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Policy Analysis

Policy Notes

U.S. Policy on Turkey

James F. Jeffrey and Soner Cagaptay

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TRANSITION 2017: Policy Notes for the Trump Administration

January 2017


The Trump administration should revamp policy toward Turkey to emphasize a transactional approach to critical bilateral issues, counsels two leading experts on U.S.-Turkish relations.

In the first in a series of Washington Institute presidential transition papers addressing key policy challenges across the Middle East, former U.S. ambassador to Ankara James F. Jeffrey and noted Turkish scholar Dr. Soner Cagaptay warn against maintaining current policy that has had the effect of mismanaging relations with a major NATO ally and pushing Ankara toward Moscow.

"For any relationship with [Turkish president] Erdogan to succeed," argue Jeffrey and Cagaptay, "it will have to be based on mutual interests and trade-offs rather than deep friendship and shared values."

A new approach, they suggest, would restore focus to each side's most important interests. For Turkey, this includes the extradition of reputed coup plotter Fethullah Gulen; increased engagement on issues from Cyprus to Israel; and closer attention to Turkish equities in the Syria conflict. For the United States, a new approach would entail a stronger commitment to fighting the Islamic State; a return to peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party; closer cooperation on military moves, especially in Syria; and renewed respect for democratic freedoms.

In the coming weeks, Transition 2017 papers by Institute experts will offer analysis and recommendations on issues that range from countering Iran's growing aggressiveness throughout the region, to repairing strains in the U.S.-Israel relationship, to strengthening stability in Northwest Africa. Taken together, they will constitute a comprehensive reappraisal of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

 

THE AUTHORS

JAMES F. JEFFREY, a former deputy national security advisor and ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute.

SONER CAGAPTAY is the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute.

 

THE SERIES

Founded in 1985, The Washington Institute is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Following in the tradition of seven previous presidential election cycles, Transition 2017 is designed to provide a new administration with sound analysis, creative ideas, and useful recommendations to advance U.S. interests in the Middle East.