Response to Congressional critics of Turkey over Operation Peace Spring
Dear member of Congress,
 
We in the U.S. absolutely must always stand up for our allies. Contrary to the irrational and insulting attitudes in the media and on the Capitol Hill, Turkey is not just a friend and partner, but a U.S. strategic ally since 1952.
 
Turkey, an ethnically and religiously diverse democratic nation of 80 million that has free elections and 87% voter turnout, has been the second-largest military member of NATO since 1952 -- before Germany and Spain -- and has been part of several U.S.-led military operations, from KFOR in Kosovo (1999) to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (2001) to Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria (2014). Turkey has one of the largest U.S. airforce bases in the world, and houses some 50 U.S. nuclear weapons. How can this be overlooked, and how can anyone shy away from calling Turkey a U.S. ally after such extensive contributions for nearly 70 years?
 
Unlike the U.S., Turkey actually has a border with Syria, and since the start of the disastrous Syrian war in 2011 -- which the White House encouraged through careless promotion of regime change -- has housed some five million Syrian refugees. Even for a large nation like the U.S. such a number of refugees would be overwhelming -- which is why U.S. accepted only 18,051 Syrian refugees to date, and less than 500,000 refugees since 2011.
 
Since Turkey has been bombed and shelled from Syrian territory by various terrorist groups such as YPG/PKK, and has been housing and spent tens of billions feeding 5 million Syrian refugees (including 300,000 Kurds) for eight years now, it is easy to see why Turkey finally had enough and made a very limited military intervention - Operation Peace Spring - on some 5% of Syrian territory, to create a buffer zone of just 20 miles deep.
 
To sanction Turkey for its inherent right to self-defense, for helping refugees, and for shaking up the terrorist breeding grounds is bad policy, bad precedent and bad faith. Instead, you and the rest of the Congress should be supporting time-tested and proven ally Turkey to defend itself. It's hard to understand why would our forces coordinate their withdrawal from northern Syria with Assad and Putin, and let them get those bases, instead of transferring them to allied Turkey and otherwise help Turkey clear northern Syria of terrorists. 
 
Similarly, to claim that Turkey's actions somehow benefit ISIS - which was created because of the post-US/NATO vacuum and incompetence in war-torn Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other nations, is incorrect and insulting. It is no accident that just two weeks after the Operation Peace Spring "suddenly" the ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was finally killed in northern Syria, near Idlib which has been in the zone of influence of YPG/PKK/SDF, Assad and Russia. Why was he so elusive for so many years, but as soon as Turkey sent its troops into northern Syria, he was found and killed?
 
Finally, the S.Res 278, as S.Res 2644 and S.Res 150, is unfair and wrong. Why can't Turkey purchase S-400 if Greece, another NATO member, was able to purchase the previous version of that Russian air-defense system -- the S-300? Even Pentagon spent our tax money and supplied Russian-made weapons systems to Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
Turkey did an open tender for its strategic air-defense needs, and we offered only the Patriot PAC-3 systems which are not for strategic or ballistic air defense (that would be the THAAD system). Hence the S-400 offer won due to both lower price and actual anti-ballistic strategic air-defense capabilities - important for Turkey when its hostile neighbors, Syria, Iran and Armenia, possess and build-up their ballistic missile offensive capabilities. Turkey promised to not integrate S-400 into its shared NATO air-defense network, to make sure there are no opportunities for any intelligence leakage to Russia.
 
Attempts by some to come up with yet another excuse for opposing Turkey's choice – that somehow the S-400 in Turkey will undermine the radar signature of the F-35 - is without any merit. Russia had ample opportunities to scan the F-35 that U.S. and Israel used in Syria and Iraq - through its S-400 and S-300 radars in Syria and Mediterranean Sea, as well as those F-35’s in Japan, Korea and Norway that are regularly flying either close to Russian borders or within the range of Russian radars. In other words, Russia, as well as China, North Korea and Iran, had many opportunities to scan the F-35 and U.S. stealth drones. Then why is such a partner and ally as Turkey being vilified and sanctioned?

Such attitudes and policies in Congress make no sense. This sanctions hysteria in Congress, while being politically and economically ineffective, at the same time spoils the relations with Turkey and Turkish people, makes 80 million Turks distrust the U.S., adds weight to critics’ charge that NATO is unreliable, makes the Middle East less stable, strengthens Russia, Armenia and Iran who would love for Turkey to reduce its NATO participation and commitments, among other things. Therefore, the question is: what is U.S. winning or gaining from spoiling relations with an important regional democracy and ally like Turkey? 

Sincerely,

USTN member


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