It’s difficult to get a read on precisely how much meat there might be on this particular bone, but an ABC News report is claiming that as recently as August, President Trump was working on a plan to cut all diplomatic ties with Turkey over their failure to release Pastor Andrew Brunson. The details they’re providing make it seem like a fairly fleshed out plan of action, taking place over a period of two months, with plenty of State Department drama and infighting included. If so, it would have represented one of the biggest diplomatic breaks to take place inside NATO in the history of the organization.
Incensed by the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, President Donald Trump called for a plan to be drawn up in late August for the complete withdrawal of U.S. diplomatic personnel from Turkey, senior administration and State Department officials tell ABC News.
The unprecedented plan to essentially shutter an American embassy and all diplomatic missions of a NATO ally would have occurred over a 60-day period, starting with the removal of chief diplomats and ending with the eventual drawdown of all diplomatic personnel, according to one senior U.S. official with knowledge of the plan. The plan to remove the diplomats over the two month period was designed to put incremental pressure on the Turkish government.
“For a while, we were in fear of an apocalyptic break in relations with Turkey,” a senior State Department official said.
To be clear, this is yet another published report which is based entirely on anonymous State Department sources, so you can take that for what it’s worth. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert responded to a request for comment by ABC, saying that the report was, “patently false.” She went on to reiterate the importance of our relationship with Turkey and the rest of the diplomatic boilerplate you would expect.
But this sounds like one of those stories that may have at least a grain of truth at the center, despite being dressed up to make things sound worse than they actually were. This could have been a “plan” only in the discussion phase, serving as preparation for a worst case scenario while there was no intent to put it into action.
And in some ways that makes sense. Trump had been playing up his relationship with the Tyrant of Turkey for a while and it seemed like he expected Recep Tayyip Erdogan to play ball with him. When Brunson wasn’t released after his August bail hearing, it’s not difficult to imagine Trump being ready to blow his stack. At that point, some people in his administration might have had to talk him off the ledge before he went all in on the Turks.
Considering the NATO military presence there and Turkey’s position relative to Syra, Iraq, and Iran, breaking with them entirely would have been a messy affair. But by the same token, here’s one last question to consider. Did Turkey find out that Trump was reaching the breaking point and drafting a plan like this? And if so, is that what forced their hand, leading to them releasing Brunson this week? If this was a case of Trump playing hardball it apparently worked.