Akshay Prasad

Jan 9, 2021

2 min read

The appointment of Biden to the Middle East and North Africa could cause tensions between the US and Turkey

US President Joe Biden plans to name Brett McGurk as senior director of Washington’s Middle East and North Africa strategy at the National Security Council. Many analysts were of the opinion that the appointment of McGurk to the position could lead to increased tensions between the US and Turkey.In view of his previous experience, Biden chose McGurk over the others, as he had already served in the same role in 2015.

During Obama’s presidency in 2015, McGurk was named to the post and served until he resigned in December 2018, owing to his disagreement over the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.”It will be perceived to be a very provocative nomination. Yusuf Erim, an Ankara-based political analyst, tweeted, ‘A bad start for the Biden age on the US-Turkey ties front if this is realised.’

As McGurk was seen in adverse light by Turkish politicians, the former US ambassador to the anti-Daesh international coalition, may offend officials in Ankara, as the latter considered him responsible for the militarization of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Security Units to combat Daesh outfits.On the other hand, Ankara has classified the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) as a terrorist organisation because of its long affiliation with the banned Workers’ Party of Kurdistan, which has been carrying out decades of insurgency against the Turkish state.

“Brett McGurk may be a controversial figure for Turkey, but he is quite mainstream for the Democratic Party and popular in those circles, so it will not be a big surprise if he gets a senior position within the Biden Administration,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, providing an alternative perspective to the appointment of McGurk.

In judging what approach Biden may have towards Ankara, the Turkish government should not be consumed by his interpretation of McGurk. Joe Macaron, a Middle East analyst at the Arab Center in Washington, told Arab News that Biden is not generally a third Obama term and the job of McGurk is not usually the leading diplomatic position.

Macaron added that, regardless of who takes over the role, US-Turkey relations are more likely to become strained in the near future. “He said, “US-Turkish relations might be more tense to move forward, but if Ankara knows that Washington would eventually not sell out the YPG, they have shared interests in working together on Syria.”