BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It seems like every few years I get an irrepressible urge to toy with the coincidence of Turkey with turkey, right around the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. as opposed to Canada’s which is in October. But this year’s turkey is Trump, not Turkey, but he’s a turkey because of Turkey. Here’s how.
We’ve all been reminded ad nauseam, by President Donald Trump himself, what a great deal-maker he is. Heck he’s even “co”-authored “Trump: The Art of the Deal” with Tony Schwartz! That should prove it right? He knows what he’s talking about. Weeeeeeeeeell… maybe not so much.
It’s come down to Iran sanctions, waivers, oil, Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia, Erdoğan, Gulen, Atilla (not the Hun), and of course – Turkey.
Trump is fond of emphasizing his deal making prowess. He mocks his presidential predecessors, especially Obama, about how they got the short end of the stick. To prove it, he’s even picked some major international trade fights. But according to a recent piece in Foreign Policy authored by Aykan Erdemir (Turkish opposition politician) and Merve Tahiroğlu (researcher – Foundation for the Defense of Democracies), Trump could easily get hoodwinked just like his favorite fall guy, U.S. president #44. Apparently, this could easily happen now that the spigot for oil flow from Iran to Turkey has been left open since payments for that black stuff are permitted, shenanigans could follow.
Already, Erdoğan slammed the sanctions as “imperial” and vowed to defy them, despite having pledged to slash oil purchases in order to win the exemptions. If that doesn’t tell you how this will end, I don’t know what will.
All this is going on against another backdrop as well, the Khashoggi murder by Saudi Arabia. Turkey has been trying to milk this opportunity for concessions from Saudi Arabia. But now it looks even more obvious that ever-so-clever Erdoğan is working the Saudi Arabia angle against the U.S., too. It seems Trump is intent on shielding that Gulf state from as much of the Khashoggi fallout as possible. Enter Gulen – the old imam hiding out in Pennsylavania’s Poconos whom Erdoğan holds culpable for Turkey 2016 attempted coup d’etat.
In a November 15 NBC news piece a Turkish official is quoted as saying: “We definitely see no connection between the two. We want to see action on the end of the United States in terms of the extradition of Gulen. And we’re going to continue our investigation on behalf of the Khashoggi case.” Again, this is very suggestive that the Turks are indeed connecting the two, suggesting subtly that they’ll ease up on their Khashoggi-based-Saudi-pressure in exchange for the U.S. delivering Gulen to Ankara. From the same news item we learn that Trump has ordered a review of Gulen’s status and that U.S. officials recently discussed possibly delivering him to South Africa if certain legal thresholds can be met.
Meanwhile, there’s also speculation that Mehmet Hakan Atilla might be released as some part of this extortion operation Turkey is running against Trump. Attila is former deputy CEO of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, who is now in prison in New York after being convicted of complicity in the previous Turkey based Iran-sanctions-evasion scheme.
There you have it, while Erdoğan bellows his intent to defy the Iran sanctions, coddles up to Russia, and blackmails Saudi Arabia and the U.S., Trump plays the chump. He becomes Turkey’s turkey by not only getting NOTHING for the U.S. but also possibly subverting the system of justice in the U.S. And, he may release a guy who did exactly what Trump should be doing his best to prevent – circumvention of the sanctions he just re-imposed, but of course that presumes Trump is serious about anything when it comes to policy.
In this way, Trump’s even comes in second at being suckered, which is really bad since you’d think having the example of his predecessor would help him avoid the same trap.
Let’s all vote for Trump as Top Turkey on the occasion of Thanksgiving as a consolation prize for the election he just helped the Republican Party extensively lose!