U.S. intelligence rings alarm bells over Turkey alliance - UPI

The U.S. intelligence community is “ringing the alarm bell” on the United States’ relationship with Turkey as ongoing disagreements deepen the rift separating the countries, journalist Lucas Robinson wrote for United Press International on Monday.

The annual worldwide threat assessment report by the U.S. intelligence community, published last week, singled out Turkey as a country drifting away from the United States, blaming this on Turkish leaders’ “growing authoritarianism” which it said had made them more willing to challenge their U.S. allies.

The report came after a year in which U.S.-Turkish relations were marred by the detention in Turkey of U.S. citizens including Pastor Andrew Brunson, and the U.S. support of Kurdish militias in Syria deemed a threat by Turkey.

Though Brunson was released in October, the issues in Syria are a continued source of tension that have additionally sown confusion in the U.S. government.

President Donald Trump has had to row back his vow to pull U.S. troops out of Syria in the short term after announcing an immediate U.S. withdrawal on Dec. 19, and bipartisan senators “introduced an amendment Tuesday to a Middle East policy bill in the Senate that would require Trump to submit to Congress a strategy for defending the Kurds in northern Syria,” Robinson said.  

If the amendment goes through, it could push Turkey further towards a break with the United States that analysts have warned is aleady a real possibility.

"How much more stress can this relationship take before it breaks? I don't think a breakup is eminent, but the issues are expanding, and the issues that are on the list are broadening,” UPI quoted Bülent Alirıza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as saying.

Alirıza’s words echoed a statement made by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who told the senate last week his assessment that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would view Turkey’s alliance with the United States as “important but not decisive.”

For Alirıza, Turkey’s drift away from the United States is partly down to the end of the Cold War, which removed the “shared fear of the Soviet Union that bonded the two countries.”