Turkish PM issues veiled threat to expel US ambassador as corruption probe breaks open

posted at 11:31 am on December 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Don’t look now, but a strategic member of NATO might be in the midst of a meltdown. Police have arrested dozens of people in a corruption probe, including relatives of Cabinet officials in Tayyip Erdogan’s government, shocking the nation and striking fear into the political elite. Police wiretapped a number of officials and claim to have discovered a web of bribery centered on an Iranian banker, and arrests are ongoing.

Erdogan has not exactly taken this lightly. In fact, he’s fired a bunch of people … who happen to be police commanders looking into the corruption:

Nor is that the end of Erdogan’s bizarre response. The Turkish Prime Minister accused “some” foreign ambassadors of provoking the situation and threatened to expel them — a threat aimed at the US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday warned some foreign ambassadors he might expel them over “provocative actions,” amid mounting tensions over an anti-graft probe[.]

“Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions … Do your job,” Erdogan said in televised remarks in the Black Sea city of Samsun. “We don’t have to keep you in our country.”

Erdogan’s remarks were considered a veiled threat to US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, after he was reported to have commented on the unfolding bribery scandal.

“Get out of this country!” headlined the Yeni Safak newspaper, with a picture of the US envoy on its front page.

Turkeish newspapers reported that Ricciardone told EU ambassadors that he warned Halkbank to cut its ties with Iran, and that because they didn’t listen, “you are watching the collapse of an empire.” Ricciardone denied saying it, a denial issued via his Twitter account — in Turkish, no less. The Turkish government later said it has no immediate plans to summon Ricciardone to the Foreign Ministry, but Erdogan needs the distraction at least for a while as his government totters.

Erdogan’s attempt to move Turkey closer diplomatically to Iran (although not in regard to Bashar al-Assad in Syria, notably) has not been a very popular move, especially in the more cosmopolitan Western region of the country.  I’m no expert on Turkey (Jim Geraghty and Guy Benson have spent a lot more time there), but we spent a few days in Istanbul last month, and I was surprised when our tour guide gave us her unsolicited and deeply negative views on Erdogan and his Islamist government (especially at the very beginning of the tour). She claimed that the people can’t wait to throw him and his party out of power in next year’s elections and return to a more Kemalist, West-leaning policy of secularism.  At the same time, Erdogan faces a deep political challenge from an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen, who despises Iran and Saudi Arabia and wants to move Turkey away from Islamism and back to secular government, too.

A bribery scandal would come at the worst possible time — and expelling an American ambassador could provide a momentary distraction.  It might also panic Turks who don’t want to slide into an Iranian orbit, especially if it comes through bribery of Erdogan’s ministers.  Keep an eye on developments in Turkey.

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Erdogan’s administration has been growing increasingly unstable and authoritarian lately, anyone remember those protests in May and June?

Doomberg on December 21, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Istanbul is a big city, but there is a larger population out in the countryside who listens to Erdogan. At some point, a secularist/Kurd alliance is going to take over Turkey, but it could be two decades.

thuja on December 21, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Wait…who’s the corrupt government? Is he talking about our government, or Turkey’s????

ScottG on December 21, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Of course it is the fault of Jews, a secret Christian society, America, and Kurds. It always is.

pat on December 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Erdogan faces a deep political challenge from an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen, who despises Iran and Saudi Arabia and wants to move Turkey away from Islamism and back to secular government, too.

Gulen may despise Iran and Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure his movement is secular in our sense, though, and it sure isn’t democratic.

kcewa on December 21, 2013 at 11:48 AM

President Selfie’s favorite foreign leader.

mudskipper on December 21, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Isn’t this the part of the story were the unstable government suspends elections? I’ve seen this movie before.

dirtseller on December 21, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Wait…who’s the corrupt government? Is he talking about our government, or Turkey’s????

ScottG on December 21, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Well, if they’re actually talking about corruption in the press…

…It’s not our country.

trigon on December 21, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Turkey with all the dressing.

Shy Guy on December 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Power struggle.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM

This is not going to end well.

Steve Eggleston on December 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Turkey holds the key to ridding the world of Islamic radicalism. We have to get this one right…

JohnGalt23 on December 21, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Islam never ends well.

Read the damned Koran.

Emphasis on damned.

profitsbeard on December 21, 2013 at 12:48 PM

OBTW, they are initial customers of the stealthy F-35 fighter. How long will it be before that technology is in the hands of the Iranians or Chinese?

TulsAmerican on December 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Iran pulling the strings of Turkey?????

Muslim Brotherhood buddies stick together.

albill on December 21, 2013 at 2:12 PM

I would to see this POS get tossed. Turkey deserves far better.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on December 21, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Don’t look now, but a strategic member of NATO might be in the midst of a meltdown.

NATO is on its last legs and is little more than a paper alliance.

The beginning of the end was Afghanistan, when Fance and Germany refused to provide much more than token troop levels. Troops who were prohibited from engaging in offensive operations. Troops who were only permitted to fight if attacked. When the going got tough and NATO commanders, even non-American NATO commanders were screaming for more troops, France and Germany refused both to provide more or change their restrictive rules of engagement.

So much for an attack on one member being trated as an attack on all. We found out how that works when it is the US that is attacked.

In the end the US basically had to go it alone in Afghanistan, with a gutless incompetent Commander-in-Chief who refused to provide the minimum troop levels his own hand picked commanding general said he needed. In the end we will declare victory and leave, and Afghanistan will go back to the Taliban. Basically, Vietnam Redux. Without the criticism ofoura left-wing media, because a leftist President did it.

As far as I am concerned, NATO ended as an alliance useful to the US in Afghanistan.

So I really don’t give a sh!t what happens to it.

We have allies in Europe who are true allies. And we have allies in name only. Yet they are all in NATO.

What is happening in Turkey is further evidence a rethinking and restructuring of our alliances is required.

farsighted on December 21, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Turkey is past due for another purge.

Karmashock on December 21, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Morsi, Erdogan and Obama: all brother pharaohs from another mother.

VorDaj on December 21, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Erdogan is another example of islamists’ view of democracy: one man, one vote – one time.

Although there have been elections regularly since he first came to power, he has steadily reduced the eligible parties and candidates, stifled media that opposed him, and probably just engaged in vote fraud.

The only way to get rid of an islamist government is by revolution. Either the people take to the streets, or the Army steps in. Erdogan has steadily undermined the once-proud Turkish military, so it may be up to the people.

But whoever steps up should remember what happened to the Venezuelan generals who listened to Bush’s bad advice after deposing Chavez, and didn’t shoot him. They were shot.

No exiles to foment invasions or terror, folks. Kill them all.

Adjoran on December 21, 2013 at 2:57 PM

farsighted on December 21, 2013 at 2:35 PM

I’d go back just a bit further, recall that Turkey did not allow the US to stage an invasion of Iraq from the north. We had wanted to invade from both north and south, but Turkey’s refusal in this instance put a significant strain on operations in the early days.

I agree with your view that NATO is an organisation whose use-by date passed 10 years ago, and we should have withdrawn from it a long time ago – along with withdrawing from post-WWII/Cold War era bases in Germany and the UK. Rumsfeld wanted to do just that, but the Germans screamed bloody murder about losing the bases because of losing the tax revenues from them.

I suppose the old saying is truer now than ever before: Europe will defend itself to the last American soldier and the last American dollar.

Take the bases away, withdraw from NATO, and watch the eurosclerotic Continent slide inexorably into chaos…bring it.

Wanderlust on December 21, 2013 at 4:16 PM


Erdogan said that “Democracy is like a train: when you reach your destination, you get off.”

What is markedly less known is that during the same period he repeatedly explained why his ideology is inherently tyrannical.

Erdogan is on video saying: “You cannot be both secular and a Muslim! You will either be a Muslim, or secular! When both are together, they create reverse magnetism [i.e. they repel one another]. For them to exist together is not a possibility! Therefore, it is not possible for a person who says “I am a Muslim” to go on and say “I am secular, too.” And why is that? Because Allah, the creator of the Muslim, has absolute power and rule!” He went on to say, “When [does the sovereignty belong to the people]? It is only when they go to the polls [every five years] that sovereignty belongs to the people. But both materially, and in essence, sovereignty unconditionally and always belongs to Allah!” This might sound arbitrary and irrelevant to Western readers, but it is not. The overarching theological drive of Islamists is the implementation of the sovereignty of Allah on earth, known as Hakimiyyat Allah, using a divinely mandated set of laws, referred to as Sharia. The problem with the sovereignty of Allah is that it may not be undone by mere mortals, since of course the sovereignty of the people is inferior to the sovereignty of Allah. This means that Islamist doctrine does not allow them to be democratically removed from power, and this makes their ideology inherently tyrannical.

hepcat on December 21, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Turkey holds the key to ridding the world of Islamic radicalism. We have to get this one right…

JohnGalt23 on December 21, 2013 at 12:42 PM

…with John Botox and JugEars in office?

KOOLAID2 on December 21, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Turkey’s traditional agent of reset to secularism, their military, is unfortunately too infested with Muslim terrorists to function in that role. Turkey’s irrational hatred of Jews/Israel is climbing back to WWII levels, as it is most of Europe and the American Left.

The next big one will probably involve Israel, Saudi Arabia, possibly the Kurds, some former Soviet Sat.s, and whomever replaces our Mr. Marx government in the U.S. Oddly, a fair amount of Arabs might actually be on Israels side, next time.

trl on December 22, 2013 at 3:54 PM