Permanent breach in US-Turkey relations remote: Expert

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by Vakkas Dogantekin

6 Nov 2019; AA: Because Turkey is part of NATO and integrated with global institutions, American politicians use that leverage to change its behavior in Syria, an expert at a U.S.-based think tank told Anadolu Agency.

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing writer to The Atlantic magazine, said there is "profound bipartisan opposition" to Turkey's cross-border military operation in Syria, but a permanent breach in U.S. relations with Turkey is out of the question.

Hamid, who was in Istanbul to take part in the TRT World Forum, an annual international meeting hosted by Turkey's public broadcaster TRT, emphasized that Turkey is "integrated with the security architecture in the Middle East" and its NATO membership is beyond argument, no matter how concerned the politicians are.

"When it comes to NATO membership, we have to be realistic. I just don't see any way that whoever becomes president in 2020 would be able to take it to that level. So I think there's always this thing where you could have anger and frustration with an ally and that anger can build, but at some level, whoever is president has to do business with Turkey and has to work with Turkey," he said.

Hamid stressed that the U.S. and Turkey have "various mutual interests" and there will always be "limitation" when it comes to "pragmatism."

"They are [American politicians] hoping, from my perspective, that Turkey can change its behavior. I don't want to call it like a love/hate relationship. But because Turkey is an ally, there's a greater sense from an American perspective of ‘like, wait, Turkey is an ally, and why are they doing this’? And so it's a different kind of dynamic than you would have with Venezuela or Iran, where there isn't any kind of friendly relationship or recent friendly history. Can we use instruments of pressure to push Turkey in a different direction? So I think that's part of how to understand it,” he added.

"I don't think that most American politicians want some kind of permanent breach with Turkey."

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to clear northeastern Syria east of the Euphrates River of terrorists and create a safe zone along the border, thereby paving the way for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.

Ankara has repeatedly expressed its determination to clear the region of both the Daesh/ISIS and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.

‘Democratic Party facing challenge’

Elaborating on the future of the Democratic Party in the U.S., Hamid said the "harmony" of the coalition of different groups and interests in the party is being challenged over what the party really is or what it should be.

"There's a sense that the future of the party is really at play in a way that it hasn't been for quite some time. And you also have enough new voices that are actually willing to challenge what would be called the traditional establishment of the party. And they feel empowered because they have more and more members of the party at the grassroots level encouraging that and are open to these new ideas," he said.

He said the Democrats are no longer content with the "[Hillary] Clinton style of politics" which has been building up ever since the emergence of Bernie Sanders, who has shown the Democrats a "bold, ambitious style of politics."

"So it also sent a message to others in the Democratic Party, that there was an opening for this kind of approach, for this kind of rhetoric."

Alignment of US Muslims with Democrats good, but risky

Regarding Muslims aligning with the Democratic Party, Hamid said it is good for American Muslims to be more involved and to make it their own party as long as the party does not start taking them for granted.

According to Hamid, unconditional alignment might become a "potential liability if the Democratic Party comes to see American Muslims as a sure thing.”

"You don't want a situation like that. Because you want people to actually listen to you and not just assume that you'll always support the party no matter what policies matter, and what the Democratic Party does or doesn't do should matter," he said.

"I think one interesting question is, if some American Muslims start to express discomfort with the secularization of the Democratic Party, is that going to lead to tension? Are Democrats willing to respect that? I would hope that the Democratic Party will not see that as a problem."

Hamid said another risk to keep an eye on would be the perception of American Muslims not as a group that has religious convictions but as just another identity group or another kind of ethnic group.

When asked if it would enflame anti-Muslim sentiment on the right if Muslims are perceived as 100% with the Democrats, he said it is likely.

"Because if people on the right who hate Democrats, or see Democrats as the really bad party from their standpoint, associate Muslims with that, like Muslims are just another Democratic Party constituency, that makes it more difficult to promote understanding on the right side of the spectrum.

“Because ideally, you want to be able to go to folks on the right. And in the Republican Party, anti-Muslim sentiment is a problem. Let's try to see if there can be some dialogue or discussion about these issues. I think that's harder to do," he said.

Hamid said Muslims had shifted from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party only "fairly recently" after voting for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential elections.

When asked how a new term of presidency by Donald Trump would look like if he is to be reelected in 2020, he said he sees "no evidence Trump is someone who is willing to really recalibrate in a more presidential direction".

"The more he is the president, the more he will double down on some of his most problematic instincts."

 

This article was originally published in Anadolu Agency on November 06, 2019.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of UMMnews.

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