Calls are repeated in American right-wing circles from time to time to transfer the Incirlik base from Turkish territory, and these calls are renewed with the escalation of crises in the relationship between Turkey and some NATO countries, so how serious is it and does it have an impact?
Commenting on those calls, a former American diplomat said – in response to Al Jazeera Net’s question – “The issue of relocating the American base in Incirlik has been repeated with every crisis in US-Turkish relations since the start of our forces’ presence there in 1951. The past seven decades, despite the depth of differences between Washington and Ankara on many occasions. “
There are calls in right-wing newspapers and websites calling on US President Donald Trump to abandon the Turkish ally. The Washington Examiner newspaper, for example, stated that “in the face of divergent strategic interests in recent years with Turkey, Washington should consider moving the Incirlik base in southern Turkey outside it. “.
Many commentators do not see Washington taking a neutral stance on tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey, the two countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
A professor at the Pentagon’s National Defense University, David de Roch, said that there is some bias in favor of Greece and Cypriots among the Europeans, and not necessarily among the Americans. Cyprus and Greece enjoy membership in the European Union, unlike Turkey.
De Roch adds that “France strongly supports Greece and Cyprus because it is constantly seeking to advance the European Union at the expense of NATO.” However, he also does not see that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has miscalculated in dealing with Washington, although he is “unpopular in The United States has done a lot of damage to Turkey’s interests in the West, according to de Roche.
Nevertheless, there is an American recognition that Turkey occupies a major role in NATO, and represents a crucial partner for the US efforts in Iraq and Syria.
He adds that “a large number of Greeks are in the United States and tend to be Washington open and supportive of Greece, and there are also fewer Turks, many of whom see themselves as exiles, who are not Erdogan’s admirers. However, the strategic importance of Turkey is undeniable.” It will always be important to the United States. “
Militarily strong and diplomatically weak
For his part, Howard Eisenstadt, a professor at Lawrence University and an expert on Turkish-American relations – in an interview with Al Jazeera Net – stated that “Washington has not taken a position in favor of Greece or Turkey in their conflict in the eastern Mediterranean, and if there is any clear American position, then it is silence about this tension.”
He adds that the bottom line is that Turkey’s position is – relatively – strong militarily but very weak diplomatically. “I have some sympathy for aspects of the moral issue of the Turkish position, but from the perspective of international law, Turkey does not actually have many foundations at all.”
Incirlik will not be closed
All the experts with whom Al-Jazeera Net contacted have ruled out the scenario of closing the Incirlik base, and some believe that Trump can pressure Erdogan by transferring one or two military units from Incirlik, but the United States has already taken the main step by expelling Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program. (F-35), and there is not much that can be done to attract Turkey’s attention.
Eisenstadt ruled out that Washington would close the Incirlik base or withdraw from it the operating American units, adding in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, “It is clear that the increased dependence of the United States on Greece in the eastern Mediterranean is a new reality, but abandoning Incirlik would be a very dramatic step for diplomacy if not.” It is not for military reasons, and therefore I do not think that this may happen in the foreseeable future. “
De Roch agreed with this proposition, adding that the Incirlik base has a large infrastructure and has been invested in it, and Crete cannot replace it. “We have problems with Turkey at the present time, and we have had problems with Greece in the past as well.”
De Roch pointed out that NATO member states have contributed their money to the costs of establishing the infrastructure in Incirlik, and all of them – led by the United States – have used this base in the past to support operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
Biden and Incirlik’s Future
Although he does not know precisely the position of candidate Joe Biden on the eastern Mediterranean conflicts, he will certainly follow a realistic policy that does not carry any surprises with it.
Eisenstadt considered that Washington would work “to manage the tension in the eastern Mediterranean, and its primary goal is to ensure that the situation does not explode, and this position is unlikely to change if Biden came to power.”
Despite the strength of the personal relations between Presidents Trump and Erdogan, Washington has taken strong positions towards Turkey, which Eisenstadt explains by saying that “There are other components of US foreign policy that may change: I think here about the ways in which the Trump administration has managed the main problems in relations. American Turkish missiles such as S-400 missiles or the Halkbank trial. “
Eisenstadt believes that “if US relations with Turkey witness a downturn, it will not happen because of the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, but it certainly may have effects on the eastern Mediterranean.”
De Roch agreed with the previous argument, except that he added, “The Biden administration will be pressured to take a more human-rights-based approach to foreign policy by the party left. Nevertheless, Turkey remains a member of NATO and an important partner, and Biden understands that. And he will communicate seriously with Turkey. “
He adds that it is very rare to see drastic setbacks in US foreign policy, even when the administration changes in Washington, there is a bureaucratic, security and strategic consensus about the importance of Turkey, regardless of the relationship with who rules it.