The Future of Turkish-U.S. Relations at a Time of Regional Crises

The Daily Sabah Centre for Policy Studies has organized its monthly roundtable discussion on "The Future of Turkish-U.S. Relations at a Time of Regional Crises," on Monday in Istanbul.

Along with bilateral relations between Ankara and Washington, the speakers discussed and analyzed Turkish-Israeli relations and the relationship between Turkey and Iran. Syrian Kurds and their connection with the PKK was also examined.

Several Turkish and foreign journalists and academics attended the program moderated by the the managing editor of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), Resul Serdar Ataş.

The first speaker was B. Senem Çevik, a lecturer at the University of California Irvine (UCI) Program in International Studies, who also teaches disaster diplomacy. She argued that humanitarian crises such as those in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s and, more recently, the Syrian refugee crisis, can bring people together by building bridges between communities. Dialogue within and between civil societies can create opportunities for Turkey and the U.S. to strengthen their relations with one another. She went on to say that rising extremist rhetoric and Islamophobia that is used by the likes of Donald Trump has made this issue of dialogue between countries more critical.

Speaking on Turkish-Iranian relations, which are expected to gain a new dimension with the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Kadir Üstün, who is the executive director of Ankara's Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation (SETA) Washington branch, touched on the two countries' overlapping interests in Syria. In his discussion on the efforts of the PKK Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) to create an independent state in northern Syria, he said that it is something that both Iran and Turkey are vehemently against because it risks compromising Syria's territorial integrity. "Although Turkey is anti-[Bashar] Assad and Iran is one of the main backers of the Assad regime, Syria devolving into chaos is not in either country's best interest," he said.

Kılıç Buğra Kanat, who is an assistant professor of political Science at Penn State University Erie and a research fellow at the SETA Foundation in Washington, said that the job of the new administration in the U.S. should be to clarify its goals and objectives and communicate those objectives to its allies. The U.S. must institutionalize its partnerships with its allies around the world. "The new U.S. administration will hopefully come up with a strategy of selective engagement, something different from [U.S. President Barack] Obama's strategic patience," he said. He added that the U.S. and Turkey need to create a multilayered relationship, one that depends on the diversification of communication channels between the foreign policy bureaucracies of both countries.

Speakers' Biography:
B. Senem Çevik is a lecturer at University of California Irvine (UCI) Program in International Studies teaching public diplomacy. She is also Tobis Fellow at UCI’s Center on Ethics and Morality. She has taught public diplomacy at Ankara University and political psychology at Atılım University. Çevik is involved with various citizen diplomacy initiatives. She is an alumnus of the Olive Tree Initative (OTI) program and a fellow with the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI) and also serves on the committee of the Turkey-Israel Civil Society Forum (TICSF). She is a blogger for University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy and 2015-2016 Contributing Scholar. She is the co-editor with Philip Seib of Turkey’s Public Diplomacy (Palgrave MacMillan) and has published chapters in Turkey’s development and humanitarian aid both in English and Turkish. Her current research focuses on grassroots diplomacy in peace-building and humanitarian aid.
Kadir Üstün is the Executive Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington, D.C. He also serves as an Assistant Editor of Insight Turkey, an academic journal published by the SETA Foundation. Dr. Ustun holds a PhD in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University and a Master’s degree in History from Bilkent University. He has contributed to various SETA reports and his writings have appeared in various publications such as Insight Turkey, Al Jazeera English, Daily Sabah, Hurriyet Daily News, Mediterranean Quarterly, and Cairo Review of Global Affairs among others. He is also co-editor of edited volumes History, Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey, Change and Adaptation in Turkish Foreign Policy, and Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. 
Kılıç Buğra Kanat is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Penn State University, Erie and a Research Fellow at the SETA Foundation in Washington, D.C. His research interests include foreign policy decision-making, foreign policy change, and domestic politics and foreign policy interaction. Dr. Kanat’s writings have appeared in Foreign Policy, Insight Turkey, Middle East Policy, Arab Studies Quarterly, Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.