'Turkey Sends US a Message' by Questioning Washington's Access to Incirlik Base
Access to the Turkish Incirlik airbase is a strategic matter in ties between Ankara and Washington. Turkey's threats to reconsider the use of the base by the US military indicate Ankara's concerns over Washington's stance on the Kurdish problem and the Turkish military operation in northern Syria.
Last week, the Turkish government made a series of statements on the future of Incirlik airbase which has been used by the United States military.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu mentioned Incirlik, saying that the Turks wondered why the United States and its allies were using the base if they did not provide air cover for Operation Euphrates Shield, a major Turkish-led offensive in northern Syria.
A day later, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin reiterated that Turkey had the right to close the base, but added that this issue was not on the agenda.
Moreover, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik underscored that the "fact that the international coalition is not providing support for the Turkish military in the Al-Bab offensive puts in questions the current format of use of the base."
In an interview with Sputnik Turkiye, Serhat Erkmen, a Turkish political analyst and director of the Center for Middle Eastern studies at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, commented on a crisis of confidence between Ankara and Washington and its possible outcome.
"Turkey has repeatedly warned the US about its discontent over Washington's ties with Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD). After Ankara did not receive support in the Al-Bab offensive, the Turkish government took a more hardline position towards the US," Erkmen noted.
Commenting on the situation around the Incirlik base, the analyst pointed out that the airbase has long been an issue for debate, especially acute in periods of tensions in Washington-Ankara ties.
"When a crisis arises between the US and Turkey the issue of the Incirlik base, which is strategic for the US, comes to mind first. The recent example is not the first and not the last," he said.
Speaking about the reasons behind Turkey voicing concerns over the US, Erkmen said: "There are different reasons for a raise in concerns. The main reason is that Turkey failed to win Washington's support on the Kurdish problem. Recently, the situation in Al-Bab added to the tensions," the analyst explained.
Erkmen reminded that on the day when the Turkish military launched the Euphrates Shield military operation in northern Syria US Vice President Joe Biden was on an official visit to Turkey.
"When Biden came to Turkey Washington made a number of statements saying that Ankara is an ally and would receive support. If in the beginning of the operation there were some examples of cooperation, now there are none. As a result, tensions have arisen since Turkey received no support. This is why, the Incirlik base is again in the spotlight," he said.
Erkmen suggested that Ankara made those statements to send a signal to the entire US presidential administration, not only to next President Donald Trump.
"Turkey sent a message to the White House. It should be translated: 'We are very concerned because Incirlik is a base important for US military activities in the Middle East and also an important component of our bilateral relations. If tensions further increase it may deal a heavy blow to our military cooperation. Don't go too far.' We can say that by sending such a message Turkey put on the agenda its discontent over Washington's policy towards Kurds," the analyst concluded.