As erstwhile allies U.S. and Turkey engage in one-upmanship in Syria, several reports suggest the White House and Congress are contemplating political and economic sanctions against Turkey. There is scant reference to this issue in the Turkish press, while few comments from ministers assure the public that there is no ground for sanctions.
However, using the leverage of sanctions is one way of stopping Turkey from advancing towards Euphrates River and the PYD-YPG Kurds, allied with PKK and U.S. The topic might have been raised in the conversation between U.S. National Security Advisor Gen McMaster and Presidential Spokesperson Mr. Ibrahim Kalin. If rumors of sanctions are true, Turkish markets could suffer a large shock.
US Senator calls for sanctions
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is calling on the U.S. government to impose sanctions against Turkish government officials involved in jailing American citizens on trumped up charges.
The Turkish government has imprisoned at least two American citizens on false charges of supporting terrorist groups. And Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has openly admitted that he is using the issue to force the U.S. to extradite Fetullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric and Erdogan foe.
“The administration should…consider advising U.S. business owners to consider the safety of their employees before expanding operations into Turkey,” Lankford writes in an op-ed at The Wall Street Journal. “And most important, it should impose sanctions against Turkish officials involved in the prolonged and wrongful imprisonment of Americans.”
Lankford, a Republican, pointed to the case of Serkan Golge, a NASA scientist who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in Turkey on Thursday over bogus charges that he belongs to a terrorist group. Golge, who is a dual citizen of Turkey and the U.S., was arrested July 23, 2016, eight days after a failed coup attempt against the Turkish government.
According to press accounts, prosecutors offered scant evidence tying Golge to the Gulen movement, and even less evidence that he was involved in the coup plot.
One piece of evidence used against him was a $1 bill that was found in his brother’s room during a search. That denomination of American currency is allegedly used by some Gulen followers to signal membership in the group. Other Turks have been arrested for carrying $1 bills.
U.S. interest in Turkish sanctions intensifies
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s closed hearing on Wednesday, February 7, “Turkey and the Way Ahead,” is almost certainly a reaction to the deterioration in U.S.-Turkish ties. Much like the last-minute trip to Turkey by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster is an attempt to prevent outright hostilities.
The U.S.-Turkish alliance is, at this point, largely mythical, eroded over the last decade by diverging U.S. and Turkish interests in the Middle East and growing Turkish authoritarianism at home, wrote security analysts Blaise Misztal and Jessica Michek in a Bipartisan Policy Center blog.
Daily Haberturk’s Washington correspondent Mr. Serdar Turgut also verifies this story.
The blog states that three different types of sanctions might be implanted:
–Fines against Turkish state-run Halkbank for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran, or cutting Halkbank off from the U.S. financial system.
–Financial penalties under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act because of Turkey have planned purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia.
–Targeted sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which permits the U.S. executive to impose visa bans and sanctions on individuals for committing human rights abuses or persons engaged in significant corruption.
The possibility of some sanctions rose, as Turkish authorities put a third US consular employee under house arrest, which State Department might consider a breach of the verbal agreement reached to lift mutual visa bans.
An employee at the United States’ Istanbul consulate, Nazmi Mete Cantürk, turned himself in to Turkish authorities on Jan. 31 and has been under house arrest ever since, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Feb. 10.
Cantürk’s name had come up in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Turkey back in 2017.
The employee was reported to have been summoned to give his testimony by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office in a case involving Metin Topuz, another consulate worker accused of espionage by the Turkish state. (Hurriyet Daily News)
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