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Monday, January 30, 2012

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Congress has an active role to play in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey, and several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time as global challenges to U.S. interests have changed. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance—it straddles Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia and now has the world’s 16th-largest economy—have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, growing economic diversification and military self-reliance allows Turkey to exercise greater leverage with the West. These trends have helped fuel continuing Turkish political transformation led in the past decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamist roots. Future domestic political developments may determine how Turkey reconciles respect for democratic views that favor Turkish nationalism and traditional Sunni Muslim values with protection of individual freedoms, minority rights, rule of law, and the principle of secular governance. Debate on issues such as the status of Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish population, the civilmilitary balance, the role of religion in public life, and heightened concern over press freedom could coalesce in 2012 around a proposal for a new constitution.

Congressional interest in Turkey is high with respect to the following issues: 

          Addressing ongoing change in the Middle East by coordinating policies and using Turkey’s regional example to influence political outcomes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; counter Iranian influence; and preserve stability; 
          The decline in Israel-Turkey relations and how that might affect U.S.-Turkey defense cooperation, including arms sales to counter the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization; and 
          A potential congressional resolution or presidential statement on the possible genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey’s predecessor state) during World War I. 
Many U.S. policymakers also are interested in the rights of minority Christian communities within Turkey; the currently stalemated prospects of Turkish accession to the European Union (EU); promoting increased trade with Turkey; and Turkey’s role in the Cyprus dispute, especially given tensions in late 2011 over offshore gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Congress annually appropriates less than $10 million in military and security assistance for Turkey. The EU currently provides over $1 billion to Turkey annually in pre-accession financial and technical assistance.

In 2011, U.S.-Turkey cooperation on issues affecting the Middle East became closer, partly because Turkey agreed to host a U.S. radar as part of a NATO missile defense system. Nevertheless, developments during the Obama Administration—including Erdogan’s downgrading of relations with Israel—have led to questions about the extent to which U.S. and Turkish strategic priorities and values converge on both a short- and long-term basis. Issues on which congressional action could affect future cooperation one way or another include the possible sale of drone aircraft to Turkey to counter the PKK and a potential Armenian genocide resolution.

Date of Report: January 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 46
Order Number: R41368
Price: $29.95

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Friday, January 13, 2012

United Nations Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) has been in a constant state of transition as various international stakeholders seek ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.N. system. Controversies such as corruption in the Iraq Oil-For-Food Program; allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers; and instances of waste, fraud, and abuse by U.N. staff have focused renewed attention on the need for change and improvement of the United Nations. Many in the international community, including the United States, have increased pressure on U.N. member states to implement substantive reforms. The 112th Congress may continue to focus on U.N. reform as it considers appropriate levels of U.S. funding to the United Nations and monitors the progress and implementation of ongoing and previously approved reform measures.

In September 2005, heads of U.N. member states met for the World Summit at U.N. Headquarters in New York to discuss strengthening the United Nations through institutional reform. The resulting Summit Outcome Document sought to lay the groundwork for a series of reforms that included establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, creating a new Human Rights Council, and enlarging the U.N. Security Council. Member states also agreed to Secretariat and management reforms including improving internal U.N. oversight capacity, establishing a U.N. ethics office, enhancing U.N. whistle-blower protection, and reviewing all U.N. mandates five years or older.

Since the World Summit, U.N. member states have worked toward implementing these reforms with varied degrees of success. Some reforms, such as the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, have already occurred or are ongoing. Other reforms, such as mandate review and U.N. Security Council enlargement, have stalled or not been addressed. U.N. member states disagree as to whether some proposed reforms are necessary, as well as how to most effectively implement previously agreed-to reforms. Developed countries, for example, support delegating more power to the U.N. Secretary-General to implement management reforms, whereas developing countries fear that giving the Secretary-General more authority may undermine the power of the U.N. General Assembly and therefore the influence of individual countries.

Congress has maintained a significant interest in the overall effectiveness of the United Nations. Some Members are particularly interested in U.N. Secretariat and management reform, with a focus on enhanced accountability and internal oversight. In the past, Congress has enacted legislation that links U.S. funding of the United Nations to specific U.N. reform benchmarks. Opponents of this strategy argue that tying U.S. funding to U.N. reform may negatively impact diplomatic relations and could hinder the United States’ ability to conduct foreign policy. Supporters contend that the United Nations has been slow to implement reforms and that linking payment of U.S. assessments to progress on U.N. reform is the most effective way to motivate member states to efficiently pursue comprehensive reform.

Date of Report: December 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL33848
Price: $29.95

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