In Turkey and the United States, fighting terrorism deeply influences both foreign and domestic policy and has become a fundamental variable in our bilateral relations. The qualification of an incident as a terrorist act or its perpetrators as terrorists determines friendly or antagonistic relations at the international level. In other words, two countries can become friends or foes on the basis of such qualifications. It is possible to observe this fact in Turkey-U.S. relations.
The main terrorist group in Turkey is the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party ]. If its activities and existence within Turkey are to be stopped, its international connections and support must be eliminated. Turkey suggests that the PKK’s human and logistical capacities are chiefly in northern Iraq, and its political and financial support is in the “West.” The PKK is based in Turkey, has global connections and has targets not only in Turkey, but worldwide.
For the U.S., the principal cause of the war on terror is al-Qaeda, which is seen not as a local organization but rather an international one. The U.S. perceives that al-Qaeda’s main purpose is to annihilate the values represented by the U.S. and its allies. Al-Qaeda is a global network. It is an organization in which its activities, logistics and human support are entirely oriented to destroying the global system. That is why the struggle with al-Qaeda must be conducted on the global level.
Turkey and the United States agree that both of these groups are terrorist organizations, but they differ on how to proceed in the fight against them. The main reason for this is that the priority in the US is al-Qaeda while in Turkey it's the PKK. The U.S. wants to destroy al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in Iraq, while Turkey's focus is the eradication of the PKK’s capacities in northern Iraq. The United States is soliciting Turkey’s help to minimize al-Qaeda activity while Turkey is attempting to get American support to block global backing for the PKK.
The U.S. has designated northern Iraq as a political and technical base of operations and is chiefly concerned with radical Shiite and Sunni groups. This makes it impossible for the U.S. to engage in battle in northern Iraq. The U.S. doesn't want to antagonize Kurdish groups in northern Iraq by fighting the PKK; and the last thing the U.S. needs as it seeks to establish "order" in Iraq or elsewhere is added trouble from Turkey. On the contrary, the U.S. needs all the help it can get from Turkey. Similarly, Turkey must accept the U.S. as an interlocutor on issues such as northern Iraq, Iraq as a whole and the PKK.
The precursor of a coming together appeared when the U.S. declared that PKK elements in northern Iraqi camps had been eradicated, and after a large number of al-Qaeda militants were arrested during operations in Turkey. With the mutual and gradual beginning of a joint struggle against one another's terrorists, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two countries agree on other subjects as well.