Decoding the Incirlik deal with the US

The US has finally obtained what it has been after. The pressure the US has exerted on Ankara for the use of the incirlik base in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has yielded success.
Now, the US military will be able to launch operations against ISIL with lower costs and higher operational flexibility. What did Ankara get in return? Are the operations Turkey is conducting in northern Iraq part of this deal?
Oddly enough, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had long declined US demands to use the incirlik base but they opted to backpedal in the wake of the June 7 election. Holding a press teleconference on July 28, the US official noted that Foreign Minister Mevlandut andcavuioilu had told them about six weeks ago that Turkey was warming to the idea of opening its bases to US armed intelligence missions with unmanned aerial vehicles. This date roughly corresponds to the aftermath of the June 7 election. Two weeks ago, a deal was made for the US manned and unmanned unitsand’ using the bases in Turkey to hit ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq. The phone conversation that took place between US President Barack Obama and Erdogan last week clinched this deal.
In the week before June 7, the US special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL, retired Gen. John Allen, and the high-profile US delegation accompanying him had conduct the last of their tours to pressurize Ankara about the incirlik base. After having declined all previous diplomatic moves from the US, why did the AKP government opt to make a deal with Washington now?

h2Losing the majority to form a single-party governmenth2
It seems no coincidence that the government agreed to allow the US to use the incirlik base after it lost the majority in Parliament needed to form a single-party government when voters opted to restrain Erdoganand’s ambitions. Turkish governments tend to make their biggest concessions in foreign policy when they start to lose legitimacy and power inside. They are motivated to rely on the US or at least to be safe from an attack by the US. The AKPand’s legitimacy is melting away due to its antidemocratic practices and it has received a serious blow from voters in the June 7 election. So the AKP has started to act in this way. It is now trying to restore its image — after being seen as an administration that refuses to crack down on ISIL or prevent the flow of radical fighters into Syria via its borders — in an effort to buy itself some legitimacy from the international community.
Turkeyand’s image hit rock bottom when President Obama exposed Turkeyand’s failure to control its common borders with Syria. The arms shipments to Syria under the auspices of the Turkeyand’s National Intelligence Organization (MiT) reinforced Turkeyand’s image as a country supporting radical groups in the international media. In the face of its dwindling popular support, the AKP had no choice but to participate actively, albeit reluctantly, in the fight against the ISIL.
What a number of reputable sources suggest is that those who prefer a snap election in an effort to give the AKP the chance to come to power as a single-party government will certainly be happy to see Turkey in chaos and conflict. The incirlik deal, which implies direct confrontation with ISIL, had been made before the terrorist attack in Cizre and the opening of fire against Turkish soldiers along the Syrian border. These shady events helped shape the way the anti-US public is convinced of the incirlik deal and the war against the ISIL.

h2What is the PKKand’s position in all this?h2
Let me discuss the part played by the Kurdistan Workerand’s Party (PKK) in this scenario. For some odd reason, the PKK attacked the Turkish security forces in the wake of the incirlik deal with the US. Citing it, Ankara officially terminated the Settlement Process and launched operations against PKK targets in northern Iraq. If Ankara hadnand’t made the incirlik deal, Washington would most probably urge Turkey not to give a disproportionate response. Now, it aocates for Turkey, saying the country is exercising its legitimate right to self-defense.
While the Obama administration implicitly calls on parties to resume peace talks, it does not disapprove of Turkeyand’s cross-border crackdown on the PKK for the sake of the incirlik deal. However, many commentators in Washington and the US press believe that this pragmatic move from the US will complicate the US bid to fight ISIL. Even if Turkeyand’s crackdown is said to be restricted to the PKK, it has the potential to hurt the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is a US ally in Syria, as well as of the anti-ISIL coalition. Moreover, Washington is further concerned with the fact that the crackdown on the PKK has come at a time when Erdogan stepped up his efforts to marginalize the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) and push it out with antidemocratic methods so that the AKP can secure a new majority in Parliament and establish a single-party government.
What did Ankara get from the US in return for allowing the use of the incirlik base? Will it be able to establish a secure zone in Syria with the help of the US? It is very likely that the US didnand’t endorse this plan as it is problematic in regards to international law. The US argues that the border region — extending for about 100 kilometers to the west of the Euphrates — should be cleansed of ISIL so that it can be turned into a de-facto secure zone like Kobani. The US also stressed that the incirlik base will be used to lend support to the anti-ISIL forces and groups including the PYD and the Syriaand’s Peopleand’s Protection Units (YPG), which are affiliated with the PKK. In short, the Kurdish entity in northern Syria is to be placed under US protection with the help of the operations from incirlik. Unable to prevent the PYD from clenching its international legitimacy, Ankara seems to vent its spleen on the mountains in northern Iraq.
The Turkish governmentand’s disappointment in persuading Washington to overthrow Bashar al-Assad continues. The statement the White House released concerning Obamaand’s phone conversation with Erdogan stresses a and”political solutionand” to the Syrian crisis and is proof that the US is now warm to the anti-Assad military initiatives as aocated by Turkey.
The incirlik deal may have it as one of its strategic objectives to push Kurds away from the US and drive them toward Turkey. But internal domestic motives should not be ignored.