The budding bromance between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may finally be on the rocks. It’s not as if the Turks haven’t given us plenty of reasons to be upset with them already, but the recent arrest of of one of our embassy workers in Istanbul seems to have been the straw which at least put a crack in the camel’s back.
This wasn’t even an American citizen who was taken in. It was a Turkish worker at the embassy who was charged with having ties to Cleric Fethullah Gulen (which is the same charge that the Tyrant of Turkey levels against anyone who disagrees with him these days). In response to the arrest, the United States severely scaled back visa services for travelers to Turkey and they responded by doing the same. (Reuters)
The U.S. mission to Turkey said on Sunday it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey, on the grounds that it needed to “reassess” Turkey’s commitment to its personnel.
“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel,” the statement by the mission in Ankara said.
“In order to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”
As I alluded to above, Turkey responded by doing the same thing to us. But in a sign that they might finally be taking us seriously, their Justice Minister came out the same day urging both sides to rethink this position and return to a more normal diplomatic stance. He clearly wouldn’t have sent such a signal without clearing it with Erdogan first, so perhaps they’re ready to be a bit more reasonable.
And to be sure, the Turks are making a fair point in this specific case. This was a Turkish citizen who was arrested, not an American. They do indeed have the right to bring their own people to trial if charges are filed, no matter how ridiculous those charges may seem. But that raises the larger question lurking in the background here. Why was it the arrest of one of their citizens at our embassy which drove the Trump White House to finally take action?
The far bigger issue, which I wrote about at length yesterday, is how Erdogan has now managed to imprison more than a dozen American citizens, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, for months on end and openly hold them hostage until we meet his demands. Shouldn’t that have been enough for some form of diplomatic action in response by the White House? A foreign nation is holding Americans hostage with their president openly stating that we won’t get them back unless we deliver Fethullah Gulen to them for punishment. That’s a far cry more serious than Turkey arresting one of their own citizens inside their country and putting him on trial.
Still, perhaps this is the first hopeful sign in an international soap opera which has been dragging on for far too long now. We need to let Turkey know that if they are truly our ally and want to be treated as a fellow NATO country they need to start behaving in a more decent fashion. If this is the Trump administration’s first strike in that direction perhaps we’ll drag Erdogan back to a reasonable position and bring our people back home.