Will Turkey shut-down NATO’s Incirlik air base?

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Ankara has the right to prevent US access to the NATO Incirlik air base because of Washington’s hostile policy, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“We are trying to normalize relations with the United States. So that they can improve, the US must take action against Manbij, extradite the Gulen suspects and others, and since it has not come to that, our people say ‘close the bases of Incirlik and Kurecik’,” the Turkish foreign minister said in an interview with TV channel A Haber .

However, he pointed out that Turkey has a coordinated road map with the US to solve the Manbij problem.

“But if there is no hope in the end, Turkey will be able to demonstrate its strength. We are an independent country and we will take measures one way or another at our discretion,” he said.

Turkey has repeatedly accused the US of violating its pledge to withdraw Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the northern city of Manbij. YPG formations captured the city from ISIS terrorists in June 2016.

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The YPG are the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that not only Ankara, but also Washington recognizes as a terrorist organization. Despite Washington recognizing the PKK as a terrorist organization, it directly supports and cooperates with the YPG in Syria. This has been a fundamental reason why relations between Washing and Ankara have broken down in recent years despite the being not only NATO allies, but also two of the most important members of the antagonistic organization.

Tensions also peaked in October when Turkey arrested a US consulate official for alleged ties to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed coup attempt of 2016. Turkey criticized the US for refusing to extradite Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, while Washington and other Western governments criticized Turkey for its post-coup crackdown.

The Turkish government also unofficially holds the US directly responsible for the coup attempt, which connects Gulen to the protection of the US which he and his group still enjoy. In 2016, Turkey embarked on a history changing move in orientation, which was also an expression of Turkey’s own might and role as a regional hegemon.

The US has long sought to use Turkey as a hedge against Russia. But these hedges mean nothing if there is no chance of them being realized. And since both countries today have a leadership which understands the pointlessness of a Turkey vs. Russia conflict, Turkey was able to turn a corner and drift out of the direct sphere of US manipulation. Since then, we have seen increased Turkish and Russian cooperation on a range of subjects, from energy markets to the final resolution of the conflict in Syria, upon which Turkey initially entered in on the pro-US side.

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