What Will US Do About Turkey’s Bad Behavior?

Recently, Turkey released imprisoned U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor of a small church in Turkey with about 25 congregants, to house arrest.

Brunson however, is still on trial on charges of aiding terror groups and engaging in espionage. Brunson was grabbed by the Turkish authorities about two years ago, right after an attempted coup against the Turkish President and quasi-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has spent the past two years in a Turkish prison. Turkey claimed that Brunson has illegal links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, both of which are bitter enemies of Erdogan. If he is convicted of his “crimes,” Brunson may be imprisoned for a term of 35 years.

Brunson is clearly being railroaded by the Turks.

An expose of the charges against the pastor revealed that among them are that:

  • Brunson received a picture of a dish that is the signature dish of a terrorist organization in Turkey;
  • Brunson appeared in a photo with a man with a yellow, red, and green scarf, which are the PKK colors;
  • Brunson published Bibles in the Kurdish language.

In other words, this is nothing more than a kangaroo court trial. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that in Turkey, insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, and even school children have been prosecuted.

Then again, the Turkish President has made it clear that Brunson is not really an accused criminal at all; he is a political hostage. Erdogan has offered to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan has accused Gulen, Erdogan’s former ally, of being the instigator of the attempted Turkish coup. But he has produced no convincing evidence for the U.S. to mandate an extradition of Gulen.

Needless to say, allied nations don’t take as hostage citizens of their allies. For that matter, civilized nations don’t take hostages, period.

President Erdogan is not really a U.S. ally, however. He has been in power since 2003, and in those fifteen years, he has aided the Shia Islamist regime of Iran in evading international sanctions; facilitated ISIS’ expansion through oil smuggling and being a conduit for new ISIS recruits and supplies; and threatened U.S. troops with violence for their assistance to the Kurds. Under his leadership, as noted by the former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Turkey has taken on a “new role” as a main sponsor of funding for radical Islamist ideology. Included in this is that Turkey has developed good relationships with federally designated terror organizations such as Hamas, and the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Erdogan has also demonstrated his lack of trustworthiness as an ally by purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia, which is a violation of Turkey’s duties as a NATO member. The missile system cannot be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory. It also conflicts with Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 fighter jets. These jets, which are the latest in NATO technology, would have to be connected to the S-400 system. But this would compromise the jet’s security, as any data collected by the S-400 system and obtained by Russia could help expose the joint strike fighter’s vulnerabilities. To make things even worse, Erdogan has proposed that Turkey and Russia work together on the S-500 missile system.

President Trump and other U.S. officials lobbied Turkish officials for months to release Brunson, and Trump himself tweeted about it, saying that the situation was a “total disgrace,” and threatened sanctions if Brunson was not released. Congress, in a provision in the final National Defense Authorization Act, also called on Turkey “to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge.”

Finally, a deal was made at the NATO summit, which would pair the release of Brunson (from all legal jeopardy) with the release of a Turkish terrorist in Israel. But then Erdogan reneged on that deal. (Although Erdogan claims there was no deal).

So, the question is, what is the U.S. planning to do about Turkey’s hostage taking and other bad behavior?

There needs to be real consequences to Turkey’s persecution of Andrew Brunson, and any other American unfairly held in a Turkish prison. Both the Trump administration and Congress are considering sanctioning Turkey if Brunson is not released. They should do so, immediately.

At some point, however, the U.S. is going to have to address the elephant in the room — Turkey’s continued membership in NATO. Unfortunately, the NATO Treaty has no way to remove any members, unless the nation in question is willing to leave (as France once did).

But NATO allies don’t behave like Turkey has, under Erdogan.

Just ask Andrew Brunson.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/turkey-erdogan-nato/2018/08/01/id/874925/

Photo: Mike Hutchings/AFP/Getty Images

About the author  ⁄ Adam Turner

Adam Turner is the General Counsel & Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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