its decision in July to allow use of its bases to strike the Islamic State, Turkey also plans to bolster border security102 and anticipates heightened international cooperation to prevent foreign fighters from using Turkish territory to access Syria.103 Nevertheless, to some extent, Turkish authorities may feel constrained in the vigorousness with which they counter the Islamic State because of potential retaliatory moves via sleeper cells or other means.
A relatively small fraction of foreign fighters entering Syria are Turkish. The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) estimated as of January 2015 that 600 Turkish citizens—out of an estimated total of 20,000 individuals worldwide—have gone to Syria to join various groups involved in the conflict.104 Some media reports have claimed that radical Salafist sects have appealed to a number of young Turkish recruits for the Islamic State organization on the basis of both ideology and offers of material gain.105 Some observers have raised questions regarding the Turkish government's level of commitment to countering domestic radicalization and recruitment, and have warned of the potential "Pakistanization" of Turkey.106 The two perpetrators of the purportedly IS-linked attacks on predominantly Kurdish targets in southeastern Turkey in June and July of 2015 were from a city (Adiyaman) portrayed in the media as a hotbed of Kurdish Sunni Islamism and IS recruiting.107
The Turkish government insists that counter-radicalization programs exist throughout the country—with special emphasis on at-risk areas—and that authorities monitor Turkish-language recruitment websites.108 Turkey's religious affairs directorate has published a report asserting that the Islamic State defames the name of Islam.109
Turkey's first priority in Iraq appears to be countering, mitigating, and preventing threats or potential threats to Turkey's security and political unity from Kurds based in northern Iraq. Such threats or potential threats include the PKK's safe haven, but also probably the possibility that deeper KRG-PKK collaboration against the Islamic State or a potential KRG declaration of independence could worsen the already alarming Turkey-PKK violence by further emboldening nationalist or irredentist sentiment among Kurds in Turkey. Outright Iraqi Kurdish independence became more of a long-term possibility when the oil-rich city of Kirkuk came under KRG control in June 2014. However, for now KRG leaders may prefer using the threat of independence to maximize their privileges within a federal Iraq to taking on the full responsibilities of sovereignty while sandwiched between considerably larger and more powerful countries (Turkey, Iran, Iraq) in a generally inhospitable and largely chaotic region.
Despite—or perhaps because of—Turkish concerns regarding Kurdish threats emanating from Iraq, the importance to Turkey of its political and economic partnership with the KRG and of northern Iraq's territorial buffer appears to have motivated Turkey to ensure the KRG's continued viability in the face of both the IS threat and unpredictability with Iraq's central government, even though this could aid eventual KRG independence.110 To that end, Turkey provides material assistance to the KRG and various minority groups in Iraq (especially Turkmen) to help them endure and repel the Islamic State. Turkey also facilitates the KRG's transport of oil through pipelines to Turkish ports for international export.111 In 2014, the United States had helped block Turkey-facilitated KRG oil exports because of claims that they undermined Iraq's sovereignty, but U.S. objections to the practice appear not to have resurfaced after the KRG resumed oil exports in 2015. In the meantime, the late 2014 Baghdad-KRG deal under which oil would be pooled and revenue shared appears to have collapsed, and the KRG has become more important to the U.S.-led anti-IS effort.
Some observers speculate that continued Turkish attacks on PKK targets in northern Iraq could strain the Turkey-KRG relationship, especially if Iraqi Kurds perceive that Turkey is increasingly weakening Kurdish anti-IS capacity or threatening civilians. However, the KRG—in line with its longtime rivalry with the PKK for loyalties and preeminence among Kurds across borders—has had a "generally limp reaction" to Turkish military strikes against the PKK.112
A number of questions surround U.S.-Turkey dealings regarding Syria and Iraq. These include:
Turkish foreign policy in the following areas has important implications for the United States.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Turkey and Israel enjoyed close military ties that fostered cooperation in other areas, including a free trade agreement signed in 2000. In recent years, however, Turkey-Israel relations have worsened. This downturn can be attributed to a number of factors, ranging from Turkish domestic political changes to specific incidents that increased tensions. In terms of change within Turkey, the slide in Turkey-Israel relations reflected the military's declining role in Turkish society, and the greater empowerment of Erdogan and other AKP and national leaders. These leaders seem to view criticism of Israel as both merited and popular domestically and regionally. They often characterize Israeli security measures in the West Bank and especially the Gaza Strip as institutionalized mistreatment of Palestinians. Turkish leaders also have argued that Israel relies too heavily on military capabilities and deterrence (including its undeclared but universally acknowledged nuclear weapons arsenal) in addressing regional problems.
One of the key events that marked the decline in relations was the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.113 Partly to register dissatisfaction with a September 2011 report on this incident that was issued by a U.N. Secretary-General panel of inquiry, Turkey downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel.114 Turkey's demand for an apology from Israel in connection with the incident was met in March 2013 in a U.S.-facilitated exchange that was intended to repair the Turkey-Israel rift. However, additional issues remain unresolved regarding compensation for the incident's victims and the limits Israel places on access to and from the Gaza Strip.
Turkey's deteriorated relationship with Israel has presented problems for the United States because of the U.S. desire to coordinate its regional policies with two of its regional allies. U.S. officials seem to have concerns about the repercussions Turkey-Israel tensions could have for regional order and the alignment of U.S. and Turkish interests. This risk could be especially high if Turkey-Israel disagreements on Palestinian issues result in future high-profile incidents. According to a Turkish newspaper report, Turkey's reported disclosure to Iran in 2011—in apparent retribution for the flotilla incident—of the identities of Iranians acting as Israeli intelligence sources led to congressional rejection (presumably informal) of a long-standing Turkish request to purchase U.S. drone aircraft to counter the PKK.115
Obama Administration officials and Members of Congress have criticized negative statements by Erdogan and other Turkish leaders about Israel, Zionism, and apparently in some cases broader groups of Jewish people in relation to the flotilla incident, Israel's treatment of Palestinians (including during the July 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict), and Turkey's June 2013 domestic protests,116 among other domestic and international events. In periodic attempts to counter concerns that their statements may sometimes reflect anti-Semitic rhetoric or views, Erdogan and his close advisors emphasize that their criticisms of the Israeli government and its policies are not directed to the Jewish people as a whole or to Jews in Turkey.117 Concerns about possible Turkish anti-Israel animus are exacerbated by Turkey's cultivation of ties with Hamas and refusal to characterize it as a terrorist organization. Turkey reportedly harbors some leading Hamas figures.118
Turkey-Israel trade has continued to grow despite the countries' political differences. Additionally, Turkey has used Israel's port at Haifa as a point of transit for exports to various Arab countries after the conflict in Syria cut off previously used overland routes. Nevertheless, one analysis indicates that "growth in Israel's trade with Turkey has lagged far behind that of most other countries in the region."119 Speculation persists about the possibility for trade to facilitate and benefit from potential improvement in Turkey-Israel relations, with particular focus on possible Turkish consumption and transport of natural gas from Israel's recent offshore discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Media reports also indicate that Turkish and Israeli officials may be discussing possible collaboration on an industrial zone for Palestinians in the West Bank.120
Turkey's approach to Iran seems to alternate between competing with it for geopolitical influence and seeking relatively normal political and economic ties with it to maintain regional stability and ensure Turkish access to Iranian oil and gas. Turkey-Iran tensions center on Syria and Iraq, though they have also competed for the admiration of Arab and Muslim populations in championing the Palestinian cause. Iranian ties with the Syrian and Iraqi governments and with various Kurdish groups provide it with a number of potential points of friction and leverage with Turkey.
The security guarantees Turkey has as a NATO member may partly explain Turkish leaders' cautious openness toward the June 2015 international deal on Iran's nuclear program and the sanctions relief set to accompany it.121 Turkish leaders may anticipate that a potential improvement in U.S.-Iran relations could reduce constraints on Turkish trade with Iran. Yet, Turkish concerns persist about potential Iranian emboldenment in the region.
A U.S. forward-deployed early warning radar was activated in December 2011 at the Kurecik base near the eastern Turkish city of Malatya as part of NATO's Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) system.122 Most analysts interpret this system as an attempt to counter potential ballistic missile threats to Europe from Iran.123 Some Iranian officials, after initially expressing displeasure with Turkey's decision to host the installation, stated that Iran would target the radar in Turkey in the event of a U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iran. During their visit to Tehran in late March 2012, Erdogan and Davutoglu reportedly said on Iranian television that Turkey could have the radar dismantled within six months if "conditions Turkey had put forward to host the radar are not respected"124—a likely reference to Turkish leaders' public insistence that data collected from the radar are not to be shared with Israel.125
From 1915 to 1923, hundreds of thousands of Armenians died through actions of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey's predecessor state). U.S. and international characterizations of these events influence Turkey's domestic and foreign policy, and are in turn influenced by developments in Turkey-Armenia relations. Turkey and Armenia initially agreed in 2009 on a set of joint protocols to normalize relations, but the process stalled shortly thereafter and there has been little or no momentum toward restarting it.126Advocates of recognizing the 1915-1923 events as "genocide" commemorated the events' 100th anniversary on April 24, 2015.
In annual statements in April, President Obama routinely says that the events were "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century" and that "1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths." He also says that he has consistently stated his own view of what occurred, that his view of that history has not changed, and that "A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests."129 While a Senator and presidential candidate, Obama had a statement printed in the Congressional Record on April 28, 2008, which read, "The occurrence of the Armenian genocide is a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming collection of historical evidence," In a January 2008 statement, then Senator Obama had written that were he to be elected president, he would recognize the "Armenian Genocide."130
In the 114th Congress, resolutions have been introduced in both the House (H.Res. 154, March 2015) and Senate (S.Res. 140, April 2015) that would characterize the events as genocide and—selectively quoting from President Obama's past statements—call for Turkey's "full acknowledgment of the facts".
In addition to past statements or actions by U.S. policymakers, the website of the Armenian National Institute, a U.S.-based organization, asserts that at least 20 other countries (not counting the United States or Armenia) have characterized the events as genocide in some way, including 11 of the 28 EU member states.131
Since Cyprus became independent of the United Kingdom in 1960, Turkey has viewed itself and has acted as the protector of the island's ethnic Turkish minority from potential mistreatment by the ethnic Greek majority.133 Responding to Greek and Cypriot political developments that raised concerns about a possible Greek annexation of Cyprus, Turkey's military intervened in 1974 and established control over the northern third of the island, prompting an almost total ethnic and de facto political division along geographical lines. That division persists today and is the subject of continuing international efforts aimed at reunification.134 Additionally, according to a New York Times article, "after the 1974 invasion, an estimated 150,000 Turkish settlers arrived in the north of Cyprus, many of them poor and agrarian Turks from the mainland, who Greek Cypriots say are illegal immigrants used by Turkey as a demographic weapon."135 The ethnic Greek-ruled Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized as having jurisdiction over the entire island, while the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the northern third has only Turkish recognition. Congress imposed an embargo on military grants and arms sales to Turkey from 1975 to 1978 in response to Turkey's use of U.S.-supplied weapons in the 1974 conflict, and several Members remain interested in Cyprus-related issues.136
The Republic of Cyprus's accession to the EU in 2004 and Turkey's refusal to normalize political and commercial relations with it are seen as major obstacles to Turkey's EU membership aspirations. The Cyprus dilemma also hinders effective EU-NATO defense cooperation. Moreover, EU accession may have reduced incentives for Cyprus's Greek population to make concessions toward a reunification deal. The Greek Cypriots rejected by referendum a United Nations reunification plan (called the Annan plan after then Secretary-General Kofi Annan) in 2004 that the Turkish Cypriot population accepted. Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leaders claim that the Turkish Cypriot regime's lack of international recognition unfairly denies its people basic economic and political rights, particularly through barriers to trade with and travel to countries other than Turkey.
Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have opposed efforts by the Republic of Cyprus and other Eastern Mediterranean countries—most notably Israel—to agree upon a division of offshore energy drilling rights without a solution to the question of the island's unification. The Republic of Cyprus appears to anticipate considerable future export revenue from drilling in the Aphrodite gas field off Cyprus's southern coast.137 However, contention on this issue appears to have been deemphasized with negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots having resumed via U.N. mediation following the election of Mustafa Akinci as Turkish Cypriot leader in April 2015.
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016 (H.R. 1735) contains a provision (Section 1274) that would require the State and Defense Departments to report to congressional committees on the U.S.-Republic of Cyprus security relationship.
As Turkey continues to exercise increased political and economic influence, it seeks to establish and strengthen relationships with non-Western global powers. It is expanding trade and defense industrial ties with China and Russia and is doing the same with other countries in Asia and Africa.
Turkey additionally seeks to expand its influence within its immediate surroundings, with its officials sometimes comparing its historical links and influence with certain countries—especially former territories of the Ottoman Empire—to the relationship of Britain with its commonwealth. Through political involvement, increased private trade and investment, and public humanitarian and development projects, Turkey has enhanced its image as a leading Muslim-majority democracy with Muslim-populated countries not only in the greater Middle East, but also in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
While U.S. constitutional law prohibits the excessive entanglement of the government with religion, republican Turkey has maintained secularism or "laicism" by controlling or closely overseeing religious activities in the country. This is partly to prevent religion from influencing state actors and institutions, as it did during previous centuries of Ottoman rule. Sunni Muslims, although not monolithic in their views on freedom of worship, have better recourse than other religious adherents to the democratic process for accommodation of their views because of their majority status. Minority Muslim sects (most prominently, the Alevis) and non-Muslim religions largely depend on legal appeals, political advocacy, and support from Western countries to protect their rights in Turkey.
U.S. concerns focus largely on the rights of established Christian and Jewish communities and religious leaderships and their associated foundations and organizations within Turkey to choose leaders, train clergy, own property, and otherwise function independently of the Turkish government.138 Additionally, according to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2013, "Jewish leaders expressed growing concern within the Jewish community over the continued expression of anti-Semitic sentiments in the media and by some elements of society."
Some Members of Congress routinely express grievances through proposed congressional resolutions and through letters to the President and to Turkish leaders on behalf of the Ecumenical (Greek Orthodox) Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity based in Istanbul.139 On December 13, 2011, for example, the House passed H.Res. 306 —"Urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties"—by voice vote.140 In June 2014, the House Foreign Affairs Committee favorably reported the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act (H.R. 4347), which led to a negative reaction from officials in Turkey.
In a December 2014 interview with a Turkish journalist, an Ecumenical Patriarchate spokesman said the following about Turkey's attitudes and actions toward the Patriarchate and religious freedom in recent years:
I think that attitudes toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate have overall improved in recent years.... Finally, the Turkish government has also responded to these initiatives by returning numerous properties141 to their rightful owners among the minorities in this country, granting Turkish citizenship to bishops with formal positions in our church, while also allowing services in such places as Sumela Monastery in Trabzon.
But on the other hand, the signs are not as clear when it comes to converting pronouncements of good will into concrete legislation and practical application.142
The Patriarchate, along with various U.S. and European officials, continues to press for the reopening of its Halki Theological School. In March 2013, Erdogan reportedly conditioned Halki's reopening on measures by Greece to accommodate its Muslim community.143 Meanwhile, Turkey has converted or is in the process of converting some historic Christian churches into mosques, and may be considering additional conversions.144 The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a statement in May 2014 calling a bill introduced in Turkey's parliament to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque "misguided."145 An advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan was cited shortly thereafter as indicating that there were no plans to alter Hagia Sophia's status, despite some popular calls to do so.146
Most Muslims in Turkey are Sunni, but 10 million to 20 million are Alevis (of whom about 20% are ethnic Kurds). The Alevi community has some relation to Shiism147 and may contain strands from pre-Islamic Anatolian and Christian traditions.148 Alevism has been traditionally influenced by Sufi mysticism that emphasizes believers' individual spiritual paths, but it defies precise description owing to its lack of centralized leadership and reliance on oral traditions historically kept secret from outsiders. According to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2013, "The government considers Alevism a heterodox Muslim sect and does not financially support religious worship for Alevi Muslims."149 Alevis have long been among the strongest supporters of Turkey's secular state, which they reportedly perceive as their protector from the Sunni majority.150 Recent developments appear to have heightened Sunni-Alevi tensions, including those pertaining to the Syrian conflict. Arab Alawites in Syria and southern Turkey are a distinct Shia-related religious community, but are often likened to Alevis by the region's Sunni Muslims.
Looking at and beyond current regional crises, many observers express opinions on the future trend of Turkey's strategic orientation. Turkey's embrace of the United States and NATO during the Cold War came largely as a reaction to post-World War II actions by the Soviet Union seemingly aimed at moving Turkey and its strategic control of maritime access points into a Soviet sphere of influence. Turkey's historically driven efforts to avoid domination by outside powers—sometimes called the "Sèvres syndrome"151—resonate in its ongoing attempts to achieve greater military, economic, and political self-sufficiency and to influence its surrounding environment. Depending on a number of factors, such initiatives could lead Turkey toward a more independent stance, in which decreased dependence on the West might come at least partly through dealings with a number of other regional and global powers. Whether this could ultimately lead to new dynamics of dependence on or alignment with other powers has become a subject of speculation. In recent years, Turkey has boosted cooperation in certain areas with Russia (energy and trade) and China (trade and defense), among other countries. Some observers assert that domestic developments in Turkey appearing to challenge Western liberal norms may partially echo those in Russia and in some other countries. These observations fuel debate regarding how such trends might affect Turkey's foreign policy partnerships.152
A more assertively independent Turkey might still seek to remain within the framework of the NATO alliance. However, the extent to which strategic and practical coordination with other NATO members would continue is unclear, especially if Turkey strengthens ties with countries that challenge U.S. policies globally or regionally. For the time being, Turkey lacks comparable alternatives to its security and economic ties with the West, with which it shares a more than 60-year legacy of institutionalized cooperation. Turkey's leaders may therefore be responsive to efforts by allies and key trading partners to identify priorities relating to this legacy of cooperation, as in the case of Turkey's reconsideration of missile defense co-production with China. However, Turkish leaders' responsiveness could wane over time if they believe that their interests and preferred approaches to issues are not addressed by or reflected in key Western initiatives or institutional frameworks and processes.
Turkey's importance to the United States may have increased relative to previous eras of U.S.-Turkey cooperation because of Turkey's geopolitical and economic importance and greater foreign policy assertiveness. Congressional action with influence on arms sales to and trade with Turkey, efforts to counter the Islamic State and to shape political outcomes in Syria and Iraq, and the U.S. relationship with Iran or with various Kurdish groups could have implications for the bilateral alliance, as could any linkage of these issues with U.S.-Turkey dealings on matters regarding Israel, Armenia, Cyprus, and non-NATO countries such as China and Russia.
Born in 1954, Erdogan was raised in Istanbul and in his familial hometown of Rize on the Black Sea coast. He attended a religious imam hatip secondary school in Istanbul. In the 1970s, Erdogan studied business at what is today Marmara University, became a business consultant and executive, and became politically active with the different Turkish Islamist parties led by eventual prime minister Necmettin Erbakan.
Erdogan was elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994 but was removed from office, imprisoned for six months, and banned from parliamentary politics for religious incitement after publicly reciting a poem drawing from Islamic imagery. After Erbakan's government resigned under military pressure in 1997 and his Welfare Party was disbanded, Erdogan became the founding chairman of the AKP in 2001. The AKP won a decisive electoral victory in 2002, securing the single-party rule that it has maintained up to 2015. After the election, a legal change allowed Erdogan to run for parliament in a 2003 special election, and after he won, Erdogan replaced Abdullah Gul as prime minister.
Erdogan and his personal popularity and charisma have been at the center of much of the domestic and foreign policy change that has occurred in Turkey in the past decade. Erdogan's rhetoric and actions have come under even greater scrutiny since June 2013, with his relationship with President Obama apparently becoming more distant since then.
Erdogan became Turkey's first popularly elected president in August 2014. Although he is no longer a formal partisan figure, in practice he retains a large measure of control over the AKP. Most observers believe that his political objectives are largely driven by desires to consolidate power and to avoid the reopening of corruption cases that could implicate him and close family members or associates.
Erdogan is married and has two sons and two daughters. He is not fluent in English but his understanding may be improving.
Born in 1959 in Konya in central Turkey, Davutoglu attended a German international school in Istanbul and received a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from Bogazici (Bosphorus) University. He became a university professor, spending time in Malaysia in the early 1990s before establishing himself as a scholar known for applying academic theory to practical matters of Turkish foreign policy and national security strategy. His book Strategic Depth, which was published in 2001 (but has not been translated into English), is thought by some to represent a blueprint of sorts for the policies Davutoglu has since helped implement.
Following the AKP's victory in 2002, Davutoglu was appointed chief foreign policy advisor to the prime minister. Upon his appointment as foreign minister in 2009, he quickly gained renown for his active efforts to apply the concepts he formulated as an academic. He advocates for a preeminent role for Turkey in its surrounding region, but disputes the characterization of his policies by some observers as "neo-Ottomanism." Davutoglu's policies have encountered domestic and international criticism given the challenges Turkey has recently faced from regional problems in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Egypt.
He won an AKP parliamentary seat for the first time in June 2011, and was designated to lead the AKP and succeed Erdogan as prime minister when Erdogan won the presidency in August 2014. Speculation surrounds his current relationship with Erdogan and his future as AKP leader, especially in light of the indecisive and contentious electoral climate of 2015.
Davutoglu is married with four children. He speaks fluent English, as well as German and Arabic.
Born in 1948 in Tunceli province in eastern Turkey to an Alevi background, Kilicdaroglu is the leader of the CHP, which is the main opposition party and traditional political outlet of the Turkish nationalist secular elite. In recent years, the party has also attracted various liberal and social democratic constituencies.
After receiving an economics degree from what is now Gazi University in Ankara, Kilicdaroglu had a civil service career—first with the Finance Ministry, then as the director-general of the Social Security Organization. After retiring from the civil service, Kilicdaroglu became politically active with the CHP and was elected to parliament from Istanbul in 2002. He gained national prominence for his efforts to root out corruption among AKP officials and the AKP-affiliated mayor of Ankara. Kilicdaroglu was elected by the party to replace him. Although the CHP has not made dramatic gains in elections since his installation as leader in 2010, it and the other opposition parties have gained enough support to prevent the AKP from implementing major constitutional changes since the elections that have followed.
Kilicdaroglu is married with a son and two daughters. He speaks fluent French.
Born in 1948 in Osmaniye province in southern Turkey, Bahceli is the leader of the MHP, which is the traditional repository of conservative Turkish nationalist sentiment and opposition to greater official accommodation of Kurdish political demands.
Bahceli moved to Istanbul for his secondary education, and received his higher education, including a doctorate, from what is now Gazi University in Ankara. After a career as an economics lecturer at Gazi University, he entered a political career as a leader in what would become the MHP. He became the chairman of the MHP in 1997 and served as a deputy prime minister during a 1999-2002 coalition government. He was initially elected to parliament in 2007.
Bahceli speaks fluent English.
Born in 1973 to a Kurdish family, Demirtas is co-leader of the HDP (alongside female co-leader Figen Yuksekdag), which has a Kurdish nationalist base but has also reached out to a number of non-Kurdish constituencies, particularly liberals and minorities. The constituency of the party and its various predecessors overlaps with that of the PKK, but the party professes a nonviolent stance and claims an independent identity.
Demirtas was raised in Elazig in eastern Turkey. He attended universities in both Izmir and Ankara and received his law degree from Ankara University. He became a human rights activist leader in Diyarbakir and was elected to parliament for the first time in 2007, becoming co-leader of the HDP's immediate predecessor party in 2010. His national visibility increased after he ran as one of two candidates opposing Erdogan for the presidency in 2014. His personal popularity and charisma are generally seen as major reasons for the HDP garnering more than 13% of the vote in June 2015 parliamentary elections.
Demirtas is married with two daughters.
Born in or around 1949 in southeastern Turkey (near Sanliurfa), Ocalan is the founding leader of the PKK.
After attending vocational high school in Ankara, Ocalan served in civil service posts in Diyarbakir and Istanbul until enrolling at Ankara University in 1971. As his interest developed in socialism and Kurdish nationalism, Ocalan was jailed for seven months in 1972 for participating in an illegal student demonstration. His time in prison with other activists helped inspire his political ambitions, and he became increasingly politically active upon his release.
Ocalan founded the Marxist-Leninist-influenced PKK in 1978 and launched a separatist militant campaign against Turkish security forces—while also attacking the traditional Kurdish chieftain class—in 1984. He used Syrian territory as his safe haven, with the group also using Lebanese territory for training and Iraqi territory for operations. Syria forced Ocalan to leave in 1998 after Turkey threatened war for harboring him.
After traveling to several different countries, Ocalan was captured in February 1999 in Kenya—possibly with U.S. help—and was turned over to Turkish authorities. The PKK declared a cease-fire shortly thereafter. Ocalan was sentenced to death, in a trial later ruled unfair by the European Court of Human Rights, but when Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He resides in a maximum-security prison on the island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara, and was in solitary confinement until 2009.
Although other PKK leaders such as Cemil Bayik and Murat Karayilan have exercised direct control over PKK operations during Ocalan's imprisonment, some observers believe that Ocalan still ultimately controls the PKK through proxies. PKK violence resumed in 2003 and has since continued off-and-on, with the most recent cease-fire ending in July 2015.
Federation of Turkish American Associations
SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (http://setadc.org)
Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) (http://www.tuskonus.org/tuskon.php)
(Congressional notifications since 2006)
FMS or DCS
100 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft
30 F-16C Block 50 Fighter aircraft and associated equipment
Consortium (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others)
48 AGM-84H SLAM-ER Air-surface missiles
2011 (50 estimated)
105 AIM-9X SIDEWINDER Air-air missiles (SRAAM)
2008 (127 (estimated – 2012 notice listed below)
51 Block II Tactical HARPOON Anti-ship missiles
2011 (25 estimated)
McDonnell Douglas (Boeing)
100 MK-54 MAKO Torpedoes
30 AAQ-33 SNIPER and AN/AAQ-13 LANTIRN Aircraft electro-optical systems (targeting and navigation pods)
6 MK 41 Vertical Launch Systems for Ship-air missiles
2013-2014 (4 estimated)
107 AIM-120C-7 Air-air missiles (AMRAAM)
400 RIM-162 Ship-air missiles (ESSM)
2011-2014 (194 estimated)
72 PATRIOT Advanced Capability Missiles (PAC-3), 197 PATRIOT Guidance Enhanced Missiles, and associated equipment
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin
14 CH-47F CHINOOK Helicopters
2011 (for 6)
$1.2 billion ($400 million for 6)
3 AH-1W SUPER COBRA Attack Helicopters
N/A (from U.S. Marine Corps inventory)
117 AIM-9X-2 SIDEWINDER Block II Air-air missiles (SRAAM) and associated equipment
(2007 notice listed above)
48 MK-48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology All-Up-Round (AUR) Warshot torpedoes and associated equipment
145 AIM-120C-7 Air-air missiles (AMRAAM)
21 MK-15 Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 2 Close-in weapons systems (CIWS) (sale/upgrade)
Sources: Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Arms Transfer Database, Defense News, Hurriyet Daily News, Global Security.
Notes: All figures and dates are approximate; blank entries indicate that data is unknown or not applicable. FMS refers to "Foreign Military Sales" contemplated between the U.S. government and Turkey, while DCS refers to "Direct Commercial Sales" contemplated between private U.S. companies and Turkey.
April 5, 1984
September 28, 1984
Senate Foreign Relations
July 9, 1985
House Post Office and Civil Service
July 23, 1987
August 3, 1987
October 18, 1989
October 11, 2000
H.Res. 596 and H.Res. 625
May 22, 2003
September 15, 2005
H.Res. 316 and H.Con.Res. 195
House International Relations
March 29, 2007
October 10, 2007
House Foreign Affairs
March 4, 2010
April 10, 2014
Author Contact Information
For information on the accession process, see CRS Report RS22517, European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey's Accession Negotiations, by [author name scrubbed]; and CRS Report RS21344, European Union Enlargement, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed]. Turkey first sought to associate itself with what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959, and Turkey and the EEC entered into an agreement of association in 1963. Since the end of 1995, Turkey has had a full customs union with the EU. The customs union is viewed by many observers as one of the primary drivers of the subsequent competitive surge of Turkey's economy. Turkey also is a member of the Council of Europe, along with several other non-EU states (including Russia), and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Council's European Court of Human Rights.
See, e.g., Mahir Zeynalov, "Fareed Zakaria: Turkey headed for illiberal democracy," todayszaman.com, April 20, 2015.
For general information on the status of democracy and human rights in Turkey, see the State Department's Country Reports for Human Rights Practices for 2014. A February 2014 Freedom House report critical of Erdogan and his associates alleged that they had engaged in patterns of behavior over a number of years involving widespread intimidation and manipulation of media, private companies, and other civil society actors through various means, including active interference in their operations and regulatory action to compel government-friendly outcomes. Freedom House, Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media, and Power in Turkey, February 2014.
In addition to evidence that a number of Turkish businessmen engaged in "tender-rigging," or paying bribes to public officials in exchange for preferential treatment of their bids for public contracts and zoning exceptions, some of the most high-profile charges revolved around an apparent arrangement by Turkish cabinet ministers to engage in "gold-for-energy" trades with Iranian sources between March 2012 (when international money transfers to Iran through the SWIFT system were prohibited) and July 2013 (when energy transactions with Iran using precious metals became subject to U.S. sanctions). The corruption charges were all dropped in October 2014, and in January 2015 the Turkish parliament cleared four government ministers who had also been implicated.
Leaks also allege that Saudi national Yasin al Qadi entered Turkey privately four times between February and October 2012 with the assistance of Turkish government security, at a time when al Qadi was subject to a United Nations Security Council-imposed travel ban and asset freeze because of allegations that he had helped finance activities of Al Qaeda. Al Qadi was taken off this U.N. list on October 5, 2012.
Many domestic and international observers say that they believe the Gulen movement has significant influence over civil servants within the criminal justice sector who are movement adherents or sympathizers. Because Erdogan and his supporters in government and the media assert that some of these civil servants act in a way that places the Gulen movement's interests over that of the state's constitutionally selected representatives, Erdogan has taken to referring to the movement as the "parallel state" or "structure." In late 2013 and early 2014 the government reassigned hundreds of criminal justice sector personnel in Turkey suspected of links with the Gulen movement.
See, e.g., "Arrest warrant insufficient to extradite Gülen as int'l law calls for solid evidence," todayszaman.com, December 21, 2014.
For a description of the Gulen movement, whose adherents call the movement Hizmet (the Turkish word for service), see Joshua D. Hendrick, Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World, New York: New York University Press, 2013; M. Hakan Yavuz, Toward an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gulen Movement, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Gulen-inspired organizations have reportedly founded and operate approximately 136 publicly funded charter schools in 26 U.S. states. Hendrick, op. cit., p. 217. These schools have generated publicity both for their high academic quality and for questions, legal and state regulatory action, and reported federal investigations regarding their hiring and business practices and local approvals processes. See, e.g., James Pilcher, "Charter schools use Turkish ties, visas to get teachers," Cincinnati Enquirer, October 6, 2014; Martha Woodall, "Ex-teacher, school settle bias case," philly.com, May 14, 2013. Tennessee's legislature passed a 2012 bill limiting the percentage of foreign employees permitted to work in its charter schools. The initiative was reportedly driven in large part by political activists citing various media reports on Gulen-inspired schools. Mark Todd Engler, "Legislature Passes Limits on Foreign Staffers at TN Charter Schools," tnreport.com, April 16, 2012.
Adherents of Gulen's teachings are involved with Turkish and Turkish-American trade associations and foundations active in the United States—both regionally and in the Washington, DC, area. Such organizations reportedly include the Turkic American Alliance umbrella of organizations and the business confederation TUSKON. Ilhan Tanir, "The Gulen movement plays big in Washington," Hurriyet Daily News, May 14, 2010; Ebaugh, op. cit., p. 49.
Gulen lives in seclusion at a retreat center with a few of his adherents in Saylorsburg, PA, in the Pocono Mountains. He came to the United States in the late 1990s for medical treatment for a cardiovascular condition, and elected to stay after an ultimately unsuccessful criminal case was brought against him in Turkey charging that he sought to undermine Turkey's secular government.
Days after the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, Gulen took out an advertisement in the Washington Post condemning the attacks as incompatible with the teachings of Islam.
"Turkey's Fethullah Gulen denies corruption probe links," BBC News, January 27, 2014.
Gulen-inspired businesses, media enterprises, schools, charitable organizations, and civil society groups now exercise considerable influence in Turkey. For example, adherents of Gulen's teachings launched the Zaman newspaper in 1986. It is now the most widely circulated newspaper in Turkey, and has an English-language sister publication, Today's Zaman. Gulen also encouraged a group of businessmen to launch the Samanyolu television channel—today a major channel in Turkey with a worldwide reach through satellite and Internet transmission—in 1993.
One Turkish journalist, in attempting to contrast the Gulen movement with Islamists who supposedly have influence on the AKP, wrote, "The Gulen Movement, though it is pious and unmistakably Muslim, has always steered clear of Islamist ideology. Unlike the Islamists, who constitute an influential strain within the A.K.P., Mr. Gulen's followers have always valued Turkey's relations with the West, championed accession to the European Union, and have been friendly toward Jews and Christians. In return, some paranoid Turkish Islamists (and even some secular nationalists) have accused Mr. Gulen of being a 'C.I.A. agent.'" Mustafa Akyol, "More Divisions, More Democracy," New York Times, December 11, 2013.
This probably at least partly owes to concerns about societal power dynamics and Gulen movement adherents' and sympathizers' perceptions of vulnerability, justice, and/or retribution involving the military and other guardians of Turkey's secular elite. Such concerns probably largely stem from the past imprisonment and prosecution of Fethullah Gulen under military-guided governments.
Joe Parkinson and Jay Solomon, "Fethullah Gulen's interview with The Wall Street Journal in English," wsj.com, January 21, 2014.
Semih Idiz, "Erdogan aims to create stronger presidential system," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 3, 2015.
"Erdogan's gamble may not solve Turkey poll impasse," Agence France Presse, September 1, 2015.
Cengiz Candar, "Is AKP heading for a split?," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 18, 2015.
In footnote 2 of a September 2011 report, the International Crisis Group stated that Turkish government figures estimate that close to 12,000 Turks had been killed since fighting began in the early 1980s. This figure includes Turkish security personnel of various types and Turkish civilians (including Turkish Kurds who are judged not to have been PKK combatants). The same report stated that Turkish estimates of PKK dead during the same time period ran from 30,000 to 40,000. International Crisis Group, Turkey: Ending the PKK Insurgency, Europe Report No. 213, September 20, 2011.
Kurdish nationalist leaders demand that any future changes to Turkey's 1982 constitution not suppress Kurdish ethnic and linguistic identity. The first clause of Article 3 of the constitution reads, "The Turkish state, with its territory and nation, is an indivisible entity. Its language is Turkish." Because the constitution states that its first three articles are unamendable, even proposing a change could face judicial obstacles. Kurds in Turkey also seek to modify the electoral law to allow for greater Kurdish nationalist participation in Turkish politics by lowering the percentage-vote threshold (currently 10%) for political parties in parliament.
U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Release, "Five PKK Leaders Designated Narcotics Traffickers," April 20, 2011.
However, northern Syria's more open terrain and comparably small and dispersed Kurdish population may make it a less plausible base of operations than Iraq. Syria hosted the PKK's leadership until 1998, and historical and personal links persist among Syrian Kurds and the PKK.
David L. Phillips, "Why the US should take PKK off the terror list," CNBC, October 9, 2014; Michael Rubin, "The US should reconsider PKK terror designation," American Enterprise Institute, November 12, 2013.
For example, after 2007, the AKP government adopted some measures allowing greater use of Kurdish languages in education, election campaigns, and the media.
See, e.g., Soner Cagaptay, "Kurds Can Go Their Own Way," foreignaffairs.com, September 22, 2015.
"Turkey's south-east: Huda-Par's emergence," Economist, November 23, 2013.
Fehim Tastekin, "Turkey's AKP pits Kurd against Kurd," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, January 7, 2015.
Lale Kemal, "Cease-fire may spoil political game," Today's Zaman, September 10, 2015.
Many Western European countries have sizeable populations of Turkish Kurdish origin (more than a million Kurds live in Europe), and the PKK reportedly maintains a presence in some of these countries as well.
See, e.g., Barcin Yinanc, "New army chief's faces four challenges to transform Armed Forces," hurriyetdailynews.com, August 10, 2015.
Christopher de Bellaigue, "Turkey Goes Out of Control," New York Review of Books, April 3, 2014 Issue (accessed online on March 25, 2014).
Constantine Courcoulas and Tugce Ozsoy, "Lira Weakens Past 3 per Dollar Sending Stocks Falling With Bonds," Bloomberg, August 20, 2015; "Falling lira threatens Turkey's G-20 membership," todayszaman.com, August 20, 2015.
See, e.g., World Bank, Turkey's Transitions: Integration, Inclusion, Institutions, December 2014.
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Energy Policy, contributed to this subsection.
The U.S. energy strategy in Europe is designed to work together with European nations and the European Union to seek ways to diversify Europe's energy supplies. The focus of U.S. efforts has been on establishing a southern corridor route for Caspian and Middle Eastern natural gas supplies to be shipped to Europe, generally through pipelines traversing Turkey. See H.Res. 188, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to promoting energy security of European allies through the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor."
For U.S. government information on the main sources of Turkish energy imports, see http://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=TUR.
See, e.g., Barin Kayaoglu, "Turkey treads carefully on new gas pipeline with Russia," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, August 12, 2015.
The terms of Turkish-Azerbaijani agreement specified that 565 billion-700 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas would transit Turkey, of which 210 bcf would be available for Turkey's domestic use.
BP press release, "Shah Deniz targets Italian and Southeastern European gas markets through Trans Adriatic Pipeline," June 28, 2013. The consortium did not rule out subsequently adding a connection with a proposed Nabucco West pipeline to Austria at a later date when more natural gas is developed, but such an eventuality may be less likely in light of the selection of TAP. For more information, see CRS Report R42405, Europe's Energy Security: Options and Challenges to Natural Gas Supply Diversification, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].
Burak Akinci with Stuart Williams, "Protests as Turkey starts work on first nuclear power plant," AFP, April 14, 2015.
See, e.g., Ahmet Davutoglu, "Principles of Turkish Foreign Policy and Regional Political Structuring," International Policy and Leadership Institute and Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), Turkey Policy Brief Series, 2012 – Third Edition.
See, e.g., Blaise Misztal, et al., "Elections in Turkey: Foreign Policy Reset Unlikely Under President Erdogan," The American Interest, August 7, 2014.
See, e.g., M. Hakan Yavuz and Mujeeb R. Khan, "Turkey Treads a Positive Path," New York Times, February 12, 2015.
See, e.g., Gonul Tol, "Is Turkey finally ready to aid military strikes against ISIS?," CNN.com, September 25, 2014.
Omer Taspinar, "From Neo-Ottomanism to Turkish Gaullism," todayszaman.com, March 15, 2015.
Transcript of September 9, 2014, hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, entitled "Hamas' Benefactors: A Network of Terror"; Tulin Daloglu, "Israel accuses Turkey of aiding Hamas coup plan," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, October 22, 2014.
"Erdogan calls Israel more barbaric than Hitler," Times of Israel/Associated Press, July 19, 2014; Sena Alkan, "Turkey Takes Action to Ensure a Permanent Ceasefire," dailysabah.com, July 18, 2014.
Semih Idiz, "Some see snubs, Erdogan sees envy," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 17, 2015.
Soner Cagaptay, "The Fragile Thaw in U.S.-Turkey Relations," Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2402, April 7, 2015.
The challenge for U.S. officials to manage cooperation with Turkey could be magnified by the way the U.S. government is structured to work with Turkey. Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris has written, "For reasons of self-definition and Cold War logic, Turkey is considered a European nation. It is therefore assigned, for purposes of policy development and implementation, to the subdivisions responsible for Europe: the European Bureau (EUR) at the State Department; the European Command (EUCOM) at the Pentagon; the Directorate for Europe at the [National Security Council (NSC)], etc. Since the end of the Cold War, however, and progressively since the 1990-91 Gulf War and 9/11, the most serious issues in U.S.-Turkish relations – and virtually all of the controversial ones – have arisen in areas outside 'Europe.' The majority, in fact, stem from developments in areas which in Washington are the responsibility of offices dealing with the Middle East: the Bureau for Near East Affairs (NEA) at State; Central Command (CENTCOM) at the Pentagon; the Near East and South Asia Directorate at NSC." Omer Taspinar, "The Rise of Turkish Gaullism: Getting Turkish-American Relations Right," Insight Turkey, vol. 13, no. 1, winter 2011, quoting an unpublished 2008 paper by Mark Parris.
Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 67, no. 1, January/February 2011. Reportedly, the United States has approximately 150-200 B61 bombs in Turkey, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands left over from their deployment during the Cold War. This amount is a very small fraction of the over 7,000 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe during the 1970s. Ibid.
Guy Anderson, "Briefing: Turkish transformation," Jane's Defence Weekly, June 10, 2015.
Soner Cagaptay, "How the U.S. Military Lost Its Favor for Turkey," Foreign Policy Concepts, September 24, 2015.
Lale Sariibrahimoglu, "Turkey's T-Loramids technology transfer troubles," Jane's Defence Weekly, March 4, 2015.
State Department FY2016 Congressional Budget Justification, Foreign Operations, Appendix 3, pp. 110-112. The United States and Turkey co-chair the Global Counterterrorism Forum. See Co-Chairs' Fact Sheet: About the Counterterrorism Forum, State Department website, April 2, 2014, at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/04/224313.htm.
Sebnem Arsu, "U.S. Embassy in Turkey Said to Be Targeted," New York Times, April 12, 2013.
For further information, see http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/instruments/funding-by-country/turkey/index_en.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2014/20140919-csp-turkey.pdf.
See, e.g., Council of the European Union, "Council conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process," December 16, 2014.
The text of the letter is available at http://www.schumer.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/schumer-and-70-senate-colleagues-call-on-state-dept-to-address-ongoing-intimidation-of-media-and-censorship-of-the-press-in-turkey-under-president-erdogans-administration.
Tolga Tanis, "US Congressmen send Kerry letter about Turkey's crackdown on Gülen-linked media," Hurriyet Daily News, February 6, 2015. The Senate and House letters both elicited charges from Erdogan and state-run or -linked media outlets that the Fethullah Gulen movement was both responsible for the letters and has material influence on a number of the signers. "Gulen lobby influences US lawmakers letter on Turkey," Anadolu Agency, February 15, 2015; Ragip Soylu, "Gülen Movement woos US congressmen with campaign donations and free trips," dailysabah.com, February 9, 2015.
Mustafa Akyol, "What turned Erdogan against the West?," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 3, 2015.
The letter took issue with Erdogan's anti-Israel rhetoric. "Congressional Turkish caucus raps Erdogan for Israel comments," Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), August 6, 2014. An AKP parliamentary leader subsequently sent a written response disputing the letter's assertions. Eli Lake, "Turkish Leader Doubles Down on Blaming Israel for Anti-Semitism," Daily Beast, August 6, 2014.
CRS Report R43387, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].
Abdullah Bozkurt, "Pritzker: Turkey needs reforms to engage further in T-TIP," todayszaman.com, October 2, 2014.
Kemal Kirisci, "T-TIP's Enlargement and the Case of Turkey," Woodrow Wilson Center and Istanbul Policy Center, January 2015.
U.S. Trade Representative 2015 Trade Policy Agenda, p. 145.
Chris Kozak, "Turkey Expands Campaign Against ISIS and the PKK," Institute for the Study of War, July 25, 2015.
The two U.S. batteries near Gaziantep are scheduled to be withdrawn by October 2015. The two German batteries near Kahramanmaras are scheduled to be withdrawn by January 2016.
"Spain: Patriots to remain in Turkey until NATO decides otherwise," todayszaman.com, August 24, 2015.
Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, "Turkey agrees to allow U.S. military to use its base to attack Islamic State," Washington Post, July 23, 2015.
Orhan Coskun and Dasha Afanasieva, "Turkey stages first air strikes on Islamic State in Syria," Reuters, July 24, 2015.
Henri J. Barkey, "What's Behind Turkey's U-Turn on the Islamic State?," Woodrow Wilson Center, July 29, 2015.
Semih Idiz, "Turkey's Middle East policy 'fiasco,'" Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 28, 2015.
"Pentagon Chief: Turkey Must Do More to Fight IS," Voice of America, August 20, 2015.
Josh Rogin, "U.S. Shoots Down Idea of Syria Safe Zone," Bloomberg, July 28, 2015.
Jamie Dettmer, "Russia's Buildup in Syria May Thwart Idea of Safe Haven," Voice of America, September 30, 2015.
See, e.g., Ibid.
See, e.g., Adam Entous, "U.S. Caution Hobbled Birth of Syrian Force," Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2015.
Dettmer, op. cit.
Morton Abramowitz, "Remembering Turgut Ozal: Some Personal Recollections," Insight Turkey, vol. 15, no. 2, 2013, pp. 42-43. For information on some of those operations, see Gordon W. Rudd, Humanitarian Intervention: Assisting the Iraqi Kurds in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, 1991, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 2004, available at http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/humanitarian_intervention/CMH_70-78.pdf.
Transcript of hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, February 11, 2015. In February 26, 2015 congressional testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper estimated that 60% of foreign fighters come to Syria through Turkey.
See, e.g., C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.," New York Times, March 24, 2013.
Lale Sariibrahimoglu, "On the borderline – Turkey's ambiguous approach to Islamic State," Jane's Intelligence Review, October 16, 2014.
"UK jihadist prisoner swap reports 'credible,'" BBC News, October 6, 2014.
Sariibrahimoglu, "On the borderline...," op. cit.
U.N. Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178 (passed in August and September 2014, respectively) call upon member states to curtail flows of weapons, financing, and fighters to various terrorist groups.
For information on oil smuggling from Syria into Turkey, see CRS Report R43980, Islamic State Financing and U.S. Policy Approaches, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].
March 17, 2015, factsheet provided to CRS by the Turkish government.
See also Desmond Butler, "Turkey cracks down on oil smuggling linked to IS," Associated Press, October 6, 2014.
Transcript of hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, February 11, 2015.
Transcript of hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 26, 2015.
This information was provided to CRS in email correspondence on April 17, 2015, and confirmed to still be valid in subsequent email correspondence on September 11, 2015.
Ibid. For example, one suggestion would be to broaden these laws' applicability beyond "membership in an armed terrorist organization" to a number of individual or organizational activities, including those linked with travel, recruitment, financing, training, planning, and commitment of or intent to commit terrorist acts.
Dominique Soguel, "Is Turkey still a 'jihadist highway' to Syria – or is that a bum rap?," Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 2015; Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt, "A Path to ISIS, Through a Porous Turkish Border," New York Times, March 10, 2015.
Arango and Schmitt, op. cit. Reportedly, the European Union does not fully cooperate in the areas of police and judicial cooperation because Turkey does not have a data protection law, and because of differences between the two in defining and penalizing terrorism. Sariibrahimoglu, op. cit.
Soguel, op. cit.
Arango and Schmitt, op. cit.
Nabih Bulos, "Turkey to build 500-mile wall on Syria border after Isil Suruc bombing," telegraph.co.uk, July 23, 2015.
Simon Tisdall, "US deal with Turkey over Isis may go beyond simple use of an airbase," theguardian.com, July 24, 2015.
Peter R. Neumann, "Foreign fighter total in Syria/Iraq now exceeds 20,000; surpasses Afghanistan conflict in the 1980s," ICSR, January 26, 2015.
Ceylan Yeginsu, "ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits from Turkey," New York Times, September 15, 2014.
Michael M. Tanchum and Halil M. Karaveli, "Pakistan's Lessons for Turkey," New York Times, October 5, 2014. The term refers to the way in which Pakistan's own internal security and civil society have been undermined in recent decades by its use as a way station and safe haven for parties to Afghanistan's various conflicts.
Mahmut Bozarslan (translated from Turkish), "The Islamic State's secret recruiting ground in Turkey," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 23, 2015.
Mustafa Akyol, "Turkey takes on the Islamic State ... in 40-page report," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 2, 2015.
Turkey may seek to ensure that any sovereign Iraqi Kurdish state would be functionally dependent on it and would therefore be constrained from abetting Turkish Kurdish separatism. According to a 2009 book, the Turkish "nightmare scenario" regarding the Kurds is that they "take Kirkuk, use its oil to purchase an air force, and in short order start stealing swaths of southeastern Turkey." Quil Lawrence, Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, New York: Walker & Company, 2008, p. 185.
Anjli Raval and David Sheppard, "Kurds defy Iraq to establish own oil sales," ft.com, August 23, 2015.
Amberin Zaman, "The Iraqi Kurds' waning love affair with Turkey," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 1, 2015.
The incident took place in May 2010 in international waters under disputed circumstances and resulted in the death of nine Turks and an American of Turkish descent.
Turkey similarly downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel in 1980 following Israel's enactment of a law on the status of Jerusalem that was deemed a violation of international law by U.N. Security Council Resolution 478. It resto reinstated Israel's ambassador in 1992 after the Middle East peace process began.
"Report: US canceled delivery of Predators to Turkey," Today's Zaman, October 21, 2013, citing a report in Taraf. For information on the reported disclosure, see David Ignatius, "Turkey blows Israel's cover for Iranian spy ring," Washington Post, October 16, 2013.
According to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2013, "In June and July, in response to the Gezi Park anti-government protests, Prime Minister Erdogan and several senior government officials repeatedly and publicly blamed 'shadowy' international groups for the unrest, including claimed involvement by an 'international Jewish conspiracy,' the 'interest-rate lobby,' and 'the Rothschilds.' In July Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay blamed the 'Jewish diaspora' for the unrest. These statements by senior political leaders were accompanied by anti-Semitic reports and commentaries in media outlets friendly to the government. The chief rabbi and the Jewish community lay board issued a joint press release condemning statements blaming Jewish groups for the unrest."
State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014.
See footnote 49.
"The 'Missed Opportunity' in Israeli-Turkish Trade Relations," Knowledge@Wharton, September 9, 2014.
Emine Kart, "Turkey, Israel to discuss establishing industrial zone in West Bank," hurriyetdailynews.com, August 31, 2015.
For more information, see CRS Report R44142, Iran Nuclear Agreement: Selected Issues for Congress, coordinated by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].
The radar is reportedly operated by U.S. personnel from a command center in Diyarbakir, with a Turkish general and his team stationed in Germany to monitor the command and control mechanisms headquartered there for the entire missile defense system. "Malatya radar system to be commanded from Ramstein," Hurriyet Daily News, February 4, 2012.
The proposed elements of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to missile defense proposed by the Obama Administration, which represents the U.S. contribution to NATO's ALTBMD system, and a deployment timeline were described in a September 15, 2011, White House press release available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/15/fact-sheet-implementing-missile-defense-europe. This document explicitly contemplates the EPAA as a means of countering missile threats from Iran. Then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank Rose gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland, on April 18, 2013 (available at http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/2013/207679.htm), that described how the EPAA has been implemented and revised.
"Erdogan, in Iran, says NATO radar could be dismantled if needed," Today's Zaman, March 30, 2012.
According to U.S. officials, despite this Turkish insistence, information collected from the radar is coordinated as necessary with the U.S. missile defense radar deployed in Israel. One senior Administration official has been quoted as saying, "Data from all U.S. missile defense assets worldwide, including not only from radars in Turkey and Israel, but from other sensors as well, is fused to maximize the effectiveness of our missile defenses worldwide; this data can be shared with our allies and partners in this effort." Josh Rogin, "Amid tensions, U.S. and Turkey move forward on missile defense," thecable.foreignpolicy.com, September 19, 2011. Some Members of Congress had insisted that sharing information for Israel's potential defense be a condition of the radar's placement in Turkey. The text of a September 19, 2011, letter to President Barack Obama from six Senators on this subject is available at http://kirk.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=299.
Another source of tension between Turkey and Armenia, beyond the 1915-1923 events, is the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan (which is closely linked with Turkey through ethnolinguistic ties) over the Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan's internationally recognized borders.
Unlike most proposed resolutions on the matter in recent years, neither H.J.Res. 148 nor H.J.Res. 247 explicitly identified the Ottoman Empire or its authorities as perpetrators of the purported genocide. H.J.Res. 247 stated that "one and one-half million people of Armenian ancestry" were "the victims of the genocide perpetrated in Turkey".
Additionally, in a May 1951 written statement to the International Court of Justice, the Truman Administration cited "Turkish massacres of Armenians" as one of three "outstanding examples of the crime of genocide" (along with Roman persecution of Christians and Nazi extermination of Jews and Poles). International Court of Justice, Reservations on the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: Advisory Opinion of May 28, 1951: Pleadings, Arguments, Documents, p. 25.
See, e.g., White House, Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day, April 24, 2014.
Text of January 19, 2008, statement by then Senator Obama at http://armeniansforobama.com/armenian_issues.php; "Recognize the Armenian genocide," PolitiFact.com; Olivier Knox, "Obama breaks promise (again) to commemorate Armenian 'genocide,'" Yahoo News, April 24, 2014;
The EU states listed as having recognized a genocide are France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Greece, and Cyprus. The European Parliament has also referred to the deaths as genocide. The non-EU states are Argentina, Canada, Chile, Lebanon, Russia, Switzerland, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela. In April 2015, the Republic of Cyprus's ethnic Greek parliament passed a resolution making it a crime to deny that the events constituted genocide. In 2007, Switzerland criminally fined an ethnic Turkish politician for denying that the events constituted genocide, and in 2012 France passed a law making it a crime to deny that the events constituted genocide—though the law was subsequently invalidated by the French Constitutional Council. Long-standing Turkish law criminalizes characterization of the events as genocide. Countries not listed by the ANI as having recognized the events as genocide include the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Mexico, and Brazil.
For more information on this subject, see CRS Report R41136, Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, by [author name scrubbed].
Turkey views its protective role as justified given its status as one of the three guaranteeing powers of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee that was signed at the time Cyprus gained its independence. The United Kingdom and Greece are the other two guarantors.
Turkey retains between 30,000 and 40,000 troops on the island (supplemented by approximately 5,000 Turkish Cypriot soldiers and 26,000 reserves). "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - Eastern Mediterranean, October 30, 2009. This is countered by a Greek Cypriot force of approximately 12,000 (including roughly 1,300 Greek officers and soldiers seconded to Cyprus) with reported access to 50,000 reserves. "Cyprus," Jane's World Armies, November 3, 2011. The United Nations maintains a peacekeeping mission (UNFICYP) of approximately 900 personnel within a buffer zone headquartered in Cyprus's divided capital of Nicosia (known as Lefkosa in Turkish). Since the mission's inception in 1964, UNFICYP has suffered 179 fatalities. The United Kingdom maintains approximately 3,000 personnel at two sovereign military bases on the southern portion of the island at Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
Dan Bilefsky, "On Cyprus Beach, Stubborn Relic of Conflict," New York Times, August 3, 2012. As of July 2014, the CIA World Factbook estimates Cyprus's total population to be 1,172,458 (77% Greek, 18% Turkish, 5% other).
See, e.g., "Cyprus, Egypt proceed with plans for natural gas deal," Xinhua, September 10, 2015.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) included Turkey on its watch list from 2009 to 2011, and, in a decision disputed among the commissioners, recommended in 2012 that the State Department list Turkey as a "country of particular concern" (CPC). In USCIRF's 2013 report, Turkey was not included on either the watch list (now reclassified as "Tier 2") or the CPC list, but on a separate list of countries being "monitored." Four of the eight commissioners dissented, saying that Turkey's 2012 CPC listing was a mistake, but that it should remain on the watch list/Tier 2. Turkey was included in Tier 2 for the 2014 and 2015 reports. For additional information on Turkey's religious minorities, see the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report for 2013.
The Patriarchate traces its roots to the Apostle Andrew. The most commonly articulated congressional grievances on behalf of the Patriarchate—whose ecumenicity is not acknowledged by the Turkish government, but also not objected to when acknowledged by others—are the non-operation of the Halki Theological School on Heybeliada Island near Istanbul since 1971, the requirement that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen, and the failure of the Turkish government to return previously confiscated properties.
H.Res. 306 was sponsored by Representative Edward Royce, now Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
According to USCIRF's 2015 annual report, "The Turkish government reports that since 2003, more than 1,000 properties – valued, at more than 2.5 billion Turkish Lira (1 billion U.S. Dollars) – have been returned or compensated for. Hundreds more applications are still being processed. Nearly 1,000 applications reportedly were denied due to lack of proof of ownership or for other reasons. For example, the Turkish government reports that some applications are duplicates because different religious communities are claiming the same property. However, some communities allege bias, consider the process very slow, and claim that compensation has been insufficient."
"Pope Francis Went To Turkey To Meet Patriarch Bartholomew," Huffington Post, December 19, 2014 (English translation of Cansu Camlibel, "The Pope Came for Bartholomew," Hurriyet, December 8, 2014).
"PM indicates opening Halki Seminary depends on reciprocal gesture by Greece," todayszaman.com, March 30, 2013.
Peter Kenyon, "Some Turkish Churches Get Makeovers—As Mosques," NPR, December 3, 2013; Dorian Jones, "Turkish Leaders Aim to Turn Hagia Sophia Back into a Mosque," Voice of America, November 29, 2013; Ninth Hagia Sophia Church Converted into a Mosque in Turkey," Pravoslavie (Russia), September 25, 2014.
USCIRF website, "Turkey: Statement on Hagia Sophia," May 21, 2014.
Ayla Jean Yackley, "Muslims pray to turn Turkey's greatest monument back into a mosque," Reuters, May 30, 2014.
For information comparing and contrasting Sunnism and Shiism, see CRS Report RS21745, Islam: Sunnis and Shiites, by [author name scrubbed].
For additional historical background, see Elise Massicard, The Alevis in Turkey and Europe: Identity and managing territorial diversity, New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 11-18.
As reported in USCIRF's 2015 annual report, in December 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey discriminates against the Alevi community by failing to recognize cemevis [Alevi meetinghouses] as official places of worship. In the judgment the court "invited" the Turkish government to submit a proposal to resolve the long-standing issue of not recognizing cemevis as houses of worship.
According to a scholar on Turkey, "Alevis suffered centuries of oppression under the Ottomans, who accused them of not being truly Muslim and suspected them of colluding with the Shi'i Persians against the empire. Alevi Kurds were victims of the early republic's Turkification policies and were massacred by the thousands in Dersim [now called Tunceli] in 1937-39. In the 1970s, Alevis became associated with socialist and other leftist movements, while the political right was dominated by Sunni Muslims. An explosive mix of sectarian cleavages, class polarization, and political violence led to communal massacres of Alevis in five major cities in 1977 and 1978, setting the stage for the 1980 coup." Jenny White, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013, p. 14.
See, e.g., Nick Danforth, "Forget Sykes-Picot. It's the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East," foreignpolicy.com, August 10, 2015.
Daniel Dombey, "Putin and Erdogan: not quite kindred spirits," ft.com, December 2, 2014.