Historical Examinations and Current Issues in Turkish-American Relations

by Ozan Örmeci (Volume editor) Huseyin Işıksal (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 390 Pages


The book aims to analyze Turkish-American relations. In order to improve its consistency and reliability, the volume is based on a chronological and thematic study of Turkish-American relations. Meticulous consideration has been given to the categorization and presentation of the contributions in order to ensure that the study operates in a relative manner, and the topic is categorized and narrowed down suitably. For this purpose, the volume is divided into three main parts and it maintains that each section’s contribution retains analytical cogency and descriptive relevancy to the preceding sections.
The book is prepared as a reference work as a collection of unpublished original chapters. It provides an insight into the widely discussed but not carefully analyzed topic by examining different aspects of Turkish-American relations from a historical point of view. It aims to analyze the roots of the Turkish-American relations and the direction in which they are going. It focuses on the political, economic, social, identity, and security interaction between the two actors. In this way, it aims to contribute to the scholarly literature in this field with original chapters on selected themes, especially in these unsettling and interesting times.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1 : Introduction: Washington and Ankara – Ties That Matter (Ozan Örmeci)
  • PART I: History and Background of Turkish-American Relations
  • Chapter 2 : Early Encounters Between the New World and the Middle East: Ottoman Empire-United States Relations in the 19th and the Early 20th Century (Murat Önsoy)
  • Chapter 3 : Turkish-American Relations From the Early Republican Era Until the End of Cold War (Gürol Baba)
  • Chapter 4 : Turkish-American Relations in the Post-Cold War Era (Ozan Örmeci)
  • PART II: Turkish-American Relations in Terms of Identity, Security, Economy, and Development
  • Chapter 5 : The Image of the U.S. in Turkey: A Historical View (Merve Şıvgın)
  • Chapter 6 : Troubled Period in Turkey-U.S. Security Partnership and Turkey’s NATO Alignment During the 2000s (Ömer Kurtbağ)
  • Chapter 7 : Turkish-American Relations in Terms of Economy and Development (Gürol Baba)
  • Chapter 8 : Turkish-American Relations in Terms of Arms Trade (Cenk Özgen)
  • Chapter 9 : Issues in Turkish-U.S. Relations: A Politico-Psychological Analysis through Problematic Cases (Şebnem Udum)
  • PART III: Turkish-American Relations in Key Political Areas
  • Chapter 10 : Turkish-American Relations in the Middle East in the Post-Arab Spring Era: The Bonds That Are No Longer Tight (Hüseyin Işıksal and Qais Khaleel Sallam Maaitah)
  • Chapter 11 : U.S.-Turkish Relations since the Arab Spring: Missteps, Mutual Misunderstandings, and Future Possibilities (Matthew Weiss)
  • Chapter 12 : The Turkish-Israeli-U.S. Triangle: How Israel Factors into Turkish-American Relations (Matthew S. Cohen)
  • Chapter 13 : The Trump Administration: An Impossible Thrust for Turkey-EU Relations (Armağan Gözkaman)
  • Chapter 14 : Understanding the 21st Century’s Specific Eurasian Regional Security and Energy Security Parameters in the Turkish-American Relationship: A Case Study on South Caucasus and Central Asia (Sina Kısacık)
  • Chapter 15 : Conclusion: Turkish-American Relations in the 21st Century: An Uneasy Alliance (Hüseyin Işıksal)
  • Editors
  • List of Contributors

Ozan Örmeci1

Chapter 1: Introduction: Washington and Ankara – Ties That Matter

Ever since the second half of the 20th century, Turkish-American Relations have been a hot topic for politicians, academics, strategists, and journalists from both countries. Although the two countries’ historical relations are very limited, mostly because of geographical distance, Turkish-American alliance constantly deepened and rapidly reached the point of “strategic partnership” following the Second World War. Turkey and the U.S. became important partners during the Cold War under the banner of NATO. To use a family analogy, geopolitical risks and military threats caused by Stalin’s Russia in the 1940s directed Ankara to quickly embrace Washington as its new and older step brother who really cares for him and who could protect himself against a very strong kid in the tough neighborhood. American lifestyle and liberal values also sprawled in Turkey quickly. The 1950s were golden years of Turkish-American alliance as the new Turkish political elite (Democrat Party) and Turkish people were charmed and delighted by American values, culture, and democracy. The U.S. was a critical partner for Turkey during this period since it was providing economic and military aids as well as political support to Ankara. In other words, this new step brother was full of surprises, useful knowledge, and was helping Ankara to grow and become stronger. However, as two countries’ diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations diversified, many problems emerged in bilateral relations in the following decades.

First of all, continuing with the family (older step brother) analogy, strong affectionate feelings on the both sides caused jealousy and disappointment in the years to come. While Washington was disturbed and jealous of his little brother Ankara’s self-ordained adventures concerning closer relations with Russia and a tough Cyprus policy in order to protect Turkish Cypriots and to secure the Eastern Mediterranean in the 1970s, as well as a more assertive Middle Eastern initiatives in the 2000s, Ankara also many times felt that his older step brother can be very harsh and irresponsible. The Cuban Missile Crisis, Cyprus Dispute, and the “hood incident” that took place in Sulaymaniyah following the rejection of March 1, 2003 memorandum in Turkish Parliament, all provided clear proofs for Ankara in assuring himself that he cannot completely trust in his step brother who has closer relations with his full brothers and sisters (Israel, European countries, and other more important strategic allies).

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Secondly, while the Turkish-American alliance was established as a strategic necessity for both sides in the 1950s, new political, economic, and strategic necessities made the alliance less vital in the 21st century. To explain it more concretely; Turkey’s growing energy needs caused Ankara to become dependent on the Russian Federation and Islamic Republic of Iran, while Washington’s Middle Eastern policies began to be shaped with a more Kurdish-related focus, in addition to an Israel priority, by excluding Ankara’s concerns. Using the family analogy again, two brothers’ relations become distanced as they grew older and engaged in very different social interactions away from each other. The disappearance of the old Soviet threat also changed the security dynamics of the relationship. Although new threats such as Al Qaeda and ISIS etc. still force both capitals to keep their security alliance, this does not seem like a force majeure as in the days of Cold War.

Thirdly, as the two countries still enjoy democratic election mechanisms and both suffer from the religious-nationalist right’s populist tendencies, belonging to different civilizational families began to create problems in bilateral relations. While the U.S. support to Israel and Kurds in combination with American aggression in Iraq forced Turkish politicians and strategists to reconsider ties with Washington, Turkey’s prevailing Islamic identity and its political problems and disputes with Christian nations including Armenians, Greeks, and Greek Cypriots, as well as Ankara’s frequent quarrels and hustles with Israel (people of Jewish heritage), made Turkey an unpopular actor for American public and decision-makers.

Fourthly, the two countries’ different political systems began to shape their strategic approaches to problems differently more recently. The U.S., as a federal state, has always tried to promote ethnic or sectarian based federalism in countries like Iraq and Syria. Intimidated by its own Kurdish problem, Turkey -on the contrary- has always supported unitary models in the region. This caused growing anti-Americanism in Turkey, due to the fear of breaking up with the Kurds. Recent political developments in Northern Iraq (Barzani’s failed independence referendum) and northern Syria (de facto PYD/YPG controlled territories) also strengthened Turkish fears and oriented Ankara to develop closer relations and cooperation with important regional actors such as Russia and Iran.

Lastly, although in the age of globalization geographical distance lost its meaning, during their 70 years of alliance; Turkish-American Relations could not be developed enough in terms of economic and cultural grounds. This caused a strain on the two nations’ relationship to each other. All public polls show that, along with Israel, the U.S. is the most distrusted country in Turkey, while Turkey is not a popular country in America either. Unlike the current situation; in the 1950s, the U.S. was an unknown, but at the same time a trusted actor for Turks. Turkey also had a positive image in the eyes of Americans as a Muslim nation being a part of the Western bloc. As an inheritor of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s exotic nature was also a great positive factor for American and European Orientalists. Moreover, two countries did not have any wars or major problems (except for the Barbary Wars) until that time. However, as two countries became allies, their relationship became closer and entangled at the same time. In time, problems emerged between ←16 | 17→the two allies in many areas. These problems and traumatic experiences such as the “hood incident” created bad memories for two nations that sometimes overshadow rational thinking. Moreover, the lack of communication (read as the lack of intensified cultural, social, and economic ties between two countries) prevented two step siblings from having a stable friendship. This might have been avoided by closer social, cultural, and economic ties; but so far Ankara and Washington could not develop their relations in these areas in order to overcome the image and confidence problem between the two nations. So, as a proverb in both languages suggest; “Out of sight, out of mind” (Gözden ırak olan, gönülden de ırak olur).

In order to materialize all these problems and put a light to the background and also to the future of Turkish-American Relations, together with Professor Hüseyin Işıksal, we have decided to prepare and edit a new comprehensive book about Turkish-American Relations. We named the book Historical Examinations and Current Issues in Turkish-American Relations. We have carefully chosen a group of young academics to write necessary chapters for providing a complete picture of bilateral relations. Although all chapters are written by Turkish and American academics (with the exception of our Bahraini colleague Dr. Qais Khaleel Sallam Maaitah), having an academic ethic and universal perspective, contributors of this book have tried to provide a balanced and neutral approach to problems. Moreover, all authors of this book are in favor of Turkey’s deepening integration into the Western world (primarily the U.S.) without spoiling its relations with its neighbors and other countries. In addition, all authors made serious efforts to discover new dimensions of a widely-spoken topic by making research and following contemporary political developments. Although developing a theoretical approach to pragmatism-based and dynamic Turkish-American Relations is a very difficult academic endeavor (not to mention the ultra-pragmatism of two countries’ current leaders Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Donald Trump), we have achieved to provide different models and periodization patterns to better analyze Turkish-American Relations. Thus, I can proudly and confidently say that this will be one of the best books ever written on this subject.

Here, it should be also mentioned that although Turkish-American Relations have always been a popular subject in Political Science and International Relations, the number of English-language edited books are very few. Turkish-American Relations: Past, Present and Future (2003, Routledge), edited by Mustafa Aydın and Çağrı Erhan, is a solid academic work that covers almost all important historical and political issues in terms of Turkish-American Relations, but the book does not contain information about the recent past and contemporary issues. Şuhnaz Yılmaz’s Turkish-American Relations, 1800–1952: Between the Stars, Stripes and the Crescent (2015, Routledge) is probably the most comprehensive academic book written in English language on this subject; but the book covers historical information until 1952. The other books in English language focus on specific issues about Turkish-American Relations and do not cover all important aspects of bilateral relations. That is why, I am pretty confident that this book will help academics, researchers, and students to understand the fundamentals and progress of Turkish-American ←17 | 18→Relations with a wider outlook. Thus, I think this work can be used as a textbook as well in many universities having chairs or courses on Turkish-American Relations.

This book consists of three parts and fourteen chapters in addition to the Preface and Introduction parts. Following the Introduction, the first part of the book, entitled “History and Background of Turkish-American Relations”, provides a historical perspective for understanding the emergence and the development of the Turkish-American alliance starting from the 18th century up until now in addition to new challenges that make ties between Ankara and Washington less tight in the last few years. The first chapter of the book, written by Dr. Murat Önsoy and entitled “Early Encounters Between the New World and the Middle East: Ottoman Empire-United States Relations in the 19th and the Early 20th Century”, analyzes Turkish-American Relations from political history perspective during the 18th century, 19th century, and the early 20th century. Dr. Gürol Baba wrote the second chapter of the book, “Turkish-U.S. Relations From the Early Republican Era Until the End of Cold War”, which focuses on Turkish-American Relations concerning the early Republican era and the Cold War period. The third and the last chapter of this part is written by me; entitled “Turkish-American Relations in the Post-Cold War Era”, this chapter analyzes Turkish-American Relations after the Cold War by focusing on two different models of Turkish-American alliance as well as different U.S. Presidents’ approaches to Turkey and the most important events that took place during their tenure in office. The study also lists strong and weak aspects of bilateral relations.

The second part of the book is called “Turkish-American Relations in Terms of Identity, Security, Economy, and Development” and it contains five original chapters. The first chapter of this part belongs to Dr. Zeynep Merve Şıvgın. It focuses on the image of U.S. and Americans in Turkey and is entitled “The Image of the U.S. in Turkey: A Historical View”. In his chapter entitled “Troubled Period in Turkey-U.S. Security Partnership and Turkey’s NATO Alignment during the 2000s”, Dr. Ömer Kurtbağ focuses on the security dimension of Turkish-American Relations with a particular focus on NATO alliance. The third chapter, “Turkish-American Relations in terms of Economy and Development”, is written by Dr. Gürol Baba and it provides insight to the economic dimensions of bilateral relations. The fourth chapter within this part, “Turkish-American Relations in Terms of Arms Trade”, is written by Dr. Cenk Özgen and it focuses on the history of arms trade between Washington and Ankara. The fifth and the last chapter of the second part, “Issues in Turkish-U.S. Relations: A Politico-Psychological Analysis Through Problematic Cases”, is written by Dr. Şebnem Udum and it offers a new political psychological perspective to problematic issues in Turkish-American Relations.

The third part of the book is named “Turkish-American Relations in Key Political Areas” and contains five original chapters. Professor Hüseyin Işıksal, co-editor of the book, together with Dr. Qais Khaleel Sallam Maaitah, in their piece called “Turkish-American Relations in the Middle East in the Post-Arab Spring Era: The Bonds That Are No Longer Tight”, analyzes the very critical Middle Eastern dimension of the Turkish-American alliance with a particular focus on the post-Arab ←18 | 19→Spring (contemporary) period. Authors of this chapter frankly discuss the new challenges and problematic aspects of bilateral relations concerning Washington and Ankara’s Middle East policies. The second chapter within this part, “U.S.-Turkish Relations Since the Arab Spring: Missteps, Mutual Misunderstandings, and Future Possibilities”, is written by American scholar Dr. Matthew Weiss and it focuses on the new challenges in terms of Turkish-American alliance after the Arab Spring. The third chapter of this part, “The Turkish-Israeli-U.S. Triangle: How Israel Factors into Turkish-American Relations”, is written by another American academic Dr. Matthew S. Cohen and it focuses on the Israel factor in Turkish-American Relations. Dr. Armağan Gözkaman, in his chapter “The Impossibility of Trump Administration’s Thrust for Turkey-EU Relations”, focuses on the negative effects of Donald Trump’s policies concerning Turkish-European Union (EU) relations, as well as the U.S.-EU relations. The fifth and last chapter of this part, “Understanding the 21st Century’s Specific Eurasian Regional Security and Energy Security Parameters in Turkish-American Relations: The Cases of the South Caucasus and Central Asia” is written by Dr. Sina Kısacık and it analyzes the Caucasia and Central Asia dimension of Turkish-American Relations with a particular focus on energy politics. The book ends with Professor Hüseyin Işıksal’s concluding remarks in his piece called “Conclusion: Turkish-American Relations In the 21st Century: An Uneasy Alliance”.

The book is written by Turkish and American academics coming from different backgrounds who are specialized in Turkish Politics and Turkish Foreign Policy. Editors of the book, Professor Hüseyin Işıksal and I, have previously published one of the most comprehensive English-language books over Turkish Foreign Policy, Turkish Foreign Policy in the New Millennium (2015, Peter Lang), and we have worked hard for this project. That is why, I am hundred percent sure that we have done a good job and made a significant contribution to academic literature on Turkish-American Relations that will guide other academics and decision-makers in both countries.

Finally, in my opinion, we should not be pessimistic about the future of Turkish-American Relations although serious problems and disagreements still exist between the two countries. Moreover, as Americans say, we should “let bygones be bygones” and focus on the future rather than discussing the problematic past. After all, as Shakespeare wrote, “all’s well that ends well”…

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1 Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Istanbul Gedik University, Istanbul, Turkey.
Email: ozanormeci@gmail.com / ozan.ormeci@gedik.edu.tr

Murat Önsoy1

Chapter 2: Early Encounters Between the New World and the Middle East: Ottoman Empire-United States Relations in the 19th and the Early 20th Century

Abstract: Due to several regional and domestic developments, the United States (U.S.) and the Ottoman Empire could not establish official diplomatic relations for almost half a century until the latter required foreign aid to rebuild its navy after the catastrophe of Navarino (1828). In the later years, the increasing number of missionaries in the Ottoman domain caused the U.S. governments’ interference in the domestic affairs of the Ottoman Empire to protect the missionaries’ lives and provide guarantees to the secure conduct of their activities. In the second half of the 19th century, relations between Washington and Istanbul became much more tense as new issues are involved in the agenda of the bilateral relations such as the migration of Ottoman subjects to the U.S., the reaction of the U.S. public to the tensions between the Ottoman State and its non-Muslim subjects, and the issue of the American arms sale to the Ottoman Empire. This chapter aims to shed light on the relations between the U.S. and the Ottoman Empire. The first part of this chapter begins with the almost half a century-long encounters of the American merchants and the missionaries with the Ottomans before the start of the official relations in 1830. The second part of this chapter focuses on the developments that took place in the bilateral relations from 1830 until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

Keywords: U.S., Ottoman Empire, Turkey, American Missionaries, Armenians.


Beyond any doubt, the end of the Second World War represents an important turning point in the history of Turkish-American Relations. With the onset of the Cold War, the decades-long friendly, if not very intense, bilateral relations between the two states turned into an alliance. Naturally, much of the literature on the historiography of the Turkish-American Relations concentrates on the Cold War and the post-Cold War periods; yet this dearth of scholarship turned a ←23 | 24→blind eye to the pre-Cold War period as if there were no noteworthy ties between the U.S. and Turkey or between the U.S. and Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of Turkey. This chapter will trace the origins of Turkish-American Relations back to the late 18th century Ottoman Empire and fill a gap by enlightening this relatively understudied episode of the bilateral relations between the two states.

In the aforementioned period during which the two states had their first contact, on the one side of the Atlantic, the newly established United States, deprived of the overseas trade networks it had once enjoyed under the British flag, was at risk of sinking into an economic depression. The U.S. government was encouraging the American merchants to sail to the old continent to find new trade opportunities. U.S.-flag merchant ships first set sail for China and northern European ports. Soon after, they ventured into the lucrative Mediterranean markets; Spain, France, and Italy being among their first ports of call. Their next stop was the Eastern Mediterranean, which was at the time home to the Ottoman Empire, commonly referred to as the “Turkish Empire” or “Turkey” by Westerners. By the time U.S.-flag merchants reached the Ottoman waters, the Ottoman Empire was militarily and economically in a state of gradual decline. Once the strongest state in the world, the Empire of the Turkish dynasty -by the late 18th century- failed to keep up with the changing socio-economic conditions in the Western world under the influence of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism and gradually lost much of its prestige and power. However, it was still one of the influential maritime actors in the Eastern Mediterranean. The early encounters of the two states and their people occurred under such circumstances and as can be understood from the above picture, trade was the key to the development of early relations. The establishment of diplomatic relations was particularly important for the U.S. commercial interests as, at the time, there was no other way of expanding into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

The first part of the chapter traces the early encounters of the two states and their people, an almost half a century period between the founding of the U.S. and the official start of the relations in 1830s, and discusses why the start of the diplomatic relations between the two states was postponed. The second part focuses on the relations in the post-1830 period. In this period, the bilateral relations gained a new dimension with the increasing activities of the American missionaries in the Ottoman soil and their relations with the Armenian populations of the Empire. The third part concentrates on the U.S.-Ottoman Empire relations in the 20th century, the time when the U.S. temporarily abandoned its non-involvement policy in world affairs and became part of the international politics of the Eastern Question. In the light of the analysis, this chapter identifies trade interests, immigration of the Ottomans to the U.S., and American missionary activities as the key determinants of the bilateral relations between the U.S. and the Ottoman Empire.

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I. Early Encounters: The History of Relations Before the Establishment of Diplomatic Ties

At the turn of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was a decentralized power with local rulers holding large amounts of autonomy in their territories. Therefore, the Ottoman central administration was not the only authority in the Eastern Mediterranean. American merchant ships came under constant attack from the pirates of the Barbary States of Tripoli, Algiers, Tunisia, and the independent Sultanate of Morocco (de jure possessions of the Ottoman Empire). Pirates began seizing American merchant ships, holding their crews for ransom, and demanding the U.S. government to pay tribute (Kurat 1964, p. 175). These attacks prevented American ships from trading in Ottoman waters (Erhan 2000, p. 79). The U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts concentrated on the local rulers of the Barbary States, as the Sublime Porte had no power over these semi-autonomous regencies (Özmen 2007, p. 195). The piracy problem was temporarily relieved through the signing of treaties of peace and friendship (Şafak 2003, p. 10) between the U.S. government and Algeria, Tripoli, and Tunisia in 1795, 1796, and 1797, respectively (the treaties were written in Ottoman script). The U.S. government agreed to pay tribute to the rulers of these states in exchange for the security of American ships (Doğan 1996, pp. 17–18). These tributes eventually drained the American economy, necessitating the construction of a stronger U.S. Navy that did not need its security to be guaranteed (Şıvgın 2012, p. 109). A few years later, the new naval fleet took the stage against the Barbary States in the two Barbary Wars of 1801–1805 and 1815, and finally, the practice of paying tribute to the pirate states ended in 1815 (Erhan 2000, p. 79).

With the end of the threat posed by pirates, the Eastern Mediterranean became much more secure for American merchants and the number of American ships calling at the ports of the Ottoman Empire, particularly at the port of Izmir, increased. But still, the absence of diplomatic relations deprived American merchants of the privileges that their European counterparts enjoyed in the way of legal and fiscal capitulations. To overcome this imbalanced trade atmosphere, American trade ships that arrived at the port of Izmir were granted the protection of the British Consul in Izmir and the British Levant Company. Thanks to British patronage, the import tax burden of the American merchants decreased from 6 % to 3 % (Avcı 2016, p. 91). This service was not free, however; in return, the British charged a fee equal to 0.25 % of the price of the American goods (Turgay 1982, p. 196). The U.S. government was not willing to leave American merchants’ fate to the mercy of British representatives; thus, it accelerated its efforts to establish formal relations with the Ottoman Empire during this period.

Prior to 1830, there had been several attempts to initiate official relations, all of which had failed for different reasons. One of the earliest American attempts came in June 1799 with the visit of Minister Plenipotentiary of the U.S. in London Rufus King to his Ottoman counterpart İsmail Ferruh Efendi.2 During this visit, Rufus King stated ←25 | 26→his government’s desire to establish friendly relations to İsmail Ferruh Efendi and offered to send an Ambassador to Istanbul as a sign of friendly intentions. However, these efforts proved fruitless as the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain formed an alliance the same year against Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt (Ottoman territory at the time). The Sultan was hesitant to jeopardize this alliance by initiating official relations with Britain’s former colony (Çolak 2011, p. 531). That same year, the Americans also gave up on the idea of sending an Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire as pro-French attitude became dominant among the American public (Kurat 1959, p. 10).

In 1802, when the French campaign in Egypt ended, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson nominated an American merchant called William Stewart as the Consul of Izmir. However, his appointment was not approved by the Sublime Porte due to the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries (Avcı 2016, p. 87). In 1808, the U.S. government dispatched another envoy, Mr. Sloan, to carry out negotiations with the Sublime Porte to open a U.S. Consulate in Izmir. For the same reason, these negotiations also failed.

American commercial activities were hampered between 1809 and 1811 due to the British representatives’ decision not to continue its patronage of American ships. In 1811, a temporary solution was found by David Offley, an American merchant stationed in Izmir. Through his efforts, Offley earned the respect of the Ottoman bureaucrats in Istanbul and managed to secure the same privileges for business activities as those held by the British (Howard 1976, p. 292). Later on, he extended these privileges to all of his countrymen by opening an American Trade House in Izmir. In 1821, there were four trade houses in Izmir, and trade increased gradually in the subsequent years (Avcı 2016, p. 88).

In 1819, the U.S. government once again tried to establish diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire. Luther Bradish, an American bureaucrat, was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to negotiate a treaty of commerce and navigation. Adams met with the Ottoman Minister of Foreign Affairs Halet Efendi. However, negotiations were interrupted in 1821 as a result of the Greek uprisings and finally broke down in 1822 when Halet Efendi was executed on the orders of the Sultan, accused of helping the Greek insurgents. Meanwhile, the Greek revolts led to a surge in Philhellenism in the U.S. The American philhellenes and people from all segments of society argued passionately for U.S. intervention on behalf of the Greeks (Oren 2007). Despite public pressure to help its “Christian brothers” and recognize the newly established Greek State, the reaction of the U.S. government was calculated.3 Secretary Adams did not want to ←26 | 27→put the lucrative Mediterranean trade at risk by alienating the Ottoman Empire. At his behest, words praising the Greek insurgents were dropped from the first draft of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 (Erhan 2000, p. 82).

U.S. government’s attempts to establish official relations persisted, but the Ottoman government declined these offers in response to the pro-Greek attitude among the American public. In 1823, George Bethune English was appointed by Adams to deliver a correspondence to Istanbul, communicating the aim of the U.S. government to initiate official relations. It was an undercover mission; the negotiations were hidden from the American public to avoid criticism. English contacted the Admiral of the Ottoman Navy, Capudan Pasha, who asked English to tell his government to authorize the commandant of the U.S. squadron in the Mediterranean to carry out negotiations. Adams accepted Capudan Pasha’s request and ordered John Rodgers, the commander of the Mediterranean Squadron, to meet with Capudan Pasha. Although Rodgers and Capudan Pasha met as planned, the negotiations fell victim to the changing political atmosphere in the U.S. In 1824, John Quincy Adams, now a Presidential candidate, changed his attitude towards the Greek rebels and began to support Greek independence, a view he retained throughout his Presidency between 1825 and 1829 (English 2015, p. 98).

A reversal of the Ottoman attitude towards the U.S. government occurred in October 1828, when the Ottoman Navy was defeated and destroyed by the allied English, French, and Russian naval forces in Navarino. Twenty days after the destruction of the Ottoman Navy, David Offley received an invitation from the Sublime Porte to initiate negotiations toward diplomatic relations. The Sublime Porte, which had been reluctant to establish formal ties with the U.S., was now approaching the country for both technical and political reasons. From the technical point of view, the Americans had the means to help the Ottomans replace its destroyed navy. From the political point of view, initiating official relations with a non-hostile state like the U.S. would serve as leverage against European powers and was no harm to the Ottoman Empire at a time of crisis.4

David Offley and William Crane, the commander of the U.S. Mediterranean Fleet, were assigned as the U.S. delegation for the negotiations that lasted two years. Each side had its sine qua non conditions for initiating diplomatic relations. For the Ottoman Empire, it was the construction of a new navy using U.S. technology (Avcı 2016, p. 227). The U.S., on the other hand, sought the “most favored ←27 | 28→nation” privileges in the way of trade advantages such as reduced tariffs on imported goods and permission to navigate the Black Sea.5 The first party negotiations failed as the two sides could not agree on the rate of tax to be collected from American vessels. The second party negotiations started in 1829, with two new U.S. negotiators, Charles Rhind and Captain James Biddle, who successfully brought them to an end with the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation6, which was signed in May 1830. The Treaty was proclaimed by the U.S. President on February 4, 1832 and remained in force until the signing of a new and detailed Treaty of Commerce and Navigation in 1862 (Armaoğlu 1991, p. 7). The rather belated Treaty marked the beginning of formal relations between the Ottoman Empire and the U.S. more than 40 years after the founding of the latter. The Treaty was composed of 9 articles, including the capitulations and the most favored nation treatment of American citizens in the territories of the Ottoman Empire. American trade ships were bestowed freedom of commercial passage through the Ottoman Straits, opening the gates of Black Sea trade to them (Howard 1976, p. 294). A secret clause committing the U.S. to rebuild the Ottoman Navy on American soil was later not ratified by the U.S. Senate, as it breached the neutrality declared by the Monroe Doctrine. In order not to frustrate efforts, the U.S. government sent Henry Eckford to Istanbul, a famous naval architect, together with 15 American workers, who were employed by the Ottoman government to supervise the construction of the Ottoman naval fleet (Yılmaz 2015, p. 16). Eckford, who died of cholera in 1832, was succeeded the same year by another architect, Foster Rhodes. The Ottoman Empire rebuilt its navy with the help of the American naval architects and reached the peak of its strength in the 1860s (Howard 1976, p. 294).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (July)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 390 pp., 8 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Ozan Örmeci (Volume editor) Huseyin Işıksal (Volume editor)

Professor Hüseyin Işıksal is a full professor of international relations at Near East University in North Cyprus. Associate Professor Ozan Örmeci is a political scientist at Istanbul Gedik University in Istanbul, Turkey.


Title: Historical Examinations and Current Issues in Turkish-American Relations
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