If you follow international news, you have no doubt seen a great deal of coverage surrounding the suicide bombings in Ankara, Turkey that happened last Saturday.
For those that haven’t read or heard anything about the terrorist attack, 95 Turks were killed (and nearly another 250 were injured, according to USA Today) during a peace rally near the city’s main train station. It is reported to have been the most deadly terrorist act ever conducted on Turkish soil, and it is a national tragedy that the Turks have been dealing with this entire week.
But the bombing has done more than merely take the life of almost 100 citizens—it has caused pre-existing political tensions within the country to flare up to an extreme. The peace rally was largely made up of supporters of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a group that shocked the country in the last parliamentary election by winning enough seats to stifle President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans of converting Turkey from a secular nation to an Islamic one.
The bombings have outraged opponents of Erdogan and his government, as many believe that his regime either had a direct hand in the incident or did very little (if anything) to stop it from taking place. According to USA Today, the past week has been filled with protests and memorial celebrations, commemorating the victims.
So, this is obviously a big deal for Turkey, but what does any of this have to do with the United States? Why should you watch how this situation unfolds?
Turkey is a very interesting country, and it is potentially one of America’s most valuable allies in the modern day international political arena. It is a country that is at the crossroads of two distinctly—and often conflicting—cultures and civilizations. It is where Europe becomes Asia, a country with a Muslim majority but one that is nonetheless a member of NATO.
This unique juxtaposition between East and West is what gives it immense strategic value to the United States’ interests overseas. It is a friendly, pro-Western regime that shares borders with countries like Syria and Iraq, and it is central in the U.S.’s plans to combat the Islamic State and secure an advantageous American presence in the region.
Keeping an eye on Turkey is therefore a must to the informed American voter. The Middle East and terrorism are always among of the most contentious topics of debate when election season rolls around, and the upcoming election in 2016 is no exception. We, as American voters, may currently have more to think about regarding Middle Eastern foreign policy than ever before. Just think about it—the Iranian nuclear deal, the Islamic State taking over much of Iraq and Syria, the ongoing Syrian civil war and the subsequent refugee crisis in Europe, the stationing of Russian troops backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and, of course, the defense of Israel, to name a few. That is a lot of issues that the United States and its new President must face in the coming years, and it is a set of issues in which the American people ought to be well versed.
Now, consider how difficult those issues would be for the United States if Turkey were no longer stable. Turkey hosts American military bases (from which we attack the Islamic State with airstrikes) and also has a strong military that helps to give the chaotic region some semblance of peace and order.
The next time that you are watching CNN, Fox, NBC or whichever news stations you prefer, take note of how this current internal conflict is playing out in Turkey. The developments will have an impact not only in Ankara, but in Washington, D.C. as well.