The Trump administration has announced CAATSA sanctions (Countering America Adversaries through Sanction Act) against NATO ally country Turkey for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Russia, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
The sanctions include a ban on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB’s president, and other SSB officers.
Republic of Turkey Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) is a civil institution established by the government to strengthen its national security industry and manage the system and supply of military technology.
Although in the US Department of State press release, it was clearly mentioned that America issued sanction on Turkey because Ankara acquired S-400 from Moscow. But we can say that S-400 is one of the reason behind sanction but definitely not the prime reason behind punishments, as United States is trying to show.
Last year Donald Trump resisted to impose sanction on Turkey, as he repeatedly backed Eardogan claims that Obama administration refused to sell Patriot missile defence system and forced Eardogan to purchase S-400 from Moscow.
It is clear that until last year America was in no mood to impose sanction on Turkey for S-400. But as a retaliation Trump just kicked out Turkey from F-35 program.
Now the question arises that what happened in last 1 year which persuaded Washington to take action on his own NATO ally.
Before jumping in to the reasons lets understand Why Washington’s relations with Ankara have been deteriorating since past few years ?
1. The Kurds and the Syria War
The Arab Spring uprising in middle East against oppressive regime, ignited the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The mess in Syrian civil war gave birth to world’s most brutal Terrorist organisation, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
As ISIS started becoming a threat to United States and their allies, Washington allied with Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria in 2015.
The Kurdish Fighters or YPG (Peoples Protection Unit) proved to be one of the “most effective” force in fighting ISIS in Syria. With the US support YPG very soon took over the control in Northern Syria.
America arming Kurdish forces and their strong presence in Northern Syria upset Turkey as they shared border with North Syria. Eardogan believed that Syrian Kurds had a strong ideological ties with Turkey Kurdish Groups that has vowed to get autonomy from Turkish regime.
In response, Eardogan send troops in Northern Syria to fight against Kurdish forces in 2018. “Turkey will suffocate this terror army before it’s born,” Erdoğan said on 14 January 2018.
Ultimately, Trump administration was forced to withdraw troops from Syria, but in fear that Turkey will launch full fledged Operation against Kurdish forces in absence of US troops, Trump reportedly decided to keep around 1,000 troops in Syria.
2. Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played a major role in deteriorating relationship with United States and also with many European nations. Erdogan love for authoritarianism and his obstinacy to end democracy, complicated Turkey relation with the West.
Erdogan came into power in 2003 as a Prime Minister, his obstinacy to being in power is nowhere stopping. In 2014 he became the President of Turkey and in 2018, he transformed Turkey from Parliamentary system to Presidential one.
He changed the constitution and abolished the Prime Minister’s role and pushed the country towards a single authoritarian system.
After a failed military coup attempt in 2016 against Eardogan, he blamed a Turkish cleric named Fethullah Gülen for provoking coup against him and he demanded his immediately extradition to Turkey to stand trial.
While, Fethullah Gülen currently lives in Pennsylvania, United States and the American administration refused the Eardogan demand to extradite Gülen to Turkey.
Eardogan didn’t stopped here, his rift with America grew bigger with Andrew Brunson case. Brunson was a citizen of North Carolina. Turkey detained him in 2016, claiming that he had a connection with terrorist groups. He was set to release in July 2018, but Turkish official put him under house arrest.
This step by Ankara upset Donald Trump and he imposed several sanction on Turkey, resulting to the fall of Turkish currency Lira. Ultimately both the parties reached a classified deal and Turkey released Brunson in October 2018.
3. Erdogan lean towards extremism
As the Turkish economy started falling, in order to divert citizens attention from economy and development, Eardogan started practicing religious and nationalist politics.
To please Islamic mindset citizens in the country, he converted the famous landmarks Hagia Sophia as a mosque, which served as a Christendom’s most significant cathedrals, a mosque and a museum in the history.
But there was no stopping for Eardogan, he provoked Washington by meeting with the Political head of Hamas, a US designated terrorist organisation.
President Eardogan wanted to become Caliph, the ruler of Muslim world and in order to do so, he had shown his followers a dream to resurrect Ottoman Empire once again. He believed that Turks are the true heir to Ottoman Empire.
All these incidents including the purchase of S-400 from Russia were responsible in deteriorating United States relation with Turkey, but these are still not a precipitating factors that forced Trump administration to impose sanctions.
Gas Exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean
The main reason that forced United States to impose sanctions on Turkey is Eardogan ambitious step to pursued aggressive gas exploration in Eastern Mediterranean sea by sending a research vessel escorted by navy warships.
The Turkish research vessel is exploring in Greece and Cyprus claimed waters, resulting rise in tension in the region. This step by Ankara forced Washington to activate its bases in Alexandroupoli, just 30 km from the Turkish border.
As big European countries like, France, Greece are not happy with Ankara aggressive attitude in Mediterranean, on 11 December, European Union leaders agreed to impose sanctions on an unspecified number of Turkish officials and entities involved in gas drilling in Cypriot-claimed waters.
Sanctions by EU also forced America to take strict action on Turkey, as Trump administration is not being hard enough towards Eardogan, which lead him (Eardogan) to make trouble on Mediterranean.
On 14 October, Trump administration finally came with a decision to impose CAATSA sanction on Turkey.
It will be very interesting to watch that how President-elect Joe Biden is going to deal with Eardogan or how will Eardogan deal with the new sanctions as Turkish economy is already through its rough phase.