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Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

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Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations inIn Brief Jim Zanotti Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs April 23November 13, 2015 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44000 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations inIn Brief Contents Introduction. ..................................................................................................................................... 1 U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Foreign Policy ......................................................................... 1 Turkey and the Syrian Conflict: Foreign Fighters and Smuggling .................................................. 5 Domestic Politics ........................................U.S.-Turkey Coordination Against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq ........................................... 3 Overview ................................................................................................................................... 3 Complications Involving the Kurds .......................................................................................... 4 Looking Ahead ................................................................................... 10 Economy....................................... 6 Domestic Politics and Stability ....................................................................................................... 7 2015 Elections and Questions Regarding Continued AKP Rule ............................................... 118 Recent Resumption of Turkey-PKK Violence and Future Prospects ...................................... 10 Turkey’s Strategic Orientation: Past, Present, Future .................................................................... 13. 11 Figures Figure 1. Turkey: Map and Basic Facts ........................................................................................... 3 Figure 2. Key Sites Denoting Flows of People and Goods Between Turkey and Syria .................. 7 Tables Table 1. Trends in the Turkish Economy: 1975-2013 2 Figure 2. Syria: Areas of Kurdish Control....................................................................................... 5 Figure 3. Turkish Election Results .......................................................................................... 12........ 8 Contacts Author Contact Information. .......................................................................................................... 1412 Congressional Research Service Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations inIn Brief Introduction 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. This report provides information and analysis relevant for Congress on the following:    Assessments of U.S.-Turkey relations, Turkish foreign policy, and Turkey’s strategic orientation. • Turkish efforts to cooperate with the United States and other countries to more closely control the flow of people and goods—especially foreign fighters—to and from Syria’s conflict areas. • Key issues regarding Turkey’s domestic politics and economy, including June 2015 parliamentary elections and controversies and congressional interest regarding Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the future of the country’s constitutional system. For additional information, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti; and CRS Insight IN10164, Turkey-U.S. Cooperation Against the “Islamic State”: A Unique Dynamic? by Turkish efforts to cooperate with the United States against the Islamic State (IS, also known as Daesh, ISIS, and ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. Key issues regarding Turkey’s domestic politics. These include controversies and questions involving Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AKP) following the AKP’s November 2015 electoral victory, and the Turkish government’s renewed hostilities (since July) with the longtime Kurdish nationalist insurgent group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane). For additional information and analysis, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti. U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Foreign Policy 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. Turkey has become a more influential actor in the Middle East in the past decade, having sought to leverage its unique regional status as a Muslim-majority democracy with a robust economy and membership in NATO. 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.1 However, 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.2 This may be especially true if there are significant changes in 1 See, e.g., Blaise Misztal, et al., “Elections in Turkey: Foreign Policy Reset Unlikely Under President Erdogan,” The American Interest Online, August 7, 2014. 2 See, e.g., M. Hakan Yavuz and Mujeeb R. Khan, “Turkey Treads a Positive Path,” New York Times, February 12, (continued...) Congressional Research Service 1 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief U.S. relations with Iran that affect the larger regional context of widespread instability and complex alignments among various states and non-state actors.3 Nevertheless, engagement with Turkey—critical as it might be on specific issues—is unlikely to overshadow other aspects of a Since the mid-2000s, 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.1 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 positively influence surrounding geographical areas both politically and economically. 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 1 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. Congressional Research Service 1 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief a shaper of regional outcomes, a model for neighboring countries, and a facilitator of U.S. interests.2 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 volatile region.3 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. As Turkey’s energy consumption grows along with its economy, its dependence on other countries (including Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Azerbaijan) for most of this energy4 may be one of many factors included in Turkish national security calculations. (...continued) 2015. 3 Turkey has a range of concerns regarding Iran on matters that include Iran’s nuclear program, Iraq, and Syria. Additionally, Erdogan has voiced support for ongoing Saudi-led Arab military efforts against Houthis in Yemen, denouncing what he has characterized as efforts by Iran—reportedly the Houthis’ main outside backer—to dominate the region. 4 For U.S. government information on the main sources of Turkish energy imports, see http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=TU taken place alongside efforts to seek greater overall self-reliance and independence in foreign policy. Figure 1. Turkey: Map and Basic Facts Sources: Graphic created by CRS. Map boundaries and information generated by Hannah Fischer using Department of State Boundaries (2011); Esri (2014); ArcWorld (2014); DeLorme (2014). Fact information (2015 2 See, e.g., Blaise Misztal, et al., “Elections in Turkey: Foreign Policy Reset Unlikely Under President Erdogan,” The American Interest, August 7, 2014. 3 See, e.g., M. Hakan Yavuz and Mujeeb R. Khan, “Turkey Treads a Positive Path,” New York Times, February 12, 2015. Congressional Research Service 2 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief Figure 1. Turkey: Map and Basic Facts Domestic political changes 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.5 According to one prominent U.S.-based commentator, “Sunni sectarianism and Islamic romanticism in pursuit of Muslim Brotherhood priorities”6 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 these: 5 6 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. Congressional Research Service 3 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief • Possible Turkish support or permissiveness regarding the use of Turkish territory for the supply and transit of Syrian jihadists and foreign fighters opposing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Asad. • General Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s ousting of Egypt’s elected president Muhammad Morsi (a Muslim Brotherhood figure) in 2013 and his subsequent steps as Egypt’s new ruler to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood. • Turkey’s political support for Hamas, reported harboring of Hamas operational leaders,7 and regular denunciations of Israel,8 which are points of contention with some Members of Congress.9 • U.S. and international material support since late 2014 for the Syrian Kurdish group PYD (Democratic Union of Syria)10 to help it defend territory against the Islamic State organization (also known as ISIL or ISIS). 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 isolated11 after it had earlier taken positions more closely in line with the United States. 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 1.75 million Syrian refugees have entered Turkey since 2011, and they are particularly concentrated in its south and its main urban centers. Turkish President (formerly Prime Minister) Erdogan 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.12 Yet, Turkey is reportedly partnering with the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in a number of ways short of active combat.13 7 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 8 “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. 9 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. The letter took issue with Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric. “Congressional Turkish caucus raps Erdogan for Israel comments,” 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. 10 PYD is aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has engaged in an on-and-off insurgency against the Turkish government since the 1980s and is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. In the State Department’s October 20, 2014, daily press briefing, its deputy spokesperson said that “the PYD is a different group than the PKK legally, under United States law.” 11 Semih Idiz, “Some see snubs, Erdogan sees envy,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 17, 2015. 12 Soner Cagaptay, “The Fragile Thaw in U.S.-Turkey Relations,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2402, April 7, 2015. 13 In addition to initiatives on foreign fighters discussed below, such partnership efforts have reportedly included (1) agreeing to hold U.S.-funded anti-Islamic State training of Syrians on Turkish territory (though public U.S.-Turkey differences persist over whether those trained might also oppose the Asad regime); (2) U.S. military reconnaissance (continued...) Congressional Research Service 4 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief To date, Turkey has insisted on the creation of “safe zones” in northern Syria to provide a more secure base of operations for the Syrian opposition and to address refugee concerns, and has insisted on a more robust anti-Asad strategy, before agreeing to permit attacks on the Islamic State from its territory. Some Members of Congress have expressed support for establishing humanitarian safe zones in Syria.14 Obama Administration officials may hope that Turkey will eventually ease its preconditions on the use of its territory because of its proximity to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and its presumed desire for a durable political resolution. Coalition access to Turkish bases could have particular operational value in helping the Iraqi government take back Mosul and other key areas.15 However, increased Turkish flexibility might be hindered by persistent Turkish concerns about possible Islamic State retaliatory moves, through sleeper cells or other means.16 Turkey and the Syrian Conflict: Foreign Fighters and Smuggling 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.17 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.18 During 2013 and 2014, as the makeup of the Syrian opposition became increasingly complex, with jihadist groups emerging as among the (...continued) flights over Syria and Iraq; and (3) Turkish training and military assistance to Iraqi Kurdish (Kurdish Regional Government) peshmerga and non-lethal military assistance to the Iraqi central government. 14 See text of April 21, 2015, letter to President Obama from four senators at http://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-graham-kaine-mccain-urge-president-to-establishhumanitarian-safe-zones-in-syria-. 15 According to one analyst, “The Incirlik base in southern Turkey is a vital asset for any future U.S. operations to help liberate Mosul, as are the nearby bases at Diyarbakir, Batman, and Malatya.” Cagaptay, op. cit. 16 Foreign fighters with possible jihadist links have been implicated in a March 2014 terrorist attack at a vehicular checkpoint in central Turkey (perpetrators from the Balkans) and a January 2015 suicide bombing at an Istanbul police station (perpetrator from the Russian North Caucasus). 17 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 percent of foreign fighters come to Syria through Turkey. 18 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. Congressional Research Service 5 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief 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,19 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.20 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.”21 Erdogan responded by publicly denying that he had made those statements to Biden, and Biden subsequently issued an apology.22 19 Lale Sariibrahimoglu, “On the borderline – Turkey’s ambiguous approach to Islamic State,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, October 16, 2014. 20 “UK jihadist prisoner swap reports ‘credible,’” BBC News, October 6, 2014. 21 Sariibrahimoglu, op. cit. 22 Ibid. Congressional Research Service 6 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief Figure 2. Key Sites Denoting Flows of People and Goods Between Turkey and Syria (as of October 2014) Source: Jane’s Intelligence Review Notes: In February 2015, the Turkish military moved the site of the tomb of Suleiman Shah (a sovereign Turkish exclave within Syrian territory) to an area closer to the Turkish border to reduce its vulnerability to attack from the Islamic State organization. CRS takes no official position on any borders or locations denoted above. Most sources and U.S. officials acknowledge that, in response to international pressure23 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 in recent months 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.24 According to a Turkish government source,25 these measures include the following: • Enforcing a no-entry list (created in 2011) for individuals suspected of traveling to join radical groups in Syria. The list has grown from 4,822 names from 83 23 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. 24 For information on oil smuggling from Syria into Turkey, see CRS Report R43980, Islamic State Financing and U.S. Policy Approaches, by Carla E. Humud, Robert Pirog, and Liana W. Rosen. 25 March 17, 2015, factsheet provided to CRS by the Turkish government. Congressional Research Service 7 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief different countries in 2014 to more than 12,500 names from more than 90 countries as of March 2015. Based on the list, Turkish authorities deported 557 people in 2014, close to three times the amount deported in either 2012 (203) or 2013 (192). • Establishing “risk analysis units” in April 2014 for the detection of travelers’ possible intent to join Syrian extremist organizations. As of January 2015, 517 individuals26 had been denied entry into Turkey by these units at various land border gates, airports, and bus terminals. • Enhanced security at the Syrian border, including the general closure of most border gates, the deployment of additional army units and special operations battalions to border areas, and the creation of physical impediments27 to counter illegal crossings and smuggling. • Employing and enhancing “forceful and ongoing measures” (dating from 2012) to curb oil smuggling, including the capture of oil stores and destruction of illegal pipelines.28 In late March 2015, Turkey reportedly closed all of its gates at the Syrian border based on possible terrorist threats. It is unclear when they will reopen, and some reports indicate that crossings at other points along the border continue.29 Turkey faces 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.”30 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in February congressional testimony, said that public opinion polls in Turkey show that its people “don’t see ISIL as a primary threat,” and that they focus more on other priorities such as domestic Kurdish issues and the economy.31 When asked directly by a Member of Congress about how Turkey could help reduce the flow of foreign fighters, Clapper characterized Turkey’s laws as “permissive” and expressed hope that Turkish leaders would change them to more stringently control transit through the country.32 In 26 Per April 17, 2015, CRS email correspondence with U.S. government officials based in Turkey, this number has since increased to 740. 27 According to the March 17 Turkish government factsheet, “In 2014, we had dug 200 miles long ditches; constructed 37 miles-long earth embankment and 100 miles-long wire barriers; built 8 miles-long walls; illuminated an area that stretches 165 miles; installed thermal cameras and night vision systems.” 28 See also Desmond Butler, “Turkey cracks down on oil smuggling linked to IS,” Associated Press, October 6, 2014. 29 Joanna Paraszczuk, “Despite Crackdown, IS Says Turkey-Syria Border Still Open,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 8, 2015. 30 Transcript of hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, February 11, 2015. 31 Transcript of hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 26, 2015. 32 Ibid. Congressional Research Service 8 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief response to a request to provide further information related to Clapper’s statements, U.S. government officials based in Turkey33 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, as of April 2015, the U.S. officials are seeking a way 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.34 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.35 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.”36 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.”37 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.”38 Additionally, Turkish authorities may feel constrained in the vigorousness with which they counter the Islamic State because of the possible concerns mentioned above regarding 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.39 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.40 Some observers have 33 This information was provided to CRS in email correspondence on April 17, 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. 35 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. 36 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. 37 Soguel, op. cit. 38 Arango and Schmitt, op. cit. 39 Peter R. Neumann, “Foreign fighter total in Syria/Iraq now exceeds 20,000; surpasses Afghanistan conflict in the 1980s,” ICSR, January 26, 2015. 40 Ceylan Yeginsu, “ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits from Turkey,” New York Times, September 15, 2014. 34 Congressional Research Service 9 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief 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.41 The 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.42 Domestic Politics Turkish parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7, 2015, will take place within a context of controversy regarding power, constitutional democracy, and civil liberties in Turkey and their influence on the country’s domestic, regional, and global profile. See CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti, for a broader overview of Turkey’s domestic politics. 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 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 the powers were exercised by Erdogan’s predecessors in the office. After Erdogan was elected president, he designated then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 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 party from which he hails (the Justice and Development Party, or AKP) gain enough support in the June elections to facilitate a change to Turkey’s constitution establishing a formal presidential system that may be subject to fewer checks and balances than such systems in the United States and other president-led countries.43 The usual contentiousness of Turkish politics has intensified in the past two 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. Such steps have included attempts to marginalize the Fethullah Gulen movement (an influential array of civil society groups) and other government critics or perceived critics or dissenters.44 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, partly because of these issues’ potential to affect Turkey’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 41 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. 42 March 17, 2015, factsheet provided to CRS by the Turkish government. 43 Semih Idiz, “Erdogan aims to create stronger presidential system,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 3, 2015. 44 For more information on these issues and the Fethullah Gulen movement in Turkey, the United States, and internationally, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti. The corruption charges brought in December 2013 were dropped in October 2014, and in January 2015 the Turkish parliament cleared four government ministers who had also been implicated. Debate persists among the government, the Gulen movement, and other interested parties over whether the movement influenced the investigations and arrests. Congressional Research Service 10 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief censorship in Turkey,45 following a similar February 2015 letter signed by 89 Representatives.46 However, 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 refer to Western criticism in apparent efforts to galvanize domestic political support against outside influences.47 In early 2015, the following two issues dominate domestic debate: • Efforts by Erdogan to consolidate domestic power and establish a “presidential system.” • Continuing talks between Turkey’s government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) aimed at ending the PKK’s 30-year-plus insurgency and providing greater political accommodation and regional autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds. The two issues are interrelated because Erdogan’s prospects for changing the constitution may hinge on the June electoral performance of the Kurdish nationalist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)48 and whether the HDP aligns with the AKP.49 Some reports indicate that Prime Minister Davutoglu may be resisting possible efforts by Erdogan to link government concessions to the Kurds with Kurdish backing for a presidential system.50 These developments are also tied to the ongoing regional and international conflict taking place at Turkey’s southern border in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s Kurds have cross-border ties with and sympathies for Kurds imperiled by the Islamic State organization in Syria and Iraq, and (as discussed above) Turkey faces a number of security and socioeconomic concerns stemming from the Syrian refugees it hosts and the militants that might use or transit its territory. Economy 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 mediumsized, 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 45 The text of the letter is available at http://www.schumer.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/schumer-and-70-senatecolleagues-call-on-state-dept-to-address-ongoing-intimidation-of-media-and-censorship-of-the-press-in-turkey-underpresident-erdogans-administration. 46 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. 47 Mustafa Akyol, “What turned Erdogan against the West?,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 3, 2015. 48 Omer Taspinar, “The paradox in Turkish politics,” todayszaman.com, March 29, 2015; Seyfettin Gursel, “Scenarios for the general election,” todayszaman.com, April 10, 2015. 49 Deniz Zeyrek, “HDP will not facilitate presidency: Demirtas,” hurriyetdailynews.com, April 6, 2015. 50 “Turkish politics: Taken hostage,” Economist, April 11, 2015. Congressional Research Service 11 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief developing economies. A March 2014 analysis stated that Turkey’s citizens were 43% better off economically then than when Erdogan became prime minister in 2003.51 Table 1. Trends in the Turkish Economy: 1975-2013 (in billions of current $) Turkey 1975 1985 1995 2005 2013 Export 1.4 7.9 21.6 73.5 151.8 Import 4.7 11.3 35.7 116.8 251.6 Total Trade 6.1 19.3 57.3 190.2 403.4 64.5 67.5 244.9 484 820.2 1,564 1,316 2,773 6,801 10,782 17th 25th 24th 17th 17th 9 29 23 39 49.2 GDPa GDP (per capita) GDP (nominal ranking)b 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. Notes: a. Current GDP used for GDP section. b. Rankings of 1975 and 1985 to be interpreted cautiously due to large amount of missing data. 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 slowed from about 8.8% in 2011 to between 2% and 4% in the years since. However, given that Turkey is a net energy importer, the considerable drop in world oil prices since the summer of 2014 has given some lift to growth projections, mitigated inflation, and helped Turkey reduce its generally high current account deficit. Government regulation and intervention have the potential to affect Turkey’s economic trajectory. Although Turkey’s central bank has cut its key policy interest rate from 10% in early 2014 to 7.5% in early 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.52 Additionally, the possibility that political motives may have influenced the state’s February 2015 regulatory takeover of a bank affiliated with the Fethullah Gulen movement53 led Standard & Poor’s to state that political risks could spill over into the financial system.54 Nevertheless, most analyses express optimism about Turkey’s fiscal position and banking system, and Turkish 51 Christopher de Bellaigue, “Turkey Goes Out of Control,” New York Review of Books, April 3, 2014 Issue (accessed online on March 25, 2014). 52 “Turkey’s economy: A frenzy about interest,” Economist, March 14, 2015. 53 Mehmet Cetingulec, “Why did Turkey seize Bank Asya?,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 9, 2015. 54 Ece Toksabay, “S&P says Turkey's Bank Asya takeover shows political risk potential,” Reuters, March 4, 2015. Congressional Research Service 12 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief leaders periodically seek to reassure the public, amid rumors of possible resignations,55 that key figures who have reputations for sound economic stewardship will continue to serve.56 Some analyses of Turkey’s economy 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.57 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. 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.58 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.59 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.60 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.”61 Turkey’s Strategic Orientation: Past, Present, Future 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”—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 55 Nick Tattersall, “UPDATE 2-Erdogan tirade against central bank knocks Turkish sentiment,” Reuters, February 26, 2015. 56 “Babacan to be part of Turkey's economy team after elections: PM Davutoğlu,” hurriyetdailynews.com, April 2, 2015. 57 See, e.g., World Bank, Turkey’s Transitions: Integration, Inclusion, Institutions, December 2014. 58 CRS Report R43387, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations, by Shayerah Ilias Akhtar, Vivian C. Jones, and Renée Johnson. 59 Abdullah Bozkurt, “Pritzker: Turkey needs reforms to engage further in T-TIP,” todayszaman.com, October 2, 2014. 60 Kemal Kirisci, “T-TIP’s Enlargement and the Case of Turkey,” Woodrow Wilson Center and Istanbul Policy Center, January 2015. 61 U.S. Trade Representative 2015 Trade Policy Agenda, p. 145. Congressional Research Service 13 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief 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.62 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 60year 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. For example, consultations within NATO may have played an important role in Turkey’s reconsideration of missile defense co-production with China.63 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. Author Contact Information Jim Zanotti Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs jzanotti@crs.loc.gov, 7-1441 62 Daniel Dombey, “Putin and Erdogan: not quite kindred spirits,” ft.com, December 2, 2014. See, e.g., Lale Sariibrahimoglu, “Turkey’s T-Loramids technology transfer troubles,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 4, 2015. 63 Congressional Research Service 14In Brief estimates unless otherwise specified) from International Monetary Fund, Global Economic Outlook; Turkish Statistical Institute; Economist Intelligence Unit; and Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook. Turkish leaders sometimes express 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 southeast 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.4 Additionally, as discussed further below, developments since 2014 regarding the Syrian Kurds’ control of territory and military capabilities have led to some U.S.-Turkey differences. Yet, as described below, Turkey is partnering with the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in a number of ways. U.S.-Turkey Coordination Against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq Overview 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.5 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. 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. Past Turkish insistence on these measures appear to have resembled pleas that Turkish leaders made similar pleas following the 1991 Gulf War for help in preventing refugee burdens.6 In that case, the United States established a humanitarian safe zone with ground forces and then patrolled a no-fly zone in northern Iraq.7 In November 4, 2015, testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson said that the establishment of a safe zone …is a hugely complex and resource-intensive issue. And the administration has looked at this over and over and over again, and there is no option on the table, nor recommended by the Department of Defense, that does not require a massive, massive amount of air support that would then detract from the effort against ISIL. We continue to look at this. We continue to study this. But there is no viable option on the table at this time. 4 Soner Cagaptay, “The Fragile Thaw in U.S.-Turkey Relations,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2402, April 7, 2015. 5 Chris Kozak, “Turkey Expands Campaign Against ISIS and the PKK,” Institute for the Study of War, July 25, 2015. 6 Morton Abramowitz, “Remembering Turgut Ozal: Some Personal Recollections,” Insight Turkey, vol. 15, no. 2, 2013, pp. 42-43. 7 For information on some of those operations, see Gordon W. Rudd, Humanitarian Intervention: Assisting the Iraqi Kurds in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, 1991, Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 2004, available at http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/humanitarian_intervention/CMH_70-78.pdf. Congressional Research Service 3 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief U.S. airstrikes from Turkey commenced in August 2015 via drone aircraft, which have since been joined at Turkish bases by manned fighter and support aircraft,9 along with accompanying personnel deployments. Turkey also took its first open, direct military action against the Islamic State in Syria during that late July timeframe. In late August, the first joint U.S.Turkey airstrikes against IS targets in Syria reportedly took place. Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Targets and Threats to U.S. Citizens Since the outbreak of conflict in Syria, there have been two terrorist attacks against U.S. installations in Turkey. On November 1, 2013, a suicide bomber killed himself and a Turkish security guard outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara. On August 10, 2015, two female militants attacked the U.S. consulate in Istanbul without inflicting casualties and were apprehended by Turkish authorities. Both attacks have been attributed to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a U.S.designated terrorist organization with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views and some historical links to the Syrian government. On September 3, 2015, the State Department issued a travel warning authorizing the voluntary departure of government family members “out of an abundance of caution following the commencement of military operations [as described below in relation to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq] out of Incirlik Air Base.” The Defense Department said that the military would pay for the departure of families of servicemembers who choose to leave.8 The travel warning also announced specific travel restrictions for U.S. government employees in southeastern Turkey, and strongly recommended that U.S. citizens avoid (1) areas in close proximity to the Syrian border and (2) demonstrations and large gatherings. 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. Most sources and U.S. officials acknowledge that Turkey has introduced or bolstered existing anti-IS initiatives over the past year, in response to international pressure10 and growing Turkish official recognition of threats posed to Turkish security by the Islamic State and other jihadists. Such initiatives are 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.11 Complications Involving the Kurds 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.12 Shortly after Turkey commenced military strikes against the Islamic State in Syria in late July, Turkey resumed hostilities with the PKK. Since a fall 2014 crisis in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, a number of analysts have speculated that Turkey is more 8 David Francis, “U.S. Officials Authorize Families of American Personnel Near Key Turkish Air Base to Leave,” foreignpolicy.com, September 3, 2015. 9 Susan Fraser, “U.S. Deploys 6 F-15 Fighter Jets to Turkish Air Base,” Associated Press, November 6, 2015; Nicholas de Larrinaga, “USAF deploys A-10s to Incerlik for Syria strikes,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, October 22, 2015; Searchand-rescue aircraft (helicopters and transport planes) have been deployed to a base in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. “US sends search-and-rescue aircraft, crew to Turkey,” Associated Press, September 30, 2015. 10 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. 11 For information on oil smuggling from Syria into Turkey, see CRS Report R43980, Islamic State Financing and U.S. Policy Approaches, by Carla E. Humud, Robert Pirog, and Liana W. Rosen. 12 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. Congressional Research Service 4 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief concerned about containing Kurdish political aspirations (with their potential cross-border implications) than countering Islamist extremism at and within its borders.13 Turkey is reportedly worried about recent gains by the People’s Protection Units (Kurdish acronym YPG), a militia dominated by the Syrian Kurdish group known as the Democratic Union Party (Kurdish acronym PYD),14 as well as about U.S.-PYD/YPG coordination. The PYD is closely affiliated with the PKK. Recent YPG gains raise the possibility of PKK-affiliated control over most of Syria’s northern border (see Figure 2 below).15 In September 2015, Turkish 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.16 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.” Figure 2. Syria: Areas of Kurdish Control Source: Mike King, New York Review of Books (accessed November 13, 2015). Notes: All locations are approximate 13 Orhan Coskun and Dasha Afanasieva, “Turkey stages first air strikes on Islamic State in Syria,” Reuters, July 24, 2015. 14 The YPG is formally the military arm of a de facto government established by the PYD and the Kurdish National Council (KNC). The KNC is aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the dominant faction within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq led by President Masoud Barzani. Soner Cagaptay and Andrew Tabler, “The U.S.-PYD-Turkey Puzzle,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2510, October 25, 2015. 15 Henri J. Barkey, “What’s Behind Turkey’s U-Turn on the Islamic State?,” Woodrow Wilson Center, July 29, 2015. 16 Semih Idiz, “Turkey’s Middle East policy ‘fiasco,’” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 28, 2015. Congressional Research Service 5 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Looking Ahead The overall trajectory of U.S.-Turkey cooperation in Syria remains unclear. In the summer of 2015, officials from both countries anticipated coordinating air operations to clear a specific area of northwest Syria of IS forces (roughly between the Afrin and Kobane cantons found in Figure 2 above). However, the following developments appear to have subsequently complicated prospects for such operations, even as the United States, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and other countries meet periodically to discuss diplomatic options:   Russia’s growing direct military involvement in Syria (including at least two instances in October in which Russian aircraft reportedly breached Turkish airspace) and renewed international diplomacy aimed at addressing the conflict. The October reconfiguration of the U.S. train-and-equip program toward U.S. arming of groups in Syria (including an umbrella organization involving the YPG, various Syrian Arab rebel factions, and some Assyrian Christians), and the direct insertion of U.S. special forces.17 The Obama Administration announced the reconfiguration after a few cases in which Syrian anti-IS fighters trained in Turkey were captured by or provided weapons to other militant groups. Even if these or other 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. Possible Russian interest in partnering with the YPG against Sunni Islamist fighters18 could fuel U.S.-Russia competition for Kurdish support that might isolate Turkey further in its adversarial stance toward the YPG. Meanwhile, media reports indicate that the United States is unwilling to accept, as patrollers of a zone, the Islamist-led Syrian opposition forces that Turkey and various Arab Gulf states are reportedly supporting.19 Turkish officials have expressed hopes that an “IS free” zone might create opportunities for Syrian refugees to return to their home country and to mitigate future refugee flows.20 An unknown number of refugees living in Turkey—originally from Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere—are seeking permanent refuge in Europe. Reportedly, some “have been living in Turkey for months, sometimes years. They complain that Turkey’s failure to grant them full refugee status has made it a struggle to access basic services and jobs.”21 Crossings over land to Europe are generally 17 According to one U.S. journalist, “Pentagon officials say the Turks should be reassured, because the U.S. will now have greater oversight of the YPG's 25,000 fighters and can prevent supplies from getting to the PKK, which Turkey views as a terrorist group.” David Ignatius, “The Syrian Tinderbox,” Washington Post, November 4, 2015. 18 See, e.g., “YPG says it is ready to cooperate with Russia against IS,” Kurdpress, October 1, 2015; “Pro-Hezbollah daily says party in Syria pact with Russia,” Now, September 23, 2015. 19 See, e.g., Jamie Dettmer, “Russia’s Buildup in Syria May Thwart Idea of Safe Haven,” Voice of America, September 30, 2015. 20 Anne Barnard, et al., “Turkey and U.S. Plan to Create Syria ‘Safe Zone’ Free of ISIS,” New York Times, July 27, 2015. 21 “Refugees dispersed from Turkey-Greece border in buses,” Agence France Presse, September 20, 2015. According to the instrument of its accession to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, “the Government of Turkey maintains the provisions of the declaration made under section B of article 1 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, done at Geneva on 28 July 1951, according to which it applies the Convention only to persons who have become refugees as a result of events occurring in Europe,” http://www.genevaacademy.ch/RULAC/international_treaties.php?id_state=226. In 2014, Turkey enacted a Law on Foreigners and International Protection which—despite the geographical limitation to the 1951 Convention—provides protection and assistance for asylum-seekers and refugees, regardless of their country of origin. 2015 UNHCR country operations (continued...) Congressional Research Service 6 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief closed to refugees and undocumented migrants. Some people have nevertheless found their way past the official checkpoints on land, while many others try sea routes—especially to nearby Greek islands—on crowded boats under questionable safety conditions.22 European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel have opened discussions with Turkey about the possibility of providing Turkey with humanitarian aid to increase its cooperation in stemming refugee and migrant flows. As part of such an arrangement, Europeans might show greater consideration of Turkish aspirations for visa-free travel to European countries, and for resuming European Union accession negotiations.23 However, some human rights activists have expressed concern about any arrangement that might result in reduced international scrutiny of Turkey’s commitment to civil liberties.24 A number of questions surround U.S.-Turkey dealings regarding Syria and Iraq. These include:     To what extent might Russian-Iranian and U.S.-led actions in Syria—potentially seen by significant segments of Turkey’s population as bolstering anti-Sunni and pro-Kurdish outcomes—affect Turkey’s willingness to combat the Islamic State? How can the United States coordinate operations with both Turkey and the PYD/YPG, and what are the larger implications for the parties and the region? What effect will U.S.-Turkey dealings have on military and political outcomes in Syria? Will they make the survival of Bashar al Asad and his regime more or less likely? Would Turkey benefit from a de facto or formal partition of Syria? How will developments in the region and in potential destination countries in Europe affect the situation of Syrian and Iraqi refugees currently in Turkey? To what extent are refugees likely to remain in Turkey, return to Syria or Iraq, or resettle in third countries? Domestic Politics and Stability Turkish domestic politics feature controversies regarding power, constitutional democracy, corruption, and civil liberties; renewed Turkey-PKK conflict with the potential to destabilize significant areas of the country; security concerns regarding Syria and Iraq; and economic anxieties. The vigorous debate over whether (and, if so, how) President Erdogan exercises authoritarian control over Turkey’s government and society will likely continue for the foreseeable future. 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 secularreligious balance, and its Kurdish question. Erdogan and his supporters periodically resort to criticism of Western countries in apparent efforts to galvanize domestic political support against outside influences.25 Moreover, some observers assert that various security-related concerns— (...continued) profile – Turkey. 22 Rick Lyman, “Bulgaria Puts Up a New Wall, but This One Keeps People Out,” New York Times, April 6, 2015. 23 Valentina Pop, “EU Readies Migrant Aid for Turkey,” Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2015. 24 Tim Arango, “Merkel Links Turkey’s E.U. Hopes to Stemming Flow of Refugees,” New York Times, October 18, 2015. 25 Mustafa Akyol, “What turned Erdogan against the West?,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, February 3, 2015. “Congressional Turkish caucus raps Erdogan for Israel comments,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), August 6, 2014. (continued...) Congressional Research Service 7 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief such as those involving the Islamic State and refugees—make the United States and the European Union less likely to try to check Turkish officials’ domestic actions.26 See CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti, for additional background information and analysis on Turkey’s domestic politics, including the Fethullah Gulen movement. 2015 Elections and Questions Regarding Continued AKP Rule On November 1, 2015, the AKP (or AK Party) won back the majority it had lost during elections five months earlier in June, in which no party won a majority. The November Figure 3. Turkish Election Results result surprised most pollsters and other (June and November 2015) observers, but represented a return to form for the AKP, which had enjoyed consistent electoral success since first coming to power in 2002. It also signaled an end to a long season in Turkish politics that featured two solid years of electoral campaigns. The run-up to the November election featured intense controversy over reports of intimidation of and government interference with a number of media outlets,27 as well as over major terrorist suicide bombings at a largely Kurdish peace rally in Ankara on October 10. The bombing, which was apparently linked to the Islamic State, left more than 100 dead. The day after the election, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: We look forward to working with the newly elected parliament and with the future government. As a friend and NATO ally, the United States is committed to continuing our close coordination with Turkey to advance our shared political, security and prosperity agendas. We are, however, deeply concerned that media outlets and individual journalists critical of the government were subject to pressure and intimidation during the campaign, seemingly in a manner calculated to weaken political opposition. We note that the OSCE released a statement today highlighting that parliamentary elections in Turkey offered voters a variety of choices but that the campaign was affected by violence and restrictions on media freedom. We have both publicly and privately raised our concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Turkey, and we (...continued) 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. 26 See, e.g., “Turkey’s AK party: Another victory for illiberalism,” Economist, November 4, 2015. 27 See, e.g., “Erdogan’s Formula for Consolidating Clout in Turkey,” New York Times, November 2, 2015. Congressional Research Service 8 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief continue to urge Turkish authorities to uphold the universal democratic values that are enshrined in Turkey’s constitution.28 The AKP gained from President Erdogan’s decision to call new elections rather than contemplate a coalition arrangement based on the June outcome. The AKP’s results improved despite the multiple internal and external challenges that intensified for Turkey in the months between the two elections—increased security concerns, a seemingly slowing economy, and issues regarding civil liberties. Erdogan (officially a nonpartisan actor, but still the AKP’s leading figure) and Prime Minister Davutoglu appear to have won back votes for the AKP largely based on (1) the argument (using selective examples from past decades of Turkey’s republican history) that a majority government would provide greater stability than a coalition, (2) an assertive approach to combating and criticizing the PKK after the July outbreak of violence that apparently resonated with Turkish nationalists and conservative Kurds, and (3) reassurances of economic security.29 The Kurdish nationalist-rooted Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halklarin Demokratik Partisi, HDP) still managed to get the 10% of the vote it needed to maintain its place in Turkey’s parliament, thereby preventing the AKP from the supermajority it would need (330 parliamentary seats) to call a constitutional referendum. President Erdogan and his associates frequently proclaim their interest in holding such a referendum to expand Erdogan’s formal powers. Under Turkey’s 1982 constitution, as amended, most executive power resides with the prime minister. Barring any midterm changes in leadership, Erdogan, Davutoglu, and the AKP will remain in power until presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2019. With post-election Turkey facing a daunting array of challenges, U.S. policymakers and other observers are focused on the following questions, each of which has implications for the others:   Security Issues: How will AKP’s victory affect Turkey’s approaches to Syria and Iraq, and to challenges both domestic and foreign regarding Kurds and the Islamic State? To what extent will Turkish leaders countenance or oppose U.S. assistance for the PYD/YPG and/or proposals permitting a continued role in Syria for Bashar al Asad? To what extent will Turkish leaders feel emboldened to continue objecting to these initiatives and/or to pursue conflict with adversaries? Domestic Policy: Will Erdogan and Davutoglu seek greater accommodation with non-AKP constituencies and opposing or independent voices from civil society now that Turkey’s two-year electoral season has ended, or will they use their mandate more confrontationally? Specifically, how might they seek to bolster Erdogan’s powers either via constitutional change or the broad use of Erdogan’s existing legal prerogatives and his personal control or influence over key economic, bureaucratic, and media networks?30 28 White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Newark, New Jersey, 11/2/2015. On October 26, 65 Members of Congress signed an October 26 letter to President Obama to “support and encourage free, open, and fair elections in Turkey.” Text of letter available at http://rokita.house.gov/sites/rokita.house.gov/files/10-26-2015-Turkey-Free-Open-Fair-Elections.pdf. 29 For various analyses, see Yusuf Muftuoglu, “How Erdogan's Dramatic Comeback Happened, and How Far Its Impact Might Reach,” Huffington Post, November 2, 2015; Mustafa Akyol, “How the AKP dominated yesterday's election in Turkey,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, November 2, 2015; Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu, “Islamist Party Gains Majority in Turkish Vote,” New York Times, November 2, 2015; “Second time’s a charm: A huge win for Turkey’s ruling AK party,” economist.com, November 2, 2015. 30 One U.S.-based analyst claims that Erdogan and his associates control approximately 70 percent of Turkey’s media outlets. Henri J. Barkey, “Turkey’s Elections, the Syrian Crisis, and the US,” American Interest, November 4, 2015. Congressional Research Service 9 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief  Economy: How will the AKP deliver on its promises of economic security in light of negative economic trends in Turkey regarding growth, exports, currency strength, and security-related disruptions to tourism and other key sectors? Recent Resumption of Turkey-PKK Violence and Future Prospects As mentioned above, Turkey’s government and the PKK resumed hostilities in July 2015 amid mutual recrimination, ending a cease-fire that had been in place since March 2013 as part of a broader Turkey-PKK “peace process.” Subsequently, Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of terrorism suspects in southeastern Turkey and Turkey-PKK violence has resulted in hundreds of casualties.31 A temporary cease-fire to allow for the November 1 elections to take place ended almost immediately afterwards, with Erdogan vowing to bring about the PKK’s defeat and disarmament.32 The following is one Turkish journalist’s explanation of key contributing factors to the resumption of violence: …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.33 Turkey-PKK violence has led Turkish authorities to take emergency measures in hopes of pacifying conflict in key southeastern urban areas. This has fueled international concerns about possible human rights abuses.34 In the summer of 2015, Turkish citizens opposed to the PKK violence launched demonstrations throughout the country. A number of attacks on HDP political offices, as part of mass demonstrations, took place in apparent reprisal for PKK actions. Some HDP offices were also attacked prior to the June elections. Theories about who provoked these reprisals focused on Turkish nationalist groups,35 with some commentators claiming that Erdogan may have provided partial incitement with public statements conflating the HDP with the PKK.36 The October 10 suicide bombings in Ankara led to renewed nationalistic recriminations and allegations that the government provided insufficient security for the targeted pro-Kurdish rally. 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. They also have expressed desires for the parties to resolve their differences peaceably. Many European officials have called for an immediate end to violence and resumption of peace talks.37 31 One estimate claims that since June 2015, “more than 150 Turkish security officials and hundreds of PKK fighters have been killed in the conflict.” Dion Nissenbaum, “Turkish Jets Strike at Kurds,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2015. 32 Emre Peker, “Turkish Leader Seeks More Powers,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2015. 33 Lale Kemal, “Cease-fire may spoil political game,” Today’s Zaman, September 10, 2015. 34 Statement by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, “Turkey should ensure immediate access to Cizre by independent observers,” September 11, 2015. 35 Alex McDonald, “Far-right activists attack HDP offices across Turkey after anti-PKK demos,” Middle East Eye, September 8, 2015. 36 Emma Sinclair-Webb, “Turkey: media crackdown amid escalating violence,” openDemocracy, September 11, 2015. 37 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. Congressional Research Service 10 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief The future trajectory of Turkey-PKK violence and political negotiation may depend on a number of factors, including:     Which Kurdish figures and groups (the imprisoned PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, various PKK militant leaders, the professedly nonviolent HDP) are most influential in choosing between armed struggle and political negotiation. Erdogan’s approach to and influence on Turkish government policy regarding the Kurdish issue. Most domestic and international observers previously considered Erdogan to be the only Turkish leader strong enough to deliver a peaceful solution, but Turkey’s recent turn to military force has led many to question this assumption. How the resumption of violence might affect Turkey’s internal stability, governing institutions, and ability to administer the southeast. Some analysts express concern about civil conflict, and also question whether the military’s involvement in this issue could lead to its return to a more prominent role in Turkish governance.38 Many Kurdish militants, activists, and local leaders in various parts of southeastern Turkey appear to be pressing for imminent autonomy. The extent to which the United States and perhaps European actors might—based on their view of the issue’s priority—offer incentives to or impose costs on Turkey and the PKK in efforts to mitigate violence and promote a political resolution. Turkey’s Strategic Orientation: Past, Present, Future 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 postWorld 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”39— resonate in its ongoing attempts to achieve greater military, economic, and political selfsufficiency and to influence its surrounding environment. Such initiatives could—based on a number of variables—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.40 38 See, e.g., Barcin Yinanc, “New army chief’s faces four challenges to transform Armed Forces,” hurriyetdailynews.com, August 10, 2015. 39 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. 40 Daniel Dombey, “Putin and Erdogan: not quite kindred spirits,” ft.com, December 2, 2014. Congressional Research Service 11 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief 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 60year legacy of institutionalized cooperation. Its leaders may therefore be responsive to efforts by allies and key trading partners to identify priorities relating to this legacy of cooperation. For example, after Turkey’s initial announcement in September 2013 that it planned to co-produce a missile defense system with China, it has since reconsidered.41 Also, following Russia’s military escalation in Syria during the fall of 2015, Turkey has apparently bolstered its cooperation with the United States and has stated it might be willing to redefine some aspects of its energy cooperation with Russia.42 However, Turkish leaders’ receptivity to Turkey’s traditional Western allies could wane over time if they believe that Turkey’s interests and preferred approaches to issues are not addressed by or reflected in key Western initiatives or institutional frameworks and processes. Author Contact Information Jim Zanotti Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs jzanotti@crs.loc.gov, 7-1441 41 Lale Sariibrahimoglu and Nicholas de Larrinaga, “T-Loramids decision nearing, says Turkish procurement chief,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, October 27, 2015. 42 Daren Butler, “Turkey's Erdogan warns Russia on nuclear project, natural gas – papers,” Reuters, October 8, 2015. Congressional Research Service 12