Keep your friends close and your friends who are homicidal dictators closer, I suppose.
Turkey’s efforts at international diplomacy were clearly bolstered when the Tyrant of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gained a White House audience with President Trump. During that meeting the two leaders supposedly discussed the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson. (Which still hasn’t happened, by the way.) Many observers still seem to believe that Erdogan is holding out because he would like the United States to turn over cleric Fethullah Gulen, currently residing in Pennsylvania. But now Erodgan may be adding another name to his list. NBA center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Enes Kanter, has an arrest warrant out for him in Turkey and their president really wants him brought to Ankara for “questioning.” (The Oklahoman)
Turkey has issued a warrant for the arrest of Thunder center Enes Kanter, according to a report from a Turkish pro-government publication.
According to a story from international news agency AFP, the Daily Sabah in Turkey reported that Kanter is sought for being a member of a “terror group.” A prosecutor in Istanbul opened an investigation into Kanter’s “alleged membership of an armed terrorist organization,” according to the AFP report…
Daily Sabah reported that the prosecutor would apply for an Interpol red notice to inform Interpol’s members that Kanter’s arrest is sought in an effort to ensure his deportation, according to the AFP report.
In terms of how he managed to get on Erdogan’s radar, Kanter definitely brought the attention on himself. He’s been tweeting out taunts to the Turkish government, daring them to try to come and get him and promising to go there and “spit in all their ugly, hate-filled faces.” On top of that, he’s openly aligned himself with Gulen, expressing his support for the cleric’s movement. Kanter is a citizen of Turkey but has a green card giving him lawful permanent resident status in the United States and has said that he’s working on obtaining US citizenship.
But being critical of the Erdogan regime and siding with Gulen aren’t crimes. (Well.. they’re not crimes in America, anyway. In Turkey that can get you executed.) The fact that he’s a Turkish citizen complicates matters a little, but we still have no reason to give this guy up and send him off to what would almost certainly be a lengthy stretch in a dungeon and some face time with one of Erdogan’s torturers.
Is this something that the Trump administration would ever seriously consider? The charges against Pastor Bronson are completely trumped up, if you’ll pardon the phrase, and it’s a slap in our face that he hasn’t already been released. But if he’s being used as a bargaining chip for some larger game of international diplomacy and intrigue, we’ve hit some dark times indeed.
Meanwhile, in an obvious show of hypocrisy, Turkey still has nothing to say in terms of regrets over Erdogan’s goons beating down unarmed protesters during his visit to Washington. As the Free Beacon reports, dozens of congressmen have signed on to an effort to have the perpetrators either arrested or expelled, but the White House remains silent on the matter thus far.
“This may be how they deal with dissenters in Turkey, but here in America that’s against the law,” Rep. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) said in a statement about the letter. “Our country is founded on the rights of free speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s security team’s brazen, physical assault on American citizens and legal residents peacefully protesting his policies is outrageous and follows a disturbing pattern. Foreign leaders, diplomats, and staff are invited guests of our nation, and they should act as such. All of those involved—at all levels—must be held accountable.”
You might be able to make the argument that Trump is in a tough spot right now when it comes to Turkey. No matter how deranged Erdogan may be, his country remains a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to dealing with Syria, and to a lesser extent, Russia and Iraq. But there also have to be limits to precisely how much we’re willing to tolerate in the name of cooperation from a supposed ally. We’re running into the same problem with the Philippines right now and it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for the rest of the world.
More than enough time has passed now for Trump to craft some sort of deal and get Andrew Brunson home. Once that’s accomplished we can deal with Erdogan from at least a slightly stronger position. Dithering and continuing to wait is increasingly turning into a problem for this administration.