What the Minister Who Did not Join at White House Lunch Tells Us
Ilhan Tanir, Washington DCThe Missing Attorney General at the Table
As of Friday, the US media is still keeping the now infamous “Washington street brawl” news on air. The events took place during the last few hours of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Washington visit.
Thus an average American heard of Erdogan’s visit to the US through images of a bloody brawl, where the Turkish bodyguards were kicking and strangling a small group of protesters. According to Henri Barkey, a prominent Washington expert on Turkey, Erdogan’s security details’ attacks on about a dozen protesters in front of all cameras and journalists ”has become a serious crisis for Turkey especially as a NATO country”.
Never Before Seen in Modern Times
The Turkish Ambassador was summoned to the US State Department following the violence. In modern relations between the US and Turkey, a Turkish Ambassador being summoned to the US State Department to be given a note is unheard of. This may even be unprecedented. The Trump administration’s ‘unpredictability’ makes it even harder to speculate how this crisis will evolve.
The US State Department is still investigating those who were involved in the fight. According to the Daily Caller, a memo that has been circulating in the US State Department that says the attackers were identified. According to the memo, some of the assailants had diplomatic immunity while others were ‘hired’ by the Turkish-American Steering Committee. Halil Mutlu, a cousin of Erdogan’s and a board member of the Turkish American Steering Committee, was spotted on the sidelines of the fray. At one point he was seen leading a pro-Erdogan chant aimed at the government critics.
A State Department official who responded WHatti’s inquiry, said ”the conduct of Turkish security personnel earlier this week is deeply disturbing” and added, ”The State Department has raised its concerns about these events at the highest levels, and a thorough investigation that will allow us to hold the responsible individuals accountable is of the upmost importance to us.”
First Amendment to the US Constitution
Americans are reminded that the first Amendment of the 250-year American constitution that addresses the right of the people to speak and to petition the Government for a redress of their grievances, which all Americans respect, a foreign leader refusing to tolerate this fundamental freedom is not something they can accept.
We will see whether the Turkish Ambassador will be deported or whether arrest warrants will be issued for the Turkish bodyguards. But one thing is for sure, this was a terrible PR for both Turkey and President Erdogan, will be hard forgotten.
Erdogan admits he spoke about Zarrab with Trump in bilateral meeting
In the interview President Erdoğan gave to the VOA after the Washington visit, we saw that he had opened Zarrab issue in his bilateral meeting that lasted about 22 minutes with Trump. We learned that Erdoğan, as a representative of the country with 80 million citizens and leader of an country with endless problems, spent a significant part of the precious 22-minute period with the leader of the super power, for an Iranian-Turkish sanctions buster, Reza Zarrab.
On the other hand, again according to Erdoğan interview, Trump does not seem to give much hope to this demand and points to the ‘legal process’. In the meeting between the delegations in White House, apart from the interesting fact that the son-in-laws sit across from each other, it was seen that a chair was empty. American Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to attend the dinner despite the fact that he had a seat opposite to the Turkish Justice Minister and a plate on the table were ready. WHatti learned Sessions refused to participating launch despite he was expected.
Turkish Justice Minister Bozdag had a 45-minute meeting with Sessions in Washington only a week ago. It was written in the Turkish press that in that meeting Bozdağ said: “If you do not return Gülen to us, you do not expect us to return criminals to you.”
Erdoğan had publicly declared for weeks that he would talk about Zarrab and Gülen at the White House as two top topics. Despite this declaration Mr. Sessions, the most knowledgeable and authorized name of these issues have refused to attend a meeting. I think why he did not show up for the launch is obvious. Gulen and Zarrab subjects have been toxic issues for a few weeks, as mentioned in these columns, and no one wants to touch them at the time. So does Sessions.
The Turkish delegation of 9 people and the US delegation of 8 people had dinner with the empty chair.
Erdoğan and Trump had bilateral talks with an interpreter, and we know that Erdoğan opened the subject of Zarrab and in return Trump opened the subject of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been arrested in Turkey since last autumn. We have learned that Trump mentioned about this issue twice while VP Pence mentioned once according to statement of the priest’s lawyer.
Though there are those who talk about ‘the swap between the priest and Zarrab’, it is not likely to be possible. First of all, the Americans say that the pastor is an innocent clergyman. Secondly, Zarrab is accused by damaging the US for hundreds of millions, maybe billions of dollars, and that there is no one that can swapped for the value of Zarrab in Turkey.
Finally, it is reminded that Turkey is an ally, and that such prisoner exchange has been done with countries of the ‘enemy’ class, such as Russia or Iran. They do not seem willing to open a way for it that with Zarrab. This is supposed to cause great reactions in American institutions as well.
Despite everything, Reza Zarrab’s lawyer Şebnem Erişmek, who was with him all the time in New York, was also in the Residence. It is hard to know whether or not good news is given to Erişmek. So far the impressions are that it is not easy to get good news for Zarrab.
Sword of Damocles was Hung on the Head of Trump
In the fourth month of Trump’s presidency, he was confronted with a ‘special counsel’ about his connection with Russia.
The previous ‘special counsel’ was established before for the ‘Valeri Plame leak’ in the Bush era. The ‘special counsel’ for Bill Clinton at the end of the 1990s led him to ‘impeachment’. During the Obama period, no ‘special counsel’ investigation was opened. The special inspector who investigated President Nixon’s Watergate was Archibald Cox, who was expelled by Nixon. About a year after Cox was fired, Nixon had to resign. In short, the independent counsel’s office, which on average being appointed every 15 or 20 years in US history, will now investigate Trump.
Besides this, there are 2 investigations carried out by the Senate and the Congress. But there is a chance that there could be another investigation into the dismissal of Trump’s FBI Director James Comey may be launched.
In a time when Trump is undergoing a serious investigation process, we will see that if he would take some very ‘risky’ steps or nor about Gülen’s return and Zarrab evacuation.
Ela Gonca İzmirli and Osman Bilgin contributed to this report.