- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ankara has become “disillusioned” with U.S.-Turkish ties after a series of military and diplomatic decisions by Washington that have undermined the country’s security in the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

The Pentagon’s decision to back Kurdish paramilitary forces in the fight against the Islamic State, to the White House’s refusal to extradite U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Erdogan regime believes was behind the July 15 attempted military coup in the country, Washington’s policies have only further eroded the already frayed relationship between the two NATO allies.

“We have addressed these issues, discussed them with President Obama and Vice-President [Joe] Biden,” Mr. Erdogan said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes.

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“They failed to rise to the occasion and handle these issues seriously,” he added.

When asked for his assessment on the current relationship between Ankara and the United States, Mr. Erdogan replied: “I am disillusioned.”

His comments Sunday were only the latest in a series of contentious remarks from the Erdgoan regime over Washington’s increasingly complicated alliance with Turkey.

Former Chief of the Turkish Army’s General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug said Wednesday that it was improbable that American intelligence did not have prior knowledge of the attempted military coup in July.

While stopping short of accusing U.S. intelligence agencies of being complicit in the attempt, which left over 200 people dead, “it is not rational [to think] they did not know,” Gen. Basbug said during at speech at the National Press Club.

On Sunday, Mr. Erdogan acknowledged how widespread the misperception of American involvement in the coup attempt had grown among Turkey’s population

“I am not going to blame the United States but that is what [Turkish] people think,” he said. “This is the perception of the Turkish nation.”

Erdogan’s regime has used that perception to wage a country-wide purge of alleged coup plotters within Turkey’s military, judiciary and civil institutions.

Among the 37,000 people arrested by the government include journalists, college professors, Gulen sympathizers as well as known dissidents of the Erdogan government.

Since July, Erdogan has pressured the White House and U.S. diplomats to begin the process to extradite Mr. Gulen to Turkey. The 75-year-old Muslim cleric has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Ankara is also pressing ahead with unilateral military operations in Syria. Last week, Turkish forces pressed toward the northern Syrian city of al Bab, which lies 100 miles west of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate.

On Wednesday, the Defense Department announced it will not provide air support for the Turkish advance, saying the move is not in line with the U.S.-backed coalition’s battle plan against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

American warplanes did accompany Turkish units in their first strike into northern Syria near the border town of Jarabulus.

Washington’s alliance with the fighters from the People’s Protection Unit, also known as YPG, has infuriated Ankara since Turkey recognizes the group as a terrorist organization.

The Kurdish group has so far been America’s strongest ally in the two-year war against ISIS.

That said, “you cannot make the distinction between a good terrorist organization and a bad terrorist organization,” Mr. Ergodan said Sunday, regarding the Pentagon’s alliance with the YPG.

“They were putting us in the same basket,” Gen. Basbug explained, regarding the Turkish reaction as a NATO member, to being lumped together with the YPG as potential U.S. allies in the war on ISIS.

When asked whether Ankara was reconsidering its membership in the alliance, as a result of America’s backing of Kurdish forces, he replied: “Right now, such a thing is not in question.”

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