Recently, after holding American citizen Andrew Brunson in prison for over two years, the Turkish regime finally let him go.
In response, President Trump tweeted, “There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!"
Hopefully, the President is going to limit his actions to this simple tweet of appreciation.
Andrew Brunson was nothing more than a hostage of the Turkish President. Brunson’s trial was a sham, with ridiculous charges and evidence. President Erdogan clearly intended to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam in exile in Pennsylvania, whom Mr. Erdogan accuses, without credible evidence, of plotting an anti-Erdogan 2016 coup in Turkey. The fact that Brunson was finally released when the Turks wanted to curry favor with Trump doesn’t change that he was unjustly grabbed and imprisoned in the first place.
The Turks' release of Brunson is related to the disappearance of Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi.
“The Khashoggi affair has presented a unique opportunity to undermine Saudi influence, potentially creating a regional power void for Turkey to fill,” according to Axios.
But, according to The Federalist, to fill that power void, Turkey had “to improve their position by giving the Trump administration something it wanted.”
So, they gave up Brunson. However, it should be noted that Brunson is not the only U.S. citizen held hostage by the Turks. Serkan Golge and Ismail Kul, two Turkish-American scientists, are still being imprisoned by the Erdogan regime. There are also three Turkish citizens who work in the U.S. consulate that are being held.
So, the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding Turkish hostage taking, especially because we have countless examples of earlier instances where the U.S. rewarded hostage takers and suffered later for it. For example, leading up to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran held a number of hostages, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. When the Iran deal was finalized, the Obama administration shelled out $1.7 billion to Iran, in cash, to ransom four hostages. The Obama administration claimed this was not ransom; however, the money was not released to Iran until the U.S. had confirmation that the Iranian plane carrying the Americans had taken off, and Iranian officials told the press the cash was “a ransom payment.”
What was the result of this ransom payment to Iran? Nothing good for the U.S.
Soon after, Iran began to grab more hostages.
Further, Iran continued to vocally demonstrate their hostility to the U.S., and to actively wage war against our forces and interests in the region, despite the U.S. ransom payment, and the JCPOA’s other monetary rewards.
Likewise, the Turks under President Erdogan are also not going to change their anti-American stripes, even if the U.S. gives them some rewards for their release of Andrew Brunson.
President Erdogan has very different political interests than does the U.S. He is a proponent of radical Islam, and is a determined opponent of democracy and human rights. In fact, according to the former U.S. National Security Advisor, Turkey is taking on a “new role” as a key funder of Islamist ideology that targets western interests.
Although Turkey is part of NATO, the Turks have not been good allies in years, as they threaten fellow NATO member Greece, interfere in the use of the Incirlik base by other NATO allies like Germany and the U.S., conduct joint military exercises with China, and buy the s-400 missile system from Russia. (Eventually Turkey hopes to produce the s-500 as well.) The Turkish regime continues to threaten Israel. His regime continues to vow to buy oil from Iran, despite the sanctions that the Trump administration are reinstituting. And his country still allows ISIS recruits to cross its border into Syria, at a rate of about 100 a month.
The Turks also have a tremendous rivalry with the various Kurdish forces in the region, including the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, which are both strong allies of the U.S. Turkey has long feared that independence/autonomy for these Kurds would in turn inspire the same in Turkey’s large and growing Kurdish minority. As a result, Erdogan has attacked the Syrian Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) multiple times, and is reportedly planning to use the jihadists groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda associates, against them (the SDF). Turkey has even gone so far as to threaten to attack U.S. forces in Syria for their willingness to work with the SDF.
The fact that the Turks finally released Andrew Brunson when it became convenient for them to do so does not mean that Turkey is any better an ally of the U.S. than it was the day before Jamal Khashoggi disappeared. It isn’t. And the U.S. shouldn’t be rewarding President Erdogan’s consistent bad behavior.
Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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