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U.S.-Turkey Relations Endure Despite Crises

The U.S.-Turkey relationship has been tested through some of the most serious crises in recent years. The continuing strength of the relationship, despite all the tensions which have resulted from some difficult strategic disagreements and diverging interests, requires a closer look. The two NATO allies appear to have learned to ‘agree to disagree’ and compartmentalize some of the seemingly most deal breaking issues. As Turkey sought to protect its national interests, some in Washington have tried to depict Turkey as a bad actor working against U.S. interests in the region and beyond. The recurring theme of Turkey, somehow leaving the West and aligning itself with the East, has convinced many in the U.S. that Turkey cannot be trusted. However, the U.S.-Turkey relationship has survived despite years of mutual mistrust, strategic divergences, and policy differences. Explaining how this has been possible is not simple by any means, but it is worth exploring.

U S -Turkey Relations Endure Despite Crises
U.S. President Donald Trump and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Washington. May 16, 2017. KAYHAN ÖZER / AA Photo
 

Received Date: 10/05/2020  •  Accepted Date: 18/06/2020

 

 

Turkey’s Lobbying Power and Leader Diplomacy

 

 

One of the most salient features of the U.S.-Turkey relationship is that successive Turkish governments have been dealing with the executive branch with little ‘organic’ support from the legislative branch or the media. Turkey was supported by pro-Israel lobbying groups in the U.S. for many years as long as these groups saw Turkey as important for Israel’s strategic interests in the region. Their support weakened and eventually disappeared as Turkey started to raise serious concerns about Israel’s heavy-handed policies against the Palestinians. Another lobbying group with significant influence over Congress was the Gülenist network in the U.S., which turned out to be a putschist terrorist organization with the goal of overturning the government of Turkey. Having represented themselves as part of Turkey’s soft power around the world, this group leveraged its network in Turkey and in the U.S. for its own benefit. When Turkey took action against this organization, as their anti-democratic goals inside Turkey became clearer, their lobbying power was reduced and in fact turned against Turkey. These two ‘inorganic’ lobbying groups helped Turkey’s interests in the U.S. Congress for their own political aims, not only for the sake of Turkey’s interests. As Turkey lost these sources of influence over Congress, anti-Turkey resolutions started to have a much better chance of passage in the U.S. legislative bodies.

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