There is tension among the NATO allies: Germany has withdrawn its troops from the Incirlik base in Turkey. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has given notice to Fikri Isik, her Turkish counterpart.
The Berlin decision comes after a delegation of German members of parliament were denied permission to visit their soldiers on May 16.
Incirlik is the base in Southeast Anatolia where 280 German troops were stationed. From there, the Tornado aircrafts depart in surveillance and refueling missions to conduct operations in support of the fight against the Islamic State. Germany has already identified the base in Azraq, Jordan, as the alternative to Incirlik.
One of the underlying reasons for the decision is the clash on the resolution on the Armenian genocide, passed by the German Parliament last year.
Another reason that weighs especially today is Germany’s refusal to cooperate with the purges that Erdogan is carrying out in Ankara against the network of his former ally Gülen, accused of being the author of the attempted coup in July 2016.
Turkey’s demands to restore Germany’s access to Incirlik was the disavowal of the German government of the resolution on the Armenian issue, the commitment of the German authorities against the PKK and the Kurdish autonomy movement and the extradition of those who Ankara believes are linked to the coup, to whom Berlin has granted asylum.
But Chancellor Merkel, who cashed in her parliamentary support, decided that enough was enough and gave the green light to the transfer of the troops: “We will go to Jordan.”
Yet another tear between the two NATO allies, whose ties are as deep as their recent disagreements. Turkey has suffered in recent years a dramatic decline in its reputation among NATO members.
Paradoxically, the alliance’s involvement in the Syrian scenario, so far so desired by Ankara, is taking place at times and in ways that will further frustrate Erdogan’s government and, especially, it is not to the detriment of the alliance between the United States and the YPG’s Kurds.
While the many extradition requests to allied countries remain unanswered, the Turkish government continues to purge its internal enemies and opponents at home.
This time, the head of Amnesty International, Taner Kilic, ended up in handcuffs, along with 18 other lawyers. His home and office were raided and he is now in custody in Izmir. They are all accused of being part of Gülen’s network.
The key evidence would be the use of a smartphone app called Bylock with which, according to the Turkish authorities, Gülen’s followers used to get organized.
The Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, said: “The fact that the Turkish purges have now also involved the president of Amnesty in Turkey is yet another proof of how everything is arbitrary and has gone well beyond the supposed limits.” Kilic has worked for Amnesty since 2002 and was appointed president of the organization for Turkey in 2014.
Yet another international scandal threatens to engage Turkey deeply. The decision of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen to isolate Qatar diplomatically and economically has taken Ankara aback, because Turkey has strengthened important relations with that the Gulf country for years.
Since 2015, Ankara has an operational military base in Qatar and, after the initial reaction of invitation to dialogue, yesterday the parliament approved the deployment of more troops to Qatar and an economic support plan for the country that includes deliveries of food and water.
Qatari investments in Turkey amounted to about $14 billion, while Turkish exports to Qatar are worth $400 million per year. Qatar is also engaged in a shared investment fund that led the Arab country to acquire participations in major Turkish companies, like giant tea producer Caykur and satellite network Digiturk.
Turkey would also rely on Qatari money for a bailout of the flag airline Turkish Airlines, which is going through a hard time after years of huge investments and the collapse of the national tourism sector.
President Erdogan has rejected the accusations against Qatar: “I do not think that Qatar funds terrorism. Another game is being played here.”
In fact, an atmosphere of conspiracy and paranoia lingers in Ankara. The Anatolian country would be in line to be hit, just after its ally in the Gulf, as happened to the Morsi government, overthrown in Egypt.
According to the Turks, this is a scheme, hatched by the U.S. and Israel, to hit the Muslim Brotherhood which Ankara is connecting to the coup of July 15, 2016, in which they see the hands of the Americans.