Brunson case points to new geopolitical reality - analysis

The meetings between senior U.S. and Turkish officials in Washington on Wednesday failed to resolve the crisis between Ankara and Washington, signalling a new geopolitical reality, wrote Elmira Bayrasli, professor at Bard College’s Globalization and International Affairs Program, in an article in New Republic journal.

The U.S. decided on August 1 to impose sanctions on the Turkish justice and interior ministers over the continued detention of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is charged with membership in terrorist organizations. Tensions between the NATO allies continue to soar.

Recalling the the rift between Turkey and the United States started in 2003, after George W. Bush invaded Iraq, the article stressed that the relationship deteriorated as the Syrian civil war on Turkey’s border worsened as Erdoğan faced nationwide government protests and corruption allegations.

The longstanding tension over a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania—Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara acuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup, further eroded Ankara’s ties to Washington. Ankara has demanded that the United States hand Gülen over. 

 Ankara and Washington have had their disagreements in Syria, too.

‘’The United States has gravitated to the Syrian Kurds, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. The YPG has long fought ISIS—and has, in certain instances, succeeded. Unfortunately, Turkey does not look kindly on the YPG or the Kurds in general,’’ Bayrasli wrote.

 The most recent tension over Brunson ‘’plays to the American president’s base,’’ as Trump has called Brunson “a great Christian” and “innocent man of faith.”

The spat over Brunson is likely only the beginning of a series of conflicts, according to Bayrasli, who stressed that even though Turkey’s economy is in bad shape, and the sanctions since last week have caused the Turkish lira to fall still further, Turkey is not as vulnerable to American actions as it once was.

As Trump alienates Europe, Turkey has used the opportunity to renew relations with its neighbors, Bayrasli wrote, adding, ‘’It is unlikely that the United States and Turkey will resolve their differences anytime soon. But given Turkey’s geostrategic location—in the backyard of Russia, and bordering Iraq, Iran, and Syria—the United States has an interest in maintaining the relationship. Turkey, meanwhile, does not need to add to its economic woes.’’