Turkey's Ever-Closer Ties with Russia Leave US Lacking Key Ally on Syria


As the prospect grows of military confrontation with Russia in the skies over Syria, the US is counting on support from European partners such as France and the UK. But help from a key regional ally - Turkey - is less certain, despite its position on Syria's northern border and opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime, writes The Guardian.

There are echoes of 2003, when Turkey refused to back the US-led invasion of Iraq. Whose side Turkey is on is a question increasingly exercising Washington policymakers as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's president, builds closer ties with Russia.

Although Turkey is a Nato member, its growing defence cooperation with Moscow includes a recent $2bn deal to buy state-of-the-art S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. At the same time, military collaboration with the US has been scaled back.

Faced with Turkish restrictions, US air force combat operations at the Incirlik base, close to Syria's border, have been run down. In January a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" ground-attack jets was redeployed to Afghanistan, reportedly leaving only refuelling aircraft at the base. Last year Germany, another Nato member, was obliged to withdraw its forces from Incirlik amid a fierce row with Erdoğan over human rights and legal issues. The German aircraft, which like their American counterparts were engaged in attacking Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq, were moved to Jordan.

US-Turkey tensions rose after the failed 2016 coup attempt in Ankara, which Erdoğan claimed was instigated by opponents based in the US. They have since been exacerbated by rows over Turkish human rights abuses, Washington's support for anti-Assad Syrian Kurdish forces, whom Turkey regards as terrorists, and by Turkey's military...

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