THO PANEL – U.S.-TURKEY SECURITY PARTNERSHIP AND CURRENT CHALLENGES (OCTOBER 24, 2018)
24 Nov 18
On October 24, THO organized a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on the “U.S.-Turkey Security Partnership and Current Challenges.”
The panel was moderated by the host of Middle East with Naskah Zada, Naskah Zada and featured the following speakers:
J.D. Gordon – President, Protect America Today, Former National Security Advisor for the Trump Campaign, Former Pentagon Spokesman (2002-2005)
H.E. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley – Foreign Policy Advisor, U.S. Cyber Command, Former U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Former NESA Director for Arabian Peninsula, National Security Council-White House
Ilan Berman – Senior Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council
Ismail Hakki Pekin – Ret. General, Former Head of Turkish Military Intelligence
Naskah Zada began the panel by asking J.D. Gordon about the Pentagon’s view on current challenges in Syria and how they compared to those views held by the Turkish government. Gordon commented that he was hopeful about the situation in Syria, and while there are still a number of security challenges, the United States and Turkey are positioned to tackle them together. He discussed how despite any political disagreements between the two countries, their military relationship remains strong. He then asserted that “it is ludicrous to think that Turkey shouldn’t be a part of NATO,” especially with the airbase in Incirlik being one America’s most important airbases in the region for the fight against ISIS. He went on to discuss how the federalization of Syria was an important issue that the U.S. and Turkey would have to tackle after the conflict ends. Speaking to the Khashoggi case, he commented on how the whole affair had been politicized by the American media and that this media pressure will drive President Trump to act. He pointed out that when President Trump does move forward in repercussions for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, he must be able to strike a balance between the United States’ relationship with Turkey and their relationship with Saudi Arabia, as both countries are two of America’s strongest allies.
Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley discussed the conflict in Syria and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. She emphasized the importance of communication between Turkey and the United States and pointed out that the joint U.S.-Turkish patrols that are going to be conducted will ensure this kind of communication. She also commented on how the American government needs to be aware and acknowledge the Turkish concerns about the Kurdish fighting forces in Syria such as the YPG and PYD. The ambassador went on to discuss how she predicts the United States will continue its support of Israel, as well as asserted that President Trump could be willing to open diplomatic discussions with Iran. When asked about Khashoggi, she commented that the most important issue moving forward is to identify who is accountable for his death.
Ilan Berman discussed the importance of the U.S.-Turkey security relationship, stating that it was “a long term relationship.” He went on to discuss how the United States does not have the same amount of political will in Syria and that it must match that of Turkey’s if the two are to work together affectively. After the release of Pastor Brunson and the Khashoggi case, the U.S.-Turkey relationship is moving in a positive direction for the first time in a while. Speaking about America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, Berman pointed out that because of Turkey’s relationship with Iran, President Trump’s sanctions on Iran may complicate the U.S.-Turkey relationship, especially because President Trump will be hesitant to walk away from his current strategy regarding Iran. With regard to Syria, he asserted that because of Russia’s weak economy, they are not looking to shoulder the load on the post-war reconstruction of Syria and are thus more willing to negotiate with Turkey regarding the Kurdish fighters, something that the U.S. has been reluctant to do.
Retired Turkish General Ismail Pekin commented on the Syrian conflict, stating that it had put the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership in a tenuous position. While the Turkish government views Kurdish fighting forces such as the YPG and PYD as off-shoots of the Kurdish terrorist organization, the PKK, the United States does not share this view. He echoed Berman’s view that the U.S.-Turkey military partnership will hold strong in the long run, however the Kurds are viewed as the most dangerous security threat by the Turkish government and the American government must address these concerns and work with Turkey if they are to have a productive relationship.