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Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

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Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief

March 18, 2016 (R44000)


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:

  • General assessments of U.S.-Turkey relations and Turkish foreign policy.
  • Specific aspects of U.S.-Turkey dealings regarding Syria and Iraq, including a number of complicated issues involving the Islamic State organization (IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or the Arabic acronym Da'esh), Kurdish groups and other regional and international actors (i.e., Syrian government, Russia, European Union, Iran, Arab Gulf states), refugees and migrants, "safe zones," border security, and terrorism.
  • 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), and the Turkish government's ongoing hostilities with the Kurdish nationalist insurgent group PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan).

In Brief Jim Zanotti Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs August 4, 2016 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44000 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Contents Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1 Turkey After the July 2016 Failed Coup ......................................................................................... 1 Coup Attempt and Aftermath .................................................................................................... 1 Implications for U.S./NATO Cooperation................................................................................. 6 Post-Plot Tensions and Gulen’s Status ................................................................................ 6 Specific Issues for U.S. Policy ............................................................................................ 7 Strategic and Political Assessment.................................................................................... 10 Kurds in Turkey ............................................................................................................................. 13 Syria .............................................................................................................................................. 15 U.S.-Turkey Dealings .............................................................................................................. 15 Refugee Issue and European Union Deal ................................................................................ 15 Figures Figure 1. Past Turkish Domestic Military Interventions ................................................................. 4 Figure 2. Recent Terrorist Attacks in Turkey................................................................................... 8 Figure 3. Map of U.S. and NATO Military Presence in Turkey ..................................................... 11 Contacts Author Contact Information .......................................................................................................... 17 Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 17 Congressional Research Service Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Introduction Several Turkish foreign and domestic policy issues are significant 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 on key issues in the aftermath of the failed July 1516, 2016, coup attempt, including:     the response of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government— including significant personnel and institutional changes, and calls for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen (see below)—amid Turkey’s continuing domestic and regional challenges; implications for Turkey’s cooperation with the United States and NATO; the status of Turkey’s Kurds, including tensions and violence between the Turkish government and the Kurdish militant group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan); and U.S.-Turkey dealings and other aspects regarding Syria that involve the Islamic State organization (IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or the Arabic acronym Da’esh), Kurdish groups, Turkey’s hosting of around three million refugees and migrants, and its 2016 arrangement with the European Union. For additional information and analysis, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by [author name scrubbed].

U.S.-Turkey Relations and Turkish Foreign Policy

There have been many situations in which the United States and Turkey have cooperated during their decades-long alliance in NATO, but at many times they have also been at odds. Differences have stemmed largely from on divergences in leaders' assessments of respective interests given their differing (1) geographical positions, (2) threat perceptions, and (3) roles in regional and global political and security architectures. Nonetheless, both countries have continued to affirm the importance of an enduring strategic relationship.

Since President (formerly Prime Minister) Erdogan and Prime Minister (formerly Foreign Minister) Davutoglu began exercising control over foreign policy in the previous decade, Turkey has sought greater influence in the Middle East as part of a more outward looking foreign policy vision than that embraced by past Turkish leaders.1 Turkey's "range of critical and overlapping roles" as a Muslim-majority democracy with a robust economy and membership in NATO has largely been viewed by the West as an asset for promoting its ties with the region.2 However, recent foreign and domestic policy developments may have constrained Turkey's role as a shaper of regional outcomes, a model for neighboring countries, and a facilitator of U.S. interests. In response to recent turmoil at and within Turkey's borders, and to some conflicting priorities Turkey appears to have with the United States and other major actors in the region, one Turkish analyst said in early 2016 that Turkey "cannot protect its vital interests, and it is at odds with everyone, including its allies."3 A journalist reporting on his extensive March 2016 interview with President Obama about his Administration's foreign policy decisions wrote the following:

Early on, Obama saw Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, as the sort of moderate Muslim leader who would bridge the divide between East and West—but Obama now considers him a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria.4

In providing context for Obama's apparent views, the White House press secretary said in a March 11 press gaggle that Turkey has engaged more effectively in the anti-IS coalition "over the last nine months or so" after the Administration spent some period of time urging it to do so.5 (For the press secretary's context on Turkish domestic issues, see "Domestic Politics and Stability" below.)

Regardless of some difficulties with the United States and other key actors, Turkey remains a key regional power that shares linkages and characteristics with the West that may distinguish it from other Muslim-majority regional powers such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Therefore, cooperation with Turkey, along with other actors, is likely to remain relevant for the advancement of U.S. interests in the volatile region.6

Turkey's NATO membership and economic interdependence with Europe appear to have contributed to important Turkish decisions to rely on, and partner with the West on security and other matters. However, Turkey's significant economic development over the past three decades has contributed to its efforts to seek greater overall self-reliance and independence in foreign policy.7

Figure 1. Turkey: Map and Basic Facts

Sources: Graphic created by CRS. Map boundaries and information generated by [author name scrubbed] using Department of State Boundaries (2011); Esri (2014); ArcWorld (2014); DeLorme (2014). Fact information (2015 estimates unless otherwise specified) from International Monetary Fund, Global Economic Outlook; Turkish Statistical Institute; Economist Intelligence Unit; and Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook.

Syria and Iraq

Overall Assessment of U.S.-Turkey Dealings

A number of developments, such as international jihadist terror incidents and refugee flows, particularly in the past year, have driven U.S. expectations regarding Turkish cooperation with respect to Syria and Iraq. Such expectations seem to center on Turkey's willingness and ability to

  • prevent the flow of fighters, weapons, oil, and other non-humanitarian supplies into and out of Syria from benefitting the Islamic State and other global jihadist movements; and
  • clearly prioritize anti-IS efforts in relation to other strategic concerns regarding Kurdish groups and the Asad regime in Syria.

Though some observers alleged that Turkey had been slow in 2013 and 2014 to curtail activities involving its territory that were seen as bolstering ISIS and other Sunni extremist groups,8 Turkey has partnered with the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, including through hosting coalition aircraft (since summer 2015) that strike targets in Syria and Iraq. Other regional U.S. partners include several Arab states, Iraq's central government, and Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria.

But Turkish leaders still confront domestic pressures and security vulnerabilities.9 They have sought greater intelligence sharing from foreign fighters' countries of origin, with some success.10 Turkey also faces the significant burden of hosting refugees from Syria and elsewhere; more than two million refugees have entered Turkey since 2011, and they are particularly concentrated in its southeast and its main urban centers. Turkish priorities for Syria and Iraq seem to include

  • countering threats to Turkish security, territorial integrity, and domestic stability;
  • reducing Turkey's responsibilities for refugees; and
  • achieving lasting resolutions in order to relieve refugee flows and other challenges to Turkey, promote Turkey's regional influence, and provide substantive political empowerment for Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

Over the past two years, Turkey has stepped up IS-focused border security and counterterrorism measures, presumably in response to international pressure,11 An additional motivation may be concerns regarding Turkey's stability and economic well-being (including its tourist industry).12 Since the last half of 2014, Turkey has introduced or boosted initiatives 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.13 Since July 2015, a number of apparent Islamic State suicide bombings (though the Islamic State has not acknowledged responsibility for the bombings) have taken place in Turkey—in Suruc, Ankara, and Istanbulcausing significant fatalities. Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, submitted written testimony for a February 10, 2016, House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that stated:

ISIL's only remaining outlet to the world remains a 98-kilometer strip of the Syrian border with Turkey. Our NATO ally Turkey has made clear that it considers ISIL on their border a national security threat, and the government, in part due to U.S. and international pressure, has taken aggressive measures in recent weeks to impede the flow of ISIL resources and fighters through that segment of the border. The importance of this effort cannot be overstated.14

However, various interrelated dynamics may be preventing Turkish officials from undertaking more robust direct operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, including the following:

  • Possible Kurdish Emboldenment: Turkish concerns that external support for Kurdish territorial gains in Syria is bolstering Kurdish anti-government sentiment and PKK military capabilities in Turkey, and thus undermining national stability and cohesion.
  • Domestic Political Priorities: President Erdogan's efforts to expand his constitutional powers may be part of the reason for his recent focus on nationalistic criticisms of Kurdish militants and activists,15 an apparent departure from his previous domestic and regional approach to the Kurds that appeared to be more accommodating.
  • Possible Leverage with Europe: European Union (EU) dependence on Turkey as a refugee and migrant "gatekeeper" may be leading Turkey to seek European (1) assistance with Turkey's own refugee burdens; (2) support for or acquiescence to Turkish domestic and foreign policies more generally; and (3) offering to Turks enhanced access to the EU and its markets, including possible progress on Turkey's EU accession negotiations.16
  • Regional and Sectarian Rivalries: Turkish concerns that recent Syrian government and Syrian Kurdish military gains could bolster Iranian and Russian influence in the region at the expense of Turkey and other Sunni-majority countries.17

The Turkey-Syria Border

Turkey's Strategic Concerns

Turkey's strategic calculations in areas close to its border with Syria have been affected by late 2015 and early 2016 military operations by the Syrian government, its allies (including Russia, Iran, and various Shiite militias). These calculations may factor into larger Turkish geopolitical anxieties regarding (as mentioned above) the regional influence of Turkey and other Sunni-majority countries relative to the Kurds, Russia, and Iran, particularly if these recent developments play a decisive role in shaping the political outcome of Syria's civil war. Short-term Turkish concerns apparently include the following:

  • Turkey's reduced ability to supply Syrian opposition militias via the Bab al Salam crossing south of the Turkish border town of Kilis; and
  • External (Syrian, Russian, even U.S.) efforts that could possibly facilitate Syrian Kurdish territorial ambitions in a key area between the town of Azaz and the Euphrates River that would connect other Kurdish-controlled enclaves.18 The leading Syrian Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (Kurdish acronym YPG), is dominated by the Syrian Kurdish group known as the Democratic Union Party (Kurdish acronym PYD).

Figure 2. Syria: Map of Territorial Control

(as of February 2016)

In early 2016, Turkish artillery has periodically targeted YPG positions in or around the Azaz-Euphrates corridor, and Turkish officials have hinted that more direct military action is possible if the YPG continues operations in the area.19 Yet, most reports indicate that the Turkish military strongly opposes mounting large-scale operations in Syria, especially without U.N. Security Council backing.20 Moreover, stepped-up Western intervention seems unlikely.21 U.S. officials have "urged the YPG to avoid moves that will heighten tensions with Turkey and with other Arab opposition forces in northern Syria," while also urging Turkey to cease artillery fire across the border.22 In February, Turkey invited Saudi Arabia to base fighter aircraft at Incirlik air base, ostensibly in connection with anti-IS coalition efforts.23 The invitation may also been part of a larger effort to communicate Sunni resolve against Bashar al Asad's regime24 at a time when recent conflict and international diplomacy (including a partial cease-fire that began in February and Russia's March announcement of a drawdown of some type) may have led to greater confidence among Asad and his Russian and Iranian allies regarding their position in Syria.25

The Syrian Kurds

Given that the PYD/YPG has close ties with the PKK, gains by the YPG during the Syrian conflict have raised the possibility of PKK-affiliated control over most of Syria's northern border.26 Media reports from March 2016 indicate that Syrian Kurdish leaders are considering declaring a federal region for the various ethnic groups (including Arabs and Turkmen) in areas under de facto PYD control.27 Turkey would oppose such a move, and it would have implications for a number of other stakeholders in Syria's conflict.28 In a March 17 daily press briefing, the State Department spokesperson said, in response to whether the United States would accept a choice by "the Syrian people" to have a federal system, "I think we'd have to wait and see what the outcome of this transitional process is.... And when you say 'federal,' you and I might think something different in 'federal.' We're not interested in self-rule, self-autonomous zones. That can be a completely different thing than a federal system."

PYD leaders routinely insist that their organization maintains an independent identity, yet several sources indicate that PYD-PKK links persist, including with respect to personnel.29 In June 2015, President Erdogan said, "We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria's north and our south. We will continue to fight in this regard no matter what it costs."30 In September 2015, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said:

By mounting operations against [IS] and the PKK at the same time [in summer 2015], 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.31

Although the United States has considered the PKK to be a terrorist group since 1997, it does not apply this characterization to the 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 in a February 23, 2016, press briefing, the Defense Department spokesperson said that "we will continue to disagree with Turkey [with] regard [to] … our support for those particular [Kurdish] groups that are taking the fight to ISIL, understanding their concerns about terrorist activities."

While the U.S. military has provided air support to the YPG, the State Department deputy spokesperson said at a February 17, 2016, daily press briefing that U.S. support for the YPG has not included directly arming the group. U.S. officials have referred to U.S. military airdrops of arms or ammunition in Syria to non-YPG groups, including groups that associate or may associate with the YPG via an umbrella group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).32 Most media reports, however, support one source's claim that "the YPG is the main element of the [SDF] coalition and outnumbers all other groups."33 Evidence of significant Turkish Kurdish participation in YPG military operations34 and of cross-border tunnels35 suggest the possibility that fighters and weapons have traveled from Syria to Turkey to assist PKK or PKK-affiliated militants against the Turkish government (see "Ongoing Turkey-PKK Violence and Future Prospects" below).36 In a February 8, 2016, daily press briefing, the State Department spokesperson responded to a question about whether "arms given to [the] PYD" might have been used against the Turkish military by saying that "we've seen no indication that that's borne out by the facts."

In February 2016, Erdogan demanded that the United States choose between Turkey and the PYD,37 and in March he alleged that weapons confiscated from the PKK and PYD/YPG have Russian and Western (including U.S.) origins.38 U.S. officials have expressed their intentions to continue cooperating with both Turkey and the PYD/YPG on specific aspects of the crisis in Syria.39 Media reports suggest ongoing debates among U.S. officials about how closely to work with the PYD/YPG in the context of other partnering options and the PYD's relations with Russia and other regional and international actors.40 In March 2016, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that U.S. officials have "made it very clear to the PYD that any actions it takes to either support the PKK or to [militarily] engage the other opposition groups [beyond the Islamic State] are profoundly problematic and we look to the PYD to act responsibly and to focus its efforts on the fight against Daesh."41 Later in March, Turkey's interior ministry blamed a deadly suicide car bombing in Ankara on a PKK member whom the YPG allegedly trained.42

"Safe Zones" in Syria?

Turkey has long advocated the creation of one or more "safe zones" within Syria along the two countries' border. To some extent, such advocacy resembles pleas that Turkish leaders made following the 1991 Gulf War for help in preventing refugee burdens.43 In that case, the United States established a humanitarian safe zone with ground forces and then patrolled a no-fly zone in northern Iraq.44 In December 9, 2015, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter addressed the case of Syria:

With respect to safe zones, ... I've certainly thought about that a great deal. [The] concept of a safe zone would be to create a patch of Syria [wherein] people who are inclined to go there, could go there and be protected. They would need to be protected because you can foresee that at least ISIL and other radical groups, and quite possibly elements of the Assad regime, [would] undertake to prove that it wasn't safe.

And so it would have to be made safe. And that takes us back to the question of [what's] an appropriate force of that size to protect a zone of that size. [In] our estimate, it's substantial. And again, I don't see, much as I wish otherwise, anybody offering to furnish that force.

I also think we have thought about who might want to reside in such a zone. I think it would be undesirable [if it] became a place into which people were pushed, say, from Turkey or Europe, expelled, so to speak, into this zone. I don't know what the people who now live in the zone would think about other people coming into the zone. That would have to be taken into account, and whether other people want to live there.

[So] we have thought about it. It's complicated. We have not recommended that because it's an undertaking of substantial scale where [in] my judgment, the costs outweigh the benefits.

In a December 1, 2015, House Armed Services Committee hearing, General Joseph Dunford (USMC), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, equated a hypothetical establishment of a no-fly zone to declaring war on Syria.

The United States and Turkey reportedly started discussions about possible operations to clear the Azaz-Euphrates corridor in Syria of IS control and border transit after Turkey decided (in summer 2015) to allow U.S. and coalition use of its bases for anti-IS strikes in Syria and Iraq, and to join in some of those strikes. However, subsequent developments, including Russia's step-up in military involvement in Syria in late 2015, and its apparent installation of S-400 air defense systems in Syria following the November 2015 Turkish downing of a Russian aircraft, reportedly reduced U.S. willingness to consider establishing an "IS-free" zone.45 After the aircraft downing, Turkey has reportedly not flown missions inside Syria,46 presumably due to concerns about possible Russian retaliation. Whether the Russian drawdown announced in March 2016 might substantively change U.S. or Turkish calculations on these issues is unclear and may depend on a number of circumstances.

Refugee Flows and a Turkey-European Union Arrangement

Turkish officials have expressed hopes that a protected zone of some type in northern Syria might create opportunities for the more than two million Syrian refugees that Turkey currently hosts—as well as others from Iraq and elsewhere—to return to their home country and to mitigate future refugee flows.47 Various media reports from early 2016 indicate that the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation48 has coordinated the setup of tent camps for displaced persons on the Syrian side of the Syria-Turkey border because Turkey has closed its crossings to most refugees.49 Some observers question what might happen were these camps to face attack or impending danger.50

Many refugees have lived in Turkey for months or years and have reportedly had difficulty accessing basic services and jobs because Turkey does not grant them full refugee status.51 Some refugees from third countries and undocumented migrants have crossed over Turkish territory to Europe via land. However, given relatively strong controls at Turkey's land borders with European Union countries, particularly under current circumstances, many refugees and migrants have opted for sea routes—especially to nearby Greek islands—on crowded boats under dangerous conditions. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than one million refugees and migrants—many of whom use Turkey as a point of transit—arrived in Europe via sea in 2015, and more than 130,000 have arrived in 2016 through early March,52 with higher rates of migration reportedly expected in the coming warm-weather months.53 According to a Turkish government source,54 in 2015 the Turkish Coast Guard initiated two new operations—one in the Aegean Sea and one in the Mediterranean—aimed at maintaining safety and security via rescue and interdiction efforts.55

The European Union (EU) has engaged with Turkey to assist it in its efforts to deal with refugee and migrant populations while stemming or controlling the flow of these populations to Europe. In November 2015, Turkey and the EU finalized a joint action plan, which included an initial EU pledge of €3 billion in humanitarian aid56 for Syrian refugees in Turkey (along with other pledges related to possible visa-free travel and resumption of EU accession negotiations) in return for more robust Turkish cooperation in stopping migrant smugglers and human traffickers.57 Some observers questioned, however, whether Turkish authorities—including those with the mandate to prevent smugglers and traffickers from leaving shore—would be able or willing to control refugee and migrant flows under this arrangement.58

Following the November 2015 summit, European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel have met frequently with Turkish leaders in efforts to reach more specific understandings. Additionally, in February 2016, NATO announced that it would deploy a maritime mission in the Aegean Sea to help support efforts "to stem illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean."59 The mission seeks to increase the capacity of Turkish and Greek security and border control personnel, and improve information-sharing, including with national coast guards of EU countries and Frontex (the EU's borders management agency, which oversees two EU maritime rescue missions—one in the Aegean and the other in the central Mediterranean between Italy and Libya). In early March, NATO announced that its ships would expand their area of operation to include Greek and Turkish territorial waters.60

In light of ongoing refugee and migrant flows into Europe, the EU agreed in principle in early March to (1) expedite the disbursement of the aid promised in November 2015 and contemplate additional aid to help Turkey with its efforts; (2) consider allowing visa-free travel for Turks by June 2016 and opening new chapters in Turkey's EU accession negotiations; and (3) potentially cooperate with Turkey in facilitating within Syria areas for the local population that would be "more safe."61 In concert with these proposals, Turkey would agree to take back "all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands" and, in exchange, one Syrian refugee from Turkey would be resettled in the EU for every Syrian "readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands."62

Officials from international organizations and other observers have raised concerns regarding the legality and morality of the proposed Turkey-EU arrangement:

  • On March 8, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed deep concern "about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law."63 Perhaps partly in hopes of addressing such concerns to some extent, the Turkish government issued a regulation in January permitting employment (with some limitations) for those Syrians who have officially registered for temporary protection in Turkey.64 UNHCR also said on March 8 that "Europe's resettlement commitments remain however, very low compared to the needs."65
  • A leader of one of the political blocs in the European Parliament warned in March about the EU making a deal with "a country [Turkey] that imprisons journalists, attacks civil liberties and [has] a highly worrying human rights situation."66
  • Amnesty International released a statement decrying the EU's dependence on Turkey as its "border guard," given the burdens Turkey already faces with three million refugees. Amnesty claimed that it had evidence of Turkish maltreatment of some refugees and asylum-seekers, including "unlawful detentions and deportations" and the "forcible return" of some refugees to Syria.67

On March 18, Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu finalized the proposed arrangement with EU leaders in Brussels. The resulting EU-Turkey statement included the following passage:

All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey. This will take place in full accordance with EU and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion. All migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. It will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end the human suffering and restore public order. Migrants arriving in the Greek islands will be duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed individually by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive, in cooperation with UNHCR. Migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible in accordance with the said directive will be returned to Turkey.68

According to one media report, returns from Greek islands to Turkey will commence on April 4.69

Domestic Politics and Stability


Turkish domestic politics feature controversies regarding power, constitutional democracy, corruption, and civil liberties. Contentious discussions also focus on ongoing Turkey-PKK conflict with the potential to destabilize significant areas of the country, security concerns regarding Syria and Iraq, and economic issues.70 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, especially after the AKP, the party he founded and still leads de facto, regained its parliamentary majority in November 2015 elections (after having lost the majority in June 2015 elections). Since the November elections, Erdogan and Davutoglu have sought sufficient popular and cross-party support to enact constitutional changes that would increase Erdogan's presidential power.

During and since the recent election campaigns, the government has reportedly intimidated or arrested several Turkish journalists with a history of criticizing Erdogan and the AKP, and has taken over a number of media outlets. In March 2016, Turkey's constitutional court ordered the release of two prominent journalists from prison, though they still face charges of aiding terrorism and violating state security.71 Also in March, the government appointed a trustee to run Zaman, Turkey's largest-circulating newspaper. A Turkish court approved the action on the basis of Zaman's affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen movement, a civil society network that had largely aligned itself with the AKP until the government branded the movement a hostile actor and terrorist group based on its purported role in a late 2013 corruption crisis.72 In a March 4 daily press briefing, the State Department spokesman said that the Zaman takeover was "the latest in a series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish Government targeting media outlets and others critical of it." A week later, on March 11, the White House press secretary provided context for views attributed to President Obama on Turkish domestic issues (see "Overall Assessment of U.S.-Turkey Dealings" above)73 by stating, "There are some ways in which we feel the [Turkish] government has not been sufficiently supportive of universal human rights—the kind of human rights that we obviously deeply value here in the United States and that we advocate for around the world."74 The press secretary cited the Zaman takeover as one example.75

Despite this criticism, it is unclear whether non-Turkish actors will play a significant role in resolving questions about Turkey's commitment to democracy and limited government, its secular-religious balance, and its Kurdish question. Moreover, some observers assert that various security-related concerns—such as those involving the Islamic State and refugees—make the United States and the European Union less likely to take significant measures to check Turkish officials' domestic actions.76 Erdogan and his supporters periodically resort to criticism of Western countries in apparent efforts to galvanize domestic political support against outside influences,77 and some officials and pro-government media have pushed back against U.S. criticism of the Zaman takeover.78

Ongoing Turkey-PKK Violence and Future Prospects

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." Since the resumption, Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of terrorism suspects in southeastern Turkey, and Turkey-PKK violence in Turkey and the PKK's northern Iraqi safe havens has resulted in hundreds of casualties79 and the reported displacement of around 200,000 people.80

Turkey-PKK violence has led Turkish authorities to take emergency measures to pacify conflict in key southeastern urban areas.81 This has fueled international concerns about possible human rights abuses.82 The October 10, 2015, suicide bombings—linked by many reports to the Islamic State organization—that killed more than 100 people at a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara led to renewed nationalistic recriminations and allegations that the government provided insufficient security for the event.83 Subsequently, a number of events have further fueled nationalistic tensions, including (1) the assassination of a prominent Kurdish nationalist figure under disputed circumstances in late November 2015,84 (2) controversial December 2015 statements from the leaders of the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey's parliament that may endanger their parliamentary immunity,85 and (3) suspected PKK-linked suicide car bombings against targets in Ankara in February and March 2016.

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.86 Many European officials have called for an immediate end to violence and resumption of peace talks.87 In early 2016, some observers have called for greater Western efforts to press Turkey, the PKK, and possibly the PYD/YPG to calm tensions and facilitate a renewed domestic political process on the issue in Turkey.88 Analysts anticipate that fighting could intensify in spring conditions.89

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])



See, e.g., Omer Taspinar, "Turkey's Strategic Vision and Syria," Washington Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 3, Summer 2012, pp. 127-140.


"Foreign policy: Alone in the world," Economist, February 6, 2016.


Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University in Istanbul, quoted in Liz Sly, "Turkey's increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers," Washington Post, February 20, 2016.


Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Obama Doctrine," The Atlantic, from the April 2016 issue.


Text available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/14/press-gaggle-press-secretary-en-route-austin-texas-31116.


See, e.g., M. Hakan Yavuz and Mujeeb R. Khan, "Turkey Treads a Positive Path," New York Times, February 12, 2015.


Among other Turkish foreign policy initiatives, Turkey announced in mid-December 2015 that it would construct a multipurpose military base in Qatar. The base, which is being established pursuant to a 2014 bilateral security agreement, appears to be calculated to intensify the two countries' partnership against common security threats. Both countries "have provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and raised the alarm about creeping Iranian influence in the region." Tom Finn, "Turkey to set up Qatar military base to face 'common enemies,'" Reuters, December 16, 2015. In another initiative, Turkey boosted a troop deployment in northern Iraq in late 2015 against the wishes of the Iraqi central government, reportedly prompting President Obama to intercede with President Erdogan to have Turkey withdraw some of the troops. "Turkey will withdraw more troops from Iraq after US request," Associated Press, December 20, 2015. The deployment remains a source of Turkey-Iraq tension.


See, e.g., Alison Smale, "Turkey's Role as Migrant Gateway Is Source of New Urgency for E.U.," nytimes.com, November 18, 2016; Lale Sariibrahimoglu, "On the borderline–Turkey's ambiguous approach to Islamic State," Jane's Intelligence Review, October 16, 2014.


Sly, op. cit.


Greg Miller and Souad Mekhennet, "Undercover teams, increased surveillance and hardened borders: Turkey cracks down on foreign fighters," washingtonpost.com, March 6, 2016.


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.


Craig Bonfield, "The Turkish Economy in 2015," Center for Strategic and International Studies Turkey Update, February 23, 2016.


Information on these initiatives were provided to CRS by a Turkish government official to CRS via (1) a March 17, 2015, factsheet and (2) December 9, 2015, email correspondence. The initiatives include enforcing an existing "no-entry" list, establishing "risk analysis" units, boosting border security personnel from 12,000 to 20,000, strengthening border infrastructure, adding border air reconnaissance, carrying out zero-point checks for goods crossing the border, capturing oil stores, and destroying illegal pipelines. See also Miller and Mekhennet, op. cit. for a discussion of U.S.-Turkey intelligence cooperation. 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].


Available at http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20160210/104449/HHRG-114-FA00-Wstate-McGurkB-20160210.pdf . See also a February 23 White House briefing by McGurk at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/23/press-briefing-press-secretary-josh-earnest-and-special-presidential.


Hearing testimony of Nate Schenkkan of Freedom House, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, February 3, 2016.


See, e.g., "Turkey's Erdogan threatened to flood Europe with migrants: Greek website," Reuters, February 8, 2016.


See, e.g., Fabrice Balanche, "The Battle of Aleppo Is the Center of the Syrian Chessboard," Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2554, February 5, 2016.


Amberin Zaman, "How the Kurds Became Syria's New Power Brokers," foreignpolicy.com, February 18, 2016.


Ibid., citing Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan as saying that Turkey wants to create a "secure" strip of territory roughly six miles deep into Syria.


Sly, op. cit.


"Vladimir Putin's war in Syria: Why would he stop now?," Economist, February 20, 2016.


Mark Toner, State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, February 16, 2016.


Ugur Ergan, "Saudi committee to visit İncirlik base prior to fighter jet deployment," hurriyetdailynews.com, February 25, 2016.


Jamie Dettmer, "Turkey Shells US-Allied Kurds in Northern Syria," Voice of America, February 14, 2016.


See, e.g., Alan Cullison, "Analysis: In Pullout, Moscow Aims to Avoid Quagmire," Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2016.


For information on various Kurdish groups in the region and their interrelationships, see CRS In Focus IF10350, The Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed]. Reportedly, the PYD was "established in 2003 by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants of Syrian origin in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq." Heiko Wimmen and Müzehher Selcuk, "The Rise of Syria's Kurds," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 5, 2013. See also Jonathan Steele, "The Syrian Kurds Are Winning!," New York Review of Books, December 3, 2015.


Anne Barnard, "Syrian Kurds Look to Create Federal Region in Nation's North," New York Times, March 17, 2016.




See, e.g., Aaron Stein and Michelle Foley, "The YPG-PKK Connection," Atlantic Council MENASource Blog, January 26, 2016.


Wes Enzinna, "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard," New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015.


Semih Idiz, "Turkey's Middle East policy 'fiasco,'" Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, September 28, 2015.


Department of Defense Press Briefings, October 13 and October 21, 2015; Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Written Testimony Submitted for House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing, February 10, 2016. For background information on the SDF, see, e.g., Aron Lund, "Origins of the Syrian Democratic Forces: A Primer," January 22, 2016.


Benedetta Argentieri, "Are the Syrian Democratic Forces any of the above?," Reuters, January 26, 2016. See also Zaman, op. cit., asserting, "Since last year, the Kurds have teamed up with a gaggle of opposition Arab, Turkmen, and non-Muslim brigades to form the SDF, mostly as a kind of fig leaf that allows Washington to justify its support for them." One U.S. journalist has claimed that "the SDF umbrella group now numbers about 40,000, of which 7,000 are Arabs." David Ignatius, "A Pivotal Moment in a Tangled War," Washington Post, February 19, 2016.


Stein and Foley, op. cit.


Katrin Kuntz et al., "Children of the PKK: The Growing Intensity of Turkey's Civil War," spiegel.de, February 16, 2016.


See, e.g., Daren Butler, "Turkish soldiers clash with Kurdish militants crossing from Syria: army," Reuters, February 10, 2016.


"Erdogan: US should choose between Turkey, Kurdish forces," Associated Press, February 8, 2016.


"The Latest: Syrian group 'optimistic' about Geneva talks," Associated Press, March 16, 2016.


See, e.g., John Kirby, State Department spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, February 8, 2016.


See, e.g., Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, "Obama Administration Argues Over Support for Syrian Kurds," Bloomberg View, February 23, 2016; Zaman, op. cit.; Charles Lister, "U.S. Must Tell Kurds to Stop Attacking Syrian Rebels," nytimes.com, February 24, 2016.


Fatih Erel, "US warns PYD not to support PKK in Turkey," Anadolu Agency, March 2, 2016.


Emre Peker, "Turkey Links Bomber to Syrian Kurds," Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2016.


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.


Tara Copp, "Pentagon hesitant to commit to no-fly zone, given challenges," Stars and Stripes, November 24, 2015.


Sly, op. cit.


Jack Moore, "Turkey Proposes Syria 'Safe Zone' in Return for Cooperation with EU on Refugee Crisis," Newsweek, September 28, 2015.


IHH is a Turkish Islamist NGO. It is largely known internationally for helping organize the May 2010 Gaza flotilla, which produced an international incident between Turkey and Israel.


"Syria refugee camps set up as Turkey limits entries," BBC News, February 8, 2016; Anshel Pfeffer, "Turkish Group Behind Gaza Flotilla Setting Up First Refugee 'Safe Haven' on Syrian Soil," haaretz.com, February 8, 2016.


Pfeffer, op. cit.


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.geneva-academy.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 profile—Turkey.


See http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php.


Ayla Albarak, "Turkey Struggles to Stop Migrant Boats," Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2016.


This source was provided via CRS email correspondence with a Turkish official on December 16, 2015.


According to the Turkish government source, the operations cost approximately $65 million on an annualized basis. For some figures on Turkey-Greece migration and interdiction in January and February 2016, see Albarak, op. cit.


The funding details were laid out in a Council of the European Union document entitled "Refugee facility for Turkey: Member states agree on details of financing," dated February 3, 2016. Turkey has spent approximately $8.73 billion on refugee needs since 2011. "Turkey provides education for 300,000 Syrian refugees," Anadolu Agency, December 23, 2015. As of February 2016, U.S. assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey since FY2012 totaled more than $379 million. February 4, 2016, Department of State factsheet available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/02/252113.htm. For additional context, see http://www.cidi.org/wp-content/uploads/02.04.16-USG-Syria-Complex-Emergency-Fact-Sheet-2.pdf and http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48e0fa7f.html.


Council of the European Union, Meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey - EU-Turkey statement, 29/11/2015.


See, e.g., "The EU's refugee crisis: A smuggler's-eye view of Turkey's effort to stop the migrants," Economist, February 8, 2016.


NATO, Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the Level of Defence Ministers, February 11, 2016.


NATO press release, NATO Secretary General welcomes expansion of NATO deployment in the Aegean Sea, March 6, 2016.


Council of the European Union, Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government, 07/03/2016; Valentina Pop and Laurence Norman, "EU, Turkey Agree on Draft of Migrant Deal," Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016. Merkel, in a February 2016 interview, was quoted as saying (translated from German), "In the current situation, it would be helpful if there was an area there in which none of the warring parties carry out attacks by air—so a type of no-fly zone," after having previously criticized the idea because of difficulties involved in guaranteeing civilians' security. Michelle Martin, "Merkel says supports some kind of no-fly zone in Syria," Reuters, February 15, 2016.


Council of the European Union, Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government, 07/03/2016.


The statement is available at http://www.unhcr.org/56dec2e99.html, and also said, "An asylum-seeker should only be returned to a third state, if the responsibility for assessing the particular asylum application in substance is assumed by the third country; the asylum-seeker will be protected from refoulement; and if the individual will be able to seek and, if recognized, enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards, and have full and effective access to education, work, health care and, as necessary, social assistance."


Mehmet Celik, "IOM praises Turkey's new regulation granting work permits to Syrian refugees," January 16, 2016; "The EU's refugee crisis: A smuggler's-eye view of Turkey's effort to stop the migrants," op. cit.


UNHCR's reaction to Statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of Turkey, 7 March, March 8, 2016.


Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the European Parliaments' Alliance of Liberals and Democrats group, quoted in James Kanter, "NATO Takes Fight to Human Traffickers in Aegean," New York Times, March 7, 2016. For additional information on European concerns regarding Turkey's human rights profile, see European Parliament press release, [European Parliament President Martin] Schulz on the EU-Turkey Summit, March 7, 2016.


Amnesty International, "EU-Turkey Summit: Don't wash hands of refugee rights," March 7, 2016.


Council of the European Union, EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016, available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/18-eu-turkey-statement/.


"EU, Turkey, Reach a Landmark Deal on Migrant Crisis," Voice of America, March 18, 2016.


See, e.g., "The economy: Erdoganomics," Economist, February 6, 2016.


"Turkish Journalist Calls His Release From Jail 'Defeat' for Erdogan," Reuters, March 2, 2016.


Ayla Jean Yackley, "Turkish police fire tear gas at protesters, EU laments rights record," Reuters, March 5, 2016.


Goldberg, op. cit.


See footnote 5.




See, e.g., "Charlemagne: A graveyard of ambition," Economist, February 20, 2016; "Turkey's AK party: Another victory for illiberalism," Economist, November 4, 2015.


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; Eli Lake, "Turkish Leader Doubles Down on Blaming Israel for Anti-Semitism," Daily Beast, August 6, 2014.


Ragip Soylu, "US envoy attracts ire of Turkish social media over meddling in judicial process, politics," Daily Sabah, March 5, 2016.


Kuntz, et al., op. cit.


Helicopters strike PKK targets within Turkey, Deutsche Welle, February 24, 2016.


Orhan Coskun, "Turkish warplanes strike northern Iraq after Ankara bombing blamed on Kurdish militants," Reuters, March 14, 2016; Kuntz, et al., op. cit.


Suzan Fraser, "Turkey's military has ended a three-month operation against Kurdish militants in the largest city in the country's mostly Kurdish southeast," Associated Press, March 9, 2016.


Ceylan Yeginsu, "Turkey Fires Security Officials After Attack in Ankara," nytimes.com, October 15, 2015.


"Diyarbakır bar association president Tahir Elçi killed," todayszaman.com, November 28, 2015.


"Turkish government submits motion to lift pro-Kurdish MPs' immunity," Ekurd Daily, March 9, 2016; Mustafa Akyol, "The rapid rise and fall of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party," Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, January 4, 2016.


See, e.g., "US backs Turkey's 'right to self-defense,'" Anadolu Agency, July 26, 2015.


"EU slams PKK violence, calls for return to peace process," hurriyetdailynews.com, February 17, 2016. 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.


Hearing testimony of Gonul Tol of Middle East Institute, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, February 3, 2016; Henri Barkey, "Kurds are now key to a Middle East solution," Financial Times, February 25, 2016; Zaman, op. cit.


See, e.g., Peker, op. cit.

Relations, by Jim Zanotti. Turkey After the July 2016 Failed Coup Coup Attempt and Aftermath On July 15-16, 2016, elements within the Turkish military operating outside the chain of command mobilized air and ground forces in a failed attempt to seize political power from President Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.1 A majority of voters had elected Erdogan to a five-year term as president in August 2014, and the ruling Justice and Development Party (Turkish acronym AKP, which Erdogan co-founded) won its fourth parliamentary majority since 2002 in a November 2015 election. Government officials used various traditional and social media platforms2 and alerts from mosque loudspeakers3 to rally Turkey’s citizens in opposition to the plot. Resistance by security forces loyal to the government and civilians in key areas of Istanbul and Ankara succeeded in foiling the 1 Metin Gurcan, “Why Turkey’s coup didn’t stand a chance,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 17, 2016. Uri Friedman, “Erdogan’s Final Agenda,” The Atlantic, July 19, 2016; Nathan Gardels, “A Former Top Turkish Advisor Explains Why Erdogan Is The Coup’s Biggest Winner,” Huffington Post, July 19, 2016. 3 Pinar Tremblay, “How Erdogan used the power of the mosques against the coup attempt,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 25, 2016. 2 Congressional Research Service 1 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief coup,4 with around 270 killed on both sides.5 The leaders of Turkey’s opposition parties and key military commanders helped counter the coup attempt by promptly denouncing it.6 Turkish officials have publicly blamed the plot on military officers with alleged links to Fethullah Gulen—formerly a state-employed imam in Turkey and now a permanent U.S. resident. Gulen strenuously denies involvement in the plot, but has acknowledged that he “could not rule out” involvement by some of his followers.7 He has claimed that the coup attempt appeared staged, though in a July 31 CNN interview, he said that he would consider any allegation that Erdogan himself staged the plot to be “a slander.”8 For more on Gulen, see CRS In Focus IF10444, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey, and the United States: A Reference, by Jim Zanotti. The coup attempt occurred against a backdrop of various challenges to Turkey’s physical, political, and economic security. Challenges include domestic controversy over Erdogan’s increasing consolidation of power and constraints on freedom of expression, as well as terrorist threats and other security problems connected with the Islamic State, the PKK, and Syria. In recent years, many observers had concluded that the long era of military sway over Turkish civilian politics had ended.9 Reportedly, this was largely due to efforts by the government and adherents or sympathizers of Gulen during Erdogan’s first decade as prime minister (he served in that office from 2003 to 2014) to diminish the military’s traditionally secularist political power.10 The Erdogan Era Since Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, he and the ruling AKP have led a process of change in Turkey’s parliamentary democracy that has steadily increased the power of Erdogan and other civilian leaders working with him. They have been supported by a substantial political base that largely aligns with decades-long Turkish voter preferences and backs Erdogan’s economically populist and religiously-informed, socially conservative agenda.11 Erdogan has worked to reduce the political power of the military and other institutions that had constituted Turkey’s secular elite since the republic’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, and has clashed with other possible rival power centers, including the Gulen movement. Domestic polarization has intensified since 2013: nationwide antigovernment protests that began in Istanbul’s Gezi Park took place that year, and corruption allegations later surfaced against a number of Erdogan’s colleagues in and out of government.12 After Erdogan became president in August 2014 via Turkey’s first-ever popular presidential election, he claimed a mandate for increasing his power and pursuing a “presidential system” of governance.13 In recent years under Erdogan and the AKP, Turkey has seen: 4 Gardels, op. cit. Ray Sanchez, “Fethullah Gulen on ‘GPS’: Failed Turkey coup looked ‘like a Hollywood movie,’” CNN, July 31, 2016. 6 Kareem Shaheen, “Military coup was well planned and very nearly succeeded, say Turkish officials,” Guardian, July 18, 2016. 7 Stephanie Saul, “An Exiled Cleric Denies Playing a Leading Role in Coup Attempt,” New York Times, July 16, 2016. 8 Sanchez, op. cit. 9 Steven A. Cook, “Turkey has had lots of coups. Here’s why this one failed.” washingtonpost.com, July 16, 2016; Patrick Kingsley, “‘We thought coups were in the past’: how Turkey was caught unaware,” Guardian, July 16, 2016. 10 Raziye Akkoc, “Erdogan and Gulen: uneasy allies turned bitter foes,” Agence France Presse, July 17, 2016. 11 Soner Cagaptay, “Farewell, President Demirel,” Hurriyet Daily News, June 27, 2015. 12 Freedom House, Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media, and Power in Turkey, February 3, 2014. 13 Under Turkey’s present constitution, the presidency is officially nonpartisan and is less directly involved in most governing tasks than the prime minister. Since becoming president, Erdogan has remained active politically, has claimed greater prerogatives of power under the constitution, and has proposed constitutional change that would consolidate his power more formally by vesting greater authority in the office of the president in a way that may be subject to fewer checks and balances than such systems in the United States and other president-led democracies. Calling a popular referendum to amend the constitution would require a parliamentary supermajority beyond the AKP’s (continued...) 5 Congressional Research Service 2 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief  major personnel and structural changes to the justice sector and the widespread dropping of charges or convictions against Erdogan colleagues14 and military leaders amid government accusations that the Gulen movement had used its own agenda to drive police and prosecutorial actions and was intent on establishing a “parallel structure” to control Turkey.15  official or related private efforts to influence media expression through intimidation, personnel changes, prosecution, and even direct takeover of key enterprises;16  various measures to prevent future protests, including robust police action, restrictions on social media, and official and pro-government media allegations that dissent in Turkey largely comes about through the interaction of small minorities and foreign interests;17  the May 2016 replacement of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s AKP government by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and others characterized as more deferential to Erdogan;18 and  U.S. and European statements of concern regarding Turkish measures targeting civil liberties and the potential for developments that may undermine the rule of law and political and economic stability.19 Analyses of Erdogan sometimes characterize him as one or more of the following: a reflection of the Turkish everyman, a cagey and pragmatic populist, a protector of the vulnerable, a budding authoritarian, an indispensable figure, or an Islamic ideologue.20 Analyses that assert similarities between Erdogan and leaders in countries such as Russia, Iran, and China in personality, psychology, or leadership style offer possible analogies regarding the countries’ respective pathways.21 However, such analyses often do not note factors that might distinguish Turkey from these other countries. For example, unlike Russia or Iran, Turkey’s economy cannot rely on significant rents from natural resources if foreign sources of revenue or investment dry up. Unlike Russia and China, Turkey does not have nuclear weapons under its command and control. Additionally, unlike all three others, Turkey’s economic, political, and national security institutions and traditions have been closely connected with those of the West for decades. Turkey’s future trajectory is likely to be informed by factors including leadership, geopolitics, history, and economics. However, increased internal and external stresses in the past few years may have made Turkey more dependent on military force in confronting threats and maintaining stability, leading some to speculate on the potential for renewed military intervention in politics.22 The plotters’ precise (...continued) current representation. 14 Tim Arango, “Some Charges Are Dropped in Scandal in Turkey,” New York Times, October 17, 2014. 15 Piotr Zalewski, “Erdogan turns on Gulenists’ ‘parallel state’ in battle for power,” Financial Times, May 6, 2014. 16 State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, Turkey, updated June 14, 2016; “Turkey’s Zaman: Editorial tone changes after takeover,” Al Jazeera, March 7, 2016. 17 Lisel Hintz, “Adding Insult to Injury: Vilification as Counter-Mobilization in Turkey’s Gezi Protests,” Project on Middle East Political Science, June 6, 2016. 18 Reuben Silverman, “Some of the President’s Men: Yildirim, Davutoglu, and the ‘Palace Coup’ Before the Coup,” reubensilverman.wordpress.com, August 1, 2016. 19 State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, op. cit.; European Commission, Turkey 2015 Report, November 10, 2015, available at http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2015/20151110_report_turkey.pdf. 20 See e.g., Mustafa Akyol, “Turkey’s Authoritarian Drift,” New York Times, November 10, 2015; Nora Fisher Onar, “The populism/realism gap: Managing uncertainty in Turkey’s politics and foreign policy,” Brookings Institution, February 4, 2016; Mustafa Akyol, “Does Erdogan want his own Islamic state?” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, April 29, 2016; Burak Kadercan, “Erdogan’s Last Off-Ramp: Authoritarianism, Democracy, and the Future of Turkey,” War on the Rocks, July 28, 2016. 21 See e.g., Oral Calislar, “A tale of two Rambos: Putin, Erdogan take on West,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, December 2, 2014; Douglas Bloomfield, “Washington Watch: Is Erdogan the new Ahmadinejad?” Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2013; “Sending the Wrong Signal to Turkey,” New York Times, April 19, 2016. 22 See, e.g. Lars Haugom, “A Political Comeback for the Turkish Military?” Turkey Analyst, March 11, 2016; Michael Rubin, “Could there be a coup in Turkey?” American Enterprise Institute, March 21, 2016; Gonul Tol, “Turkey’s Next Military Coup,” Foreign Affairs, May 30, 2016; Cengiz Candar, “How will Turkey’s military use its restored standing?” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, April 24, 2016. Congressional Research Service 3 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief motivations are unclear, but could possibly have included differences with military and political leadership over Turkey’s general trajectory or specific policies.23 Many observers theorize that the coup attempt probably sought to thwart a reportedly imminent purge of some involved in the plot.24 Figure 1. Past Turkish Domestic Military Interventions Source: Washington Post Amid post-plot turmoil and an atmosphere of distrust, Turkey’s government has detained or dismissed tens of thousands of personnel within its military, judiciary, civil service, and educational system, and taken over or closed various businesses, schools, and media outlets.25 The government largely justifies its actions by claiming that those affected are associated with the Gulen movement, even though the measures may be broader in whom they directly impact.26 Erdogan described the failed coup as a “gift from God” that would allow the military to be “cleansed.”27 The United States, various European leaders, and the U.N. Secretary-General have cautioned Turkey to follow the rule of law.28 Amnesty International alleges that some detainees have been subjected to beatings, torture, and other human rights violations.29 Western countries’ emphasis 23 See, e.g., Borzou Daragahi, “Document Reveals What Really Drove Turkey’s Failed Coup Plotters,” BuzzFeed, July 28, 2016. 24 Joe Parkinson and Adam Entous, “Turkey's Spies Failed to See Coup Coming,” Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2016; Metin Gurcan, “Why Turkey’s coup didn’t stand a chance,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 17, 2016. 25 Tulay Karadeniz, et al., “Turkey dismisses military, shuts media outlets as crackdown deepens,” Reuters, July 28, 2016. 26 Parkinson and Entous, op. cit. 27 David Dolan and Gulsen Solaker, “Turkey rounds up plot suspects after thwarting coup against Erdogan,” Reuters, July 16, 2016. 28 See, e.g., Duncan Robinson and Mehul Srivastava, “US and EU leaders warn Turkey’s Erdogan over post-coup crackdown,” Financial Times, July 18, 2016; “UN head ‘deeply concerned’ by ongoing arrests in Turkey,” Hurriyet Daily News, July 28, 2016. 29 Merrit Kennedy, “Amnesty International: After Turkey’s Failed Coup, Some Detainees Are Tortured, Raped,” NPR, July 25, 2016. Congressional Research Service 4 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief on concerns about the government response has reportedly bothered many Turks (including some who normally oppose Erdogan) who largely show support for the government’s post-coup actions, and who may have expected the West to show more solidarity with the Turkish people after they faced down the coup.30 One observer has indicated that this dynamic may feed “some virulent anti-Americanism—always latent in Turkey but now increasingly on the surface.”31 Observers debate how lasting and influential the purges will be,36 and how the failed coup and echoes of past Turkish military interventions might influence future military and government actions.37 In late July, Turkey’s Supreme State of Emergency and Death Penalty Military Council (YAS) decided that the Debate country’s top military commanders, who On July 21, the Turkish Parliament voted to approve a threemaintained their loyalty to the month state of emergency, which can be extended. This allows government and were taken hostage the government to rule by decree. Turkish also partially during the failed coup, would retain their suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, citing positions.38 Shortly thereafter, the examples from France, Belgium, and Ukraine as precedents.32 government announced a dramatic Turkey is also engaged in a nationwide debate on reinstating capital punishment. Pointing to anti-coup protests that have restructuring of Turkey’s chain of voiced support for bringing back the death penalty, President command, giving the government Erdogan has stated that if the parliament passes such a measure, apparently decisive control over the he will sign it.33 Capital punishment was abolished in Turkey in YAS. Erdogan also revealed plans to 2004 as an EU membership prerequisite. Some EU officials have place the military under the Defense recently reiterated that no country can join the EU while maintaining the death penalty,34 making any reinstatement likely Ministry’s control and to reorganize to render Turkey’s long-stalled prospects for accession an even institutions involved with military more remote possibility.35 39 training and education. With nearly half of the generals and admirals who were serving on July 15 now detained40 and/or dismissed from service,41 there are doubts in some quarters about the efficacy of the Turkish military in combating the numerous threats to Turkish security, including those from the Islamic 30 Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu, “Turks Agree on One Thing: U.S. Was Behind Failed Revolt,” New York Times, August 3, 2016; Kadercan, op. cit.; Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, “Coup Attempt Unifies Turkey — But Could Distance the West,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, August 2, 2016. 31 William Armstrong, “Turkey and the West Are Heading for a Breakup,” War on the Rocks, August 1, 2016. 32 “Turkish Lawmakers Give Leader Erdogan Sweeping New Powers,” Associated Press, July 21, 2016. 33 “President Erdogan: Ready to reinstate the death penalty,” Al Jazeera, July 19, 2016. 34 Selen Girit, “Will Turkey's failed coup mean a return to the death penalty?” BBC News, July 19, 2016. 35 Kursat Akyol, “Will Turkey reinstate the death penalty?” Al-Monitor Turkish Pulse, July 29, 2016. 36 Ben Hubbard, et al., “Failed Turkish Coup Accelerated a Purge Years in the Making,” New York Times, July 22, 2016. 37 See, e.g., Tim Arango, “With Army in Disarray, a Pillar of Turkey Lies Broken,” New York Times, July 29, 2016. For references to past military interventions that occurred outside the chain of command (Turkey’s first coup in 1960 and two failed coups in 1962 and 1963), see Nick Danforth, “Lessons for U.S.-Turkish Relations from a Coup Gone By,” War on the Rocks, July 26, 2016; Aaron Stein, “The Fracturing of Turkey’s Military,” Atlantic Council, July 20, 2016. 38 Emre Peker, “Turkey Firms Grip on Its Military,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2016. 39 Yesim Dikmen and David Dolan, “Turkey culls nearly 1,400 from army, overhauls top military council,” Reuters, July 31, 2016. 40 Arango, “With Army in Disarray, a Pillar of Turkey Lies Broken,” op. cit. 41 Peker, op. cit. Congressional Research Service 5 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief State and the PKK.42 Beyond the personnel challenges, many observers assert that the internal divisions revealed by the coup attempt will be detrimental to both cohesion and morale.43 Implications for U.S./NATO Cooperation The July 2016 failed coup and Turkey’s trajectory in its aftermath could significantly impact U.S.-Turkey relations given Turkey’s regional importance and membership in NATO.47 Among NATO allies, only the U.S. military has more active duty personnel than Turkey’s.48 Post-Plot Tensions and Gulen’s Status Incirlik Air Base Incirlik (pronounced in-jeer-leek) air base has long been the symbolic and logistical center of the U.S. military presence in Turkey. Over the past 15 years, the base has been critical in supplying U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It currently hosts U.S.-led coalition aircraft carrying out anti-IS strikes in Syria and Iraq, and around 1,500 U.S. personnel. Dependents of U.S. military and government personnel were ordered to leave Incirlik and other U.S. installations in Turkey in March 2016.44 During and shortly after the July coup attempt, power to the base was shut off and the airspace over it was closed to some U.S. aircraft after pro-coup forces were revealed to have been using the airfield and assets based there. U.S. personnel and assets at Incirlik continued to function on backup generators.45 U.S. anti-IS sorties have since resumed. The arrest of the base’s Turkish commander for alleged involvement in the coup plot has raised suspicions among some in Turkey about whether the U.S. knew about the coup in advance.46 In the wake of the failed coup, some tensions have arisen between the United States and Turkey. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on July 16 that a wide-ranging purge “would be a great challenge to [Erdogan’s] relationship to Europe, to NATO and to all of us.”49 As mentioned above, an apparent disconnect between many Turks and Western observers regarding Turkey’s post-coup response may be one factor complicating U.S.Turkey relations.50 Some Turkish officials and media have accused the U.S. of prior knowledge of or involvement in the coup attempt. President Obama dismissed such accusations on July 22 as “unequivocally false” and threatening to U.S.-Turkey ties.51 The claims may partly stem from popular Turkish sensitivities about historical U.S. closeness to Turkey’s military. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, both have raised 42 Metin Gurcan, “Critical meeting will determine fate of Turkish forces post-coup,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 25, 2016; Humeyra Pamuk and Gareth Jones, “INSIGHT- Turkish military a fractured force after attempted coup,” Reuters, July 26, 2016. 43 Soner Cagaptay, “Turkey’s Troubling Turn,” Foreign Affairs, July 19, 2016; James Stavridis, “Turkey and NATO: What Comes Next Is Messy,” Foreign Policy, July 18, 2016. 44 Andrew Tilghman, “U.S. military dependents ordered to leave Turkey,” Military Times, March 29, 2016. 45 Michael S. Schmidt and Tim Arango, “In a Bid to Maintain Ties, Turkey Changes Its Tone,” New York Times, August 2, 2016; Selin Nasi, “Turbulence in Turkish-US ties: The Incirlik crisis,” Hurriyet Daily News, July 21, 2016. 46 Oriana Pawlyk and Jeff Shogol, “Incirlik has power again, but Turkey mission faces uncertain future,” Military Times, July 22, 2016. 47 Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu, “Erdogan Triumphs After Coup Attempt, but Turkey’s Fate Is Unclear,” New York Times, July 18, 2016. 48 “Turkey: Executive Summary,” IHS Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - Eastern Mediterranean, July 25, 2016. 49 Gardiner Harris, “John Kerry Rejects Suggestions of U.S. Involvement in Turkey Coup,” New York Times, July 17, 2016. 50 See, e.g., Unluhisarcikli, op. cit. 51 White House, Remarks by President Obama and President Pena Nieto of Mexico in Joint Press Conference, July 22, 2016. Congressional Research Service 6 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief concerns about how post-plot military personnel changes might affect U.S.-Turkey cooperation, prompting criticism from Erdogan that has further fed speculation in Turkey about alleged U.S. connections with the plot.52 Further complicating U.S.-Turkey relations, in the plot’s aftermath the Turkish government has intensified its calls (which date back to 2014)53 for the United States to extradite Gulen.54 According to polls, calls for Gulen’s extradition have widespread public support in Turkey.55 In a July 19 phone call with Erdogan, President Obama said that the United States is “willing to provide appropriate assistance to Turkish authorities investigating the attempted coup” while urging that Turkish authorities conduct their investigation “in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law.”56 In a late July interview, Erdogan alleged that a “mastermind” was behind Fethullah Gulen’s coming to the United States.57 For more information on U.S.-Turkey dynamics regarding the extradition issue, see CRS In Focus IF10444, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey, and the United States: A Reference, by Jim Zanotti. For more information on the U.S. extradition process in general, see CRS Report RS22702, An Abridged Sketch of Extradition To and From the United States, by Charles Doyle. Some Turkish officials have sought to portray U.S. extradition of Gulen as critical for positive U.S.-Turkey relations,58 though the potential consequences if he is not extradited remain unclear. In early August 2016, during a visit to Turkey by General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top Turkish officials reassured Dunford that the United States would continue to enjoy access to Incirlik and other bases in Turkey.59 Specific Issues for U.S. Policy Specific issues of concern with implications for U.S. policy going forward include:  Turkey’s NATO Role. U.S./NATO basing and operations in Turkey, joint exercises and expeditionary missions, and NATO assistance (including air defense batteries and AWACS aircraft60) to address Turkey’s external threats.  Arms Sales and Bilateral Military Cooperation. U.S. arms sales or potential sales to Turkey include F-35 next-generation fighter aircraft.61 The United States provides annual security-related aid to Turkey of approximately $3-5 million.62 52 Dion Nissenbaum and Paul Sonne, “Turkish President Rebukes U.S. General,” Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2016. Earlier, Clapper had said in an interview that the intelligence he had seen had not turned up evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the coup plot. David Ignatius, “A reality check on the Middle East from America’s spy chief,” Washington Post, July 21, 2016. However, in an early August interview on Turkish television, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass referred to the “apparent involvement of a large number” of Gulen’s supporters in the plot. Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu, “Turks Agree on One Thing: U.S. Was Behind Failed Revolt,” op. cit. 53 Gulsen Solaker, “Turkey’s Erdogan calls on U.S. to extradite rival Gulen,” Reuters, April 29, 2014. 54 Jessica Durando, “Turkey demands extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen from U.S.,” USA Today, July 19, 2016. 55 “Most Turks believe a secretive Muslim sect was behind the failed coup,” Economist, July 28, 2016. 56 White House, Readout of the President’s Call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, July 19, 2016. 57 Dikmen and Dolan, op. cit. 58 Schmidt and Arango, op. cit. 59 Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Erin Cunningham, “Pentagon’s top general seeks to cool anti-American sentiment in Turkey,” Washington Post, August 1, 2016. 60 NATO Fact Sheet, “Augmentation of Turkey’s Air Defence,” June 2016; NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, “NATO AWACS Increases Assurance Measures to Turkey,” March 15, 2016; John-Thor Dahlberg, “NATO chief: AWACS will aid anti-Islamic State operations,” Associated Press, July 4, 2016. Congressional Research Service 7 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief  Syria and Iraq Issues and Anti-IS Coalition. Including U.S.-Turkey dynamics involving the Islamic State, Kurds within and outside Turkey, other state and non-state actors, and contested territory in northern Syria.  Domestic Stability, Human Rights, and Kurdish Issues. Including the government’s approach to rule of law, civil liberties, terrorist threats, Kurds and other minorities, and nearly three million refugees and migrants from Syria and elsewhere.  Border Concerns. Turkey’s ability and willingness, in concert with other international actors, to control cross-border flows of refugees, migrants, and possible foreign fighters and terrorists. Figure 2. Recent Terrorist Attacks in Turkey Source: Deutsche Welle, July 2016 Notes: All figures are approximate. (...continued) 61 Jeffrey Rathke and Lisa Sawyer Samp, “Security in the Eastern Mediterranean after the Coup Attempt: Turkey’s Reckoning and Washington’s Worries,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 21, 2016; “Despite Tensions With US, Lockheed Prepares to Hand Over F-35s to Turkey,” Sputnik News, July 20, 2016. Turkey is one of 12 partner countries (including the United States) in the multinational consortium responsible for the F-35’s manufacture. See https://www.f35.com/global. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress in 2006 of a possible direct commercial sale of up to 100 F-35s to Turkey, with delivery on any sale projected to take place over the next decade. To date, Turkey has ordered six F-35s. “Turkey – Procurement,” IHS Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - Eastern Mediterranean, December 8, 2015. For more information on recent, ongoing, and prospective U.S. arms transfers to Turkey, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti. 62 State Department FY2017 Congressional Budget Justification, Foreign Operations, Appendix 3, pp. 114-116. Congressional Research Service 8 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Recently Improved Turkish Relations with Israel and Russia Turkey’s relations with key neighbors could have significant implications for U.S.-Turkey relations as well. In the weeks prior to the coup, Turkey had undertaken efforts to reconcile or improve its troubled ties with both Israel and Russia, and had stated an interest in improving its relations with other nearby countries. The efforts may partly have reflected Turkish leaders’ desires to (1) bolster Erdogan’s position domestically and internationally in light of various national security threats, economic concerns (including a major decline in foreign tourism), and recent criticism of his rule;63 (2) address Turkey’s growing demand for external sources of energy;64 and (3) improve Turkey’s prospects of influencing regional political-military outcomes, particularly in Syria and Iraq.65 In late June 2016, Turkey and Israel announced the full restoration of diplomatic relations. Reportedly, Vice President Joe Biden facilitated the rapprochement in part due to potential mutual benefits anticipated by both sides from the construction of a natural gas pipeline from offshore Israeli fields to Turkey.66 According to media reports, the rapprochement includes Israeli compensation to the families of those killed in the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident67 in exchange for an end to legal claims, as well as opportunities for Turkey to assist with humanitarian and infrastructure projects for Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip. It is unclear to what extent Turkey might—as part of the rapprochement—contemplate limiting its ties with Hamas or the activities of some Hamas figures reportedly based in Turkey.68 Also in June, Turkey made strides toward repairing relations with Russia that had been strained since November 2015 when a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian Su-24 aircraft near the Turkey-Syria border under disputed circumstances. Erdogan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing regret for the November incident. In response, Russia lifted various economic sanctions it had imposed after the incident,69 and state-owned Gazprom subsequently announced that work that had reportedly been put on hold regarding a planned natural gas pipeline between the two countries (known as Turkish Stream) would resume.70 Concerns about possible Russian retaliation prevented Turkey from carrying out air sorties over Syria after the incident,71 and reported Russian support or enabling of Syrian Kurdish forces may have also been partially motivated by bilateral tensions.72 Some analysts posit that in light of Western criticism of the post-coup crackdown on domestic opposition, Erdogan may opt to seek closer relations with Russia, possibly at the expense of Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and Europe. 73 However, Turkey has a long history of tension with Russia.74 63 Yaroslav Trofimov, “Turkey Changes Tack on Foreign Policy to Win Back Friends,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2016. 64 Soner Cagaptay and James Jeffrey, “Turkey’s Regional Charm Offensive: Motives and Prospects,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 27, 2016. 65 Laura Pitel, “Flurry of diplomatic activity marks Turkey foreign policy shift,” Financial Times, June 28, 2016. 66 Many analysts assert that a Turkey-Israel pipeline would probably traverse Cypriot waters, thus necessitating an improvement in Turkish-Cypriot relations, if not a resolution to the decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. For information on ongoing diplomacy regarding Cyprus, see CRS Report R41136, Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, by Vincent L. Morelli. Discussion of a pipeline may also attract the attention of Russia, currently Turkey’s largest natural gas supplier. 67 For more information on the incident, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti. 68 Rory Jones, et al., “Turkey, Israel Trumpet Benefits of Deal to Normalize Relations,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2016. 69 “Russia closes ‘crisis chapter’ with Turkey,” Al Jazeera, June 29, 2016. 70 Dmitry Solovyov, “Russia, Turkey reach ‘political decision’ on TurkStream, nuclear power plant: agencies,” Reuters, July 26, 2016. 71 Deniz Zeyrek, “Turkey suspends Syria flights after crisis with Russia,” Hurriyet Daily News, November 27, 2015. 72 Trofimov, op. cit.; Fabrice Balanche, “The Struggle for Azaz Corridor Could Spur a Turkish Intervention,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2532, December 11, 2015. 73 Soner Cagaptay, “If tensions increase with the west, Erdogan might find a friend in Putin,” Guardian, July 23, 2016. 74 Soner Cagaptay, “When Russia Howls, Turkey Moves,” War on the Rocks, December 2, 2015. Congressional Research Service 9 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Strategic and Political Assessment U.S. civilian and military installations and personnel in Turkey were unharmed during the July 2016 attempted putsch. However, concerns surrounding plot-related events that transpired at Incirlik air base (see textbox above) have fueled discussion among analysts about the advisability of continued U.S./NATO use of Turkish bases,75 including the reported storage of aircraftdeliverable nuclear weapons at Incirlik (for more information, see CRS Insight IN10542, U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey, by Amy F. Woolf).76 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 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. 75 Rathke and Samp, op. cit. Aaron Stein, “Nuclear Weapons in Turkey Are Destabilizing, but Not for the Reason You Think,” War on the Rocks, July 22, 2016; Tobin Harshaw, “Why the U.S. should move nukes out of Turkey,” Bloomberg, July 25, 2016; Jeffrey Lewis, “America’s Nukes Aren’t Safe in Turkey Anymore,” Foreign Policy, July 18, 2016; Eric Schlosser, “The HBombs in Turkey,” New Yorker, July 17, 2016. 76 Congressional Research Service 10 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Figure 3. Map of U.S. and NATO Military Presence in Turkey 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.77 Calculations regarding the costs and benefits to the United States of a U.S./NATO presence in Turkey, and how changes or potential changes in U.S./NATO posture might influence Turkish calculations and policies, revolve to a significant extent around the following two questions:  77 To what extent does the United States rely on the use of Turkish territory or airspace to secure and protect U.S. interests? For more information, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti. Congressional Research Service 11 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief  To what extent does Turkey rely on U.S./NATO support, both in principle and in functional terms, for its security and its ability to exercise influence in the surrounding region? The cost to the United States of finding a temporary or permanent replacement for Incirlik air base would likely depend on a number of variables, including the functionality and location of alternatives, the location of future U.S. military engagements, and the political and economic difficulty involved in moving or expanding U.S. military operations elsewhere. Any reevaluation of the U.S./NATO presence in and relationship with Turkey would take a number of political considerations into account alongside strategic and operational ones. Certain differences between Turkey and its NATO allies, including some related to Syria in recent years, may persist irrespective of who leads these countries given their varying (1) geographical positions, (2) threat perceptions, and (3) roles in regional and global political and security architectures. Turkey’s historically and geopolitically driven efforts to avoid domination by outside powers—sometimes called the “Sèvres syndrome”78—resonate in its ongoing attempts to achieve greater military, economic, and political self-sufficiency and to influence its surrounding environment. The potential for the United States to use its political relationship with Turkey to boost U.S. influence in the greater Middle East remains inconclusive. Regardless of some difficulties with the United States and other NATO countries, Turkey remains a key regional power that shares linkages and characteristics with the West,79 which may distinguish Turkey from other Muslimmajority regional powers such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Therefore, cooperation with Turkey, along with other actors, is likely to remain relevant for the advancement of U.S. interests in the volatile area.80 However, recent foreign and domestic policy developments may have constrained Turkey’s role as a shaper of regional outcomes, a model for neighboring countries, and a facilitator of U.S. interests.81 Additionally, as Turkey’s energy consumption grows along with its economy, its dependence on Russia82 and Iran83 for significant portions of its energy may contribute to constraints on some aspects of its security cooperation with the United States and NATO. Turkey engages with a wide range of non-NATO actors as part of its efforts to cultivate military and defense industrial links and to exercise greater regional and global influence politically and economically.84 Still, for the time being, Turkey lacks comparable alternatives to its security and 78 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. 79 “Foreign policy: Alone in the world,” Economist, February 6, 2016. 80 See, e.g., M. Hakan Yavuz and Mujeeb R. Khan, “Turkey Treads a Positive Path,” New York Times, February 12, 2015. 81 Michael Crowley, “Did Obama get Erdogan wrong?” Politico, July 16, 2016. Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University in Istanbul, quoted in Liz Sly, “Turkey’s increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers,” Washington Post, February 20, 2016. 82 Russia supplies about 20% of Turkey’s energy consumption. “Russia v Turkey: Over the borderline,” Economist, November 28, 2015. 83 Turkey has become less dependent on Iranian oil in recent years, but—according to 2015 government figures—still receives about 22% of the oil it imports from Iran (with more than 45% now coming from Iraq) and 15.3% of the natural gas it imports from Iran (with more than 58% coming from Russia). See http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkeys-energystrategy.en.mfa. 84 For example, in a now-discontinued effort to seek a foreign partner for a multibillion-dollar air and missile defense system, Turkish officials in 2013 indicated a preliminary preference for a Chinese state-controlled company’s offer until reported problems with negotiations, criticism from NATO allies, and competing offers from European and U.S. (continued...) Congressional Research Service 12 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief economic ties with the West, with which it shares a more than 60-year legacy of institutionalized cooperation. Kurds in Turkey It is still not clear how the failed coup will affect Erdogan’s stance toward Turkey’s Kurds, which has changed in recent years. Until the spring of 2015, Erdogan appeared to prefer negotiating a political compromise with PKK leaders over the prospect of armed conflict.85 However, against the backdrop of PKK affiliated Kurdish groups’ continued success in Syria, and a June 2015 election in Turkey in which the pro-Kurdish party (People’s Democratic Party, Turkish acronym HDP) made substantial gains, Erdogan adopted a more nationalistic rhetorical stance criticizing the PKK and HDP. Around the same time, the PKK was reportedly preparing for a possible renewal of conflict in southeastern Turkey.86 The balance of leverage between the government and the PKK was at least partly affected after late 2014 by growing U.S. support for PKK-affiliated Kurds in Syria who are fighting against the Islamic State (specifically the Democratic Union Party—Kurdish acronym PYD—and its militia the People’s Protection Units—Kurdish acronym YPG).87 Although the United States has considered the PKK to be a terrorist group since 1997, it does not apply this characterization to the PYD/YPG.88 A complicated set of circumstances involving IS-linked terrorist attacks against pro-Kurdish demonstrators, PKK allegations of Turkish government acquiescence to or complicity with the attacks, and a deadly ambush of Turkish security personnel led to a resumption of violence between government forces and the PKK in the summer of 2015. The return to violence helped Erdogan in the short term, with some Kurds presumably moving back to the AKP from the HDP in November 2015 elections because of the PKK’s return to conflict.89 The resurgent Turkey-PKK violence led Turkish authorities to take emergency measures to overcome PKK-affiliated redoubts in key southeastern urban areas.90 Since December 2015, at least 350,000 have been displaced and the region’s infrastructure has suffered significant damage, (...continued) companies apparently led the Turks to move away from this preference. Lale Sariibrahimoglu, “Turkey begins TLoramids talks with Eurosam,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 8, 2014. 85 For more information on the various Kurdish groups in Syria and their relationships with Turkey-based groups and the Turkish state, see CRS Report R44513, Kurds in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Partners Against the Islamic State, coordinated by Jim Zanotti. 86 Ugur Ergan, “Attacks reveal PKK prepared for war during peace talks: Analyst,” Hurriyet Daily News, August 21, 2015; Aliza Marcus, “Turkey’s Kurdish Guerrillas Are Ready for War,” Foreign Policy, August 31, 2015. 87 Semih Idiz, “US support of Syrian Kurds ruffles Turkey’s feathers,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, August 4, 2015. 88 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 in a February 23, 2016, press briefing, the Defense Department spokesperson said that “we will continue to disagree with Turkey [with] regard [to] … our support for those particular [Kurdish] groups that are taking the fight to ISIL, understanding their concerns about terrorist activities.” In an April, 28, 2016 Senate hearing, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appeared to answer ‘yes’ to a question on whether the YPG has ties to the PKK, but he later reiterated that the YPG is not a designated terrorist organization. 89 Piotr Zalewski, “Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party reels as AKP storms back into power,” Financial Times, November 2, 2015. 90 Orhan Coskun, “Turkish warplanes strike northern Iraq after Ankara bombing blamed on Kurdish militants,” Reuters, March 14, 2016. Congressional Research Service 13 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief according to the Turkish Ministry of Health.91 The violence has fueled international concerns about possible human rights abuses.92 Figures are difficult to verify, but Erdogan claimed in March 2016 that 5,000 PKK militants and 355 state security forces had been killed in the offensive93 and the U.S. State Department reported “dozens” of civilian deaths as of December 2015.94 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.95 The military effort against the PKK in the southeast has been led by Turkey’s Second Army, whose commander has been detained in connection with the coup plot.96 Some analysts assert that post-coup changes involving commanders and personnel could affect force readiness.97 The Turkish military launched air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq in the days following the coup, possibly at least partly to project a sense of continuity and stability.98 In late 2015, some Turkish observers alleged that remarks by HDP leaders supported armed Kurdish resistance. Erdogan called for action revoking parliamentary members’ immunity from expulsion and prosecution.99 In May 2016, legislators (largely from the AKP and the Nationalist Action Party—Turkish acronym MHP) approved this change by amending the constitution.100 Before the failed coup, many analysts anticipated action against parliamentary members from the HDP and perhaps some from the main opposition CHP (Turkish acronym for Republican People’s Party), at least partly as a way to advance Erdogan’s quest for a favorable parliamentary supermajority to establish a presidential system. They speculated about how a virtual disenfranchisement of Kurdish nationalist voters might affect prospects for heightened or extended Turkey-PKK violence.101 In the aftermath of the failed coup, next steps regarding the PKK and HDP and prospects for resuming Turkey-PKK negotiations are uncertain. Despite the HDP’s quick condemnation of the plot, along with all other parties in parliament, Erdogan continues to exclude HDP leaders from cross-party meetings and events.102 Some HDP figures have voiced concern that CHP and MHP solidarity with the AKP might isolate them or leave them prone to a future government crackdown.103 91 Zia Weise, “Turkey’s ‘like Syria,’” Politico Europe, March 21, 2016. Suzan Fraser, “Turkey’s military has ended a three-month operation against Kurdish militants in the largest city in the country’s mostly Kurdish southeast,” Associated Press, March 9, 2016. 93 Seyhmus Cakan, “More than 5,000 Kurdish militants killed since July: Turkey’s Erdogan,” Reuters, March 28, 2016. 94 State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, op. cit 95 See, e.g., “Obama calls Erdogan to discuss Ankara attack, Syria,” Anadolu Agency, February 19, 2016. 96 Kadri Gursel, “Turkey’s failed coup reveals ‘army within an army,’” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, July 22, 2016. 97 See, e.g., Aaron Stein, “Inside a failed coup and Turkey’s fragmented military,” War on the Rocks, July 20, 2016. 98 “Turkey air strikes kill PKK fighters in northern Iraq,” Al Jazeera, July 20, 2016. 99 “Turkey’s Erdogan: Demirtas Kurdish autonomy plea is ‘treason,’” BBC News, December 29, 2015. 100 “Turkey passes bill to strip politicians of immunity,” Al Jazeera, May 20, 2016. 101 Kadri Gursel, “Ouster of Kurdish MPs threatens to fuel separatism in Turkey,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, May 23, 2016. 102 See, e.g., “No invitation to Turkish leaders’ summit angers HDP,” Hurriyet Daily News, July 25, 2016. 103 Diego Cupolo, “The state of emergency for Turkey’s opposition,” dw.com, July 25, 2016. 92 Congressional Research Service 14 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief Syria U.S.-Turkey Dealings A number of developments, such as international jihadist terror incidents and refugee flows, particularly in the past year, have driven U.S. expectations regarding Turkish cooperation with respect to Syria. Though some observers alleged that Turkey had been slow in 2013 and 2014 to curtail activities involving its territory that were seen as bolstering the Islamic State and other Sunni extremist groups,104 Turkey has partnered with the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, including through hosting coalition aircraft that (since summer 2015) strike targets in Syria and Iraq. In engaging in these efforts, Turkish officials have sought greater intelligence sharing from foreign fighters’ countries of origin, with some success.105 Even as periodic IS-linked terrorist attacks and cross-border rocket attacks have killed dozens in Turkey in recent months, various factors contribute to Turkish leaders’ continuing concerns about Kurdish groups106 and the Syrian government and its allies. Turkish priorities are likely to depend on perceived threats and the options Turkish leaders discern for minimizing them.107 As with Turkey’s efforts against the PKK, Turkey’s capacity to influence events in Syria appears to be affected by the July 2016 failed coup and military shakeup.108 These, in turn, may be impacting the calculations of the Syrian government and other key actors.109 Refugee Issue and European Union Deal Since 2011, approximately three million refugees or migrants from Syria and other countries have come to Turkey, posing significant humanitarian, socioeconomic, and security challenges. Turkey has spent approximately $9 billion on refugee assistance110 and its camps have reportedly provided a relatively high standard of care.111 Turkey does not grant formal refugee status to nonEuropeans,112 but has adjusted its laws and practices in recent years to provide greater protection and assistance to asylum-seekers, regardless of their country of origin. With the imminent return of most refugees unlikely due to continuing conflict in Syria, Turkey is focusing more on how to manage their longer-term presence in Turkish society—including with reference to their basic 104 See, e.g., Alison Smale, “Turkey’s Role as Migrant Gateway Is Source of New Urgency for E.U.,” New York Times, November 18, 2015; Lale Sariibrahimoglu, “On the borderline–Turkey’s ambiguous approach to Islamic State,” IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, October 16, 2014. 105 Greg Miller and Souad Mekhennet, “Undercover teams, increased surveillance and hardened borders: Turkey cracks down on foreign fighters,” Washington Post, March 6, 2016. 106 For more information, see CRS Report R44513, Kurds in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Partners Against the Islamic State, coordinated by Jim Zanotti. 107 See, e.g., Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, “Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria,” Washington Post, June 1, 2016; Soner Cagaptay, “Turkey’s Istanbul attack vengeance will be like ‘rain from hell,’” CNN, June 29, 2016; Nick Ashdown, “Turkey’s Tourism Plummets amid Bombings and Crisis with Russia,” Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2016. 108 See, e.g., Yaroslav Trofimov, “Fallout from Turkey Coup Leaves Syria Rebels in the Lurch,” Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2016. 109 Ibid. 110 “Turkey has spent $9 bn on refugees: Erdogan,” Agence France Presse, February 1, 2016. 111 Mac McClelland, “How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp,” New York Times Magazine, February 13, 2014. 112 See http://www.geneva-academy.ch/RULAC/international_treaties.php?id_state=226. Congressional Research Service 15 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief needs, employment,113 education, and impact on local communities—and on preventing additional mass influxes. After the July 2016 failed coup in Turkey, some observers question Turkey’s ability to manage the situation.114 In response to hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants leaving Turkey for the Greek islands in 2015 and the first three months of 2016, Turkey and the European Union (EU) reached an arrangement in March 2016 providing for the return from Greece to Turkey of “irregular migrants or asylum seekers whose applications have been declared inadmissible.”115 In exchange, the EU agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee for every Syrian readmitted to Turkey, and additionally promised to (1) speed up the disbursement of a previously allocated €3 billion in aid to Turkey and provide up to €3 billion more to assist with refugee care in Turkey through 2018, (2) grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens if Turkey meets certain requirements, and (3) “reenergize” Turkey’s EU accession process.116 The deterrent effect of the arrangement appears to have contributed to a dramatic reduction in the number of people crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands, leading some observers to characterize it to date as a pragmatic success.117 Ongoing Turkey-EU disputes and questions about the deal’s compatibility with international legal and human rights standards, however, call its long-term viability into question. Turkish officials want the EU to pay assistance funds directly to the government, rather than to third-party organizations,118 and Turkey appears resistant to meeting the EU’s precondition that it narrow the scope of a key anti-terrorism law in order for the visa waiver to go into effect.119 The EU announced in June that the visa waiver determination would be delayed to October, though doubts have arisen about that timeline and the durability of the overall deal in light of EU criticism of post-coup developments in Turkey.120 Additionally, a number of international organizations and other observers claim that the TurkeyEU deal does not or may not meet international norms and laws.121 Some reports from 2016 claim that Turkish officials have expelled some Syrian refugees and that security forces have shot or beaten others at the border to prevent them from entering.122 Some displaced persons unable to 113 For information on a recently introduced work permit option for Syrian refugees registered in Turkey, see Daryl Grisgaber and Ann Hollingsworth, Planting the Seeds of Success? Turkey’s New Refugee Work Permits, Refugees International, April 14, 2016. 114 See, e.g., Jessica Brandt, “Turkey’s failed coup could have disastrous consequences for Europe’s migrant crisis,” Brookings Institution, July 29, 2016. 115 European Commission Fact Sheet, “Implementing the EU-Turkey Statement – Questions and Answers,” June 15, 2016, available at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-1664_en.htm. 116 Ibid. 117 See, e.g., James Traub, “If the Refugee Deal Crumbles, There Will Be Hell to Pay,” Foreign Policy, June 7, 2016. Around the time of the March 2016 deal, the closure of various migration routes from Greece to other European countries via the Western Balkans probably also contributed to the drop in maritime crossings from Turkey. 118 Laura Pitel and Alex Barker, “Turkey demands EU hands over €3bn for refugees,” Financial Times, May 11, 2016. 119 Semih Idiz, “Turkish-EU ties in throes of a slow death,” Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse, June 21, 2016. 120 Brandt, op. cit.; Ruth Bender and Margaret Coker, “Turkey Clashes with EU Allies,” Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2016; Hortese Goulard, “Gunther Oettinger: No visa waiver for Turkey this year,” Politico EU, July 19, 2016; Rem Korteweg, “Can the EU-Turkey Migration Deal Survive Erdogan’s Purges?” Centre for European Reform, August 2, 2016. 121 See, e.g., Amnesty International, No Safe Refuge: Asylum-Seekers and Refugees Denied Effective Protection in Turkey, June 2016; Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), “EU States’ dangerous approach to migration places asylum in jeopardy worldwide,” June 17, 2016. 122 Amnesty International, “Turkey: Illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal,” April 1, 2016; Human Rights Watch, “Turkey: Border Guards Kill and Injure Asylum Seekers,” May 10, 2016; Ceylan (continued...) Congressional Research Service 16 Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief reach Turkey are in makeshift camps on the Syrian side of the border.123 Largely owing to concerns regarding Turkey’s “safe country” status, Greek asylum adjudicators are returning fewer claimants to Turkey than was generally expected at the time of the deal,124 while disputes within and between EU countries additionally cloud the prospects of large-scale refugee resettlement from Turkey. Author Contact Information Jim Zanotti Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs jzanotti@crs.loc.gov, 7-1441 Acknowledgments Clayton B. Thomas, Presidential Management Fellow in Middle Eastern Affairs (cbthomas@crs.loc.gov, 72433), co-authored this report. (...continued) Yeginsu, “11 Syrian Refugees Reported Killed by Turkish Border Guards,” New York Times, June 20, 2016. 123 Human Rights Watch, “Turkey: Open Border to Displaced Syrians Shelled by Government,” April 20, 2016. 124 Nektaria Stamouli, “EU's Migration Plan Hits Snag in Greece,” Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2016. In May, a European Commission spokesperson said, “No asylum seeker will be sent back to Turkey under the EU-Turkey agreement if, in their individual case, Turkey cannot be considered a safe third country or safe first country of asylum.” Ibid. Congressional Research Service 17