Turkey has established its image as an Islamist belligerent fuelling conflicts across the already volatile regions of South Caucasus, where Azerbaijan and Armenia have crossed swords, to the Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean. And now the United States has taken cognisance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s misdeeds. Ankara is being punished right, left and centre through diplomatic measures, military deployments and defence export curbs.
In what looks like a latest American offensive against Turkey, the Moroccan government has approved an amendment in the Morocco-Turkey Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This amendment is no less than a punishment imposed upon Turkey. Morocco has hiked tariffs on 12,000 Turkish goods by up to 90 per cent. Interestingly, Morocco has imposed higher tariffs merely days after the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a Military Accord with the North African country.
The latest American bid to exercise more influence in North Africa has therefore come with significant costs for Turkey’s troubled economy. But this is hardly the only measure taken by the White House to cut Turkey down to size. The US is silently penalising Turkey for every aggression from the South Caucasus to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Recently, for example, the US could be looking to weaponise Turkish imports of the Russian S-400 Air Defence System. American Senators have reportedly urged for imposition of sanctions on Turkey, following Greek local reports claiming that Turkey had activated its Russian-made S-400 Air Defence System and tracked Greek F-16 aircraft returning from multi-lateral Eunomia exercise on 27th August.
The US has been constantly using Turkish use of the Russian Air Defence System to punish Ankara. Recently, it was also reported that four US Congress members were either individually or collectively blocking any defence sales to Ankara over the past two years. Embittered ties have led to Turkey getting expelled from the F-35 joint strike fighter program. The pretext of blocking American defence sales to Turkey was again pressuring Ankara to give up the Russia-made Air Defence System.
But the American offensive against Turkey is not limited to just defence exports. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the US is backing up its allies- Cyprus and Greece, both of whom are being bullied by Erdoğan’s Turkey.
Last month, Washington decided to partially lift the decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, one of the biggest victims of Turkish expansionism and belligerence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara, which had violently partitioned Cyprus in 1974, is responsible for most Cyrpus’ woes today.
As for Greece, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said that the US will deploy the Navy ship, the Hershel “Woody” Williams to a US-Greek base, merely 600 miles from Turkey’s coast. The deployment that was announced during Mike Pompeo’s Greece visit was directly targeted at Turkey, which is locked in a stand-off with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The US has been following wherever Turkey opens a new front. Take the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region for example. Turkey has been backing up Azerbaijan with Syrian jihadists and refugees in the ongoing offensive against Armenia, but now the US is taking a clear stand against Turkey.
Pompeo has directed criticism at Turkey over allegations of Syrian jihadists being sent to Azerbaijan. The top American diplomat said, “We (already) saw Syrian fighters taken from the battlefields in Syria to Libya.” He also said that it “created more instability, more turbulence, more conflict, more fighting, less peace.” In a veiled jibe at Turkey, Pompeo has also asked ‘third parties’ to stay out of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The US is clear in its approach of not letting Turkish President have his way with Islamist belligerence. Even after Ankara’s move to convert the ancient Cathedral-turned-Mosque-turned-Museum Hagia Sophia into a Mosque, Pompeo had slammed Ankara.
He had said, “The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability — so rare in the modern world — to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures.”
The US is making it more and more clear that it has no qualms in punishing Turkey for its misdeeds. Ankara started warring on multiple fronts and is being punished on every one of those fronts by Washington.