Turkey’s Erdogan Turns On Trump Administration

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The honeymoon between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan appears to be coming to an end.

In a blistering speech on Thursday, just two weeks after meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, Erdogan aired a lengthy list of grievances against the Trump administration.

According to a translation provided by Washington Hatti, a U.S.-based Turkish news site, Erdogan complained that the State Department recently decided to bring an end to an annual event celebrating Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. He also blasted the administration for refusing to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania.

Erdogan, a former political ally of Gulen’s, accuses the imam of masterminding last July’s failed coup attempt.

Also on Erdogan’s menu of complaints is the Pentagon’s recent decision to arm the YPG, a Kurdish rebel group helping the U.S. military fight against ISIS in Syria.

The Turkish government considers both YPG and the Gulen movement to be terrorist groups.

“What is the goal of giving ammunition and big weapons to terror groups that can decorate one big army? Nobody should deceive anyone. The reason it to divide Turkey,” Erdogan said at the event.

“From now on, if we see a smallest attack coming from Syria on our territory, we will not look at right, or left but to do whatever is necessary,” he continued.

“We know what those who smile at our face to do in our back.”

Erdogan beseeched the U.S. to hand over both Gulen, a legal permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, and Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian man who faces trial in the U.S. on allegations of busting sanctions against Iran.

“Our citizen is in your prison, you ought to give him to us,” Erdogan said of Zarrab.

Erdogan is said to be concerned that Zarrab will expose secrets about Turkey’s efforts to evade sanctions against Iran.

“Then you ought to give us that head of terrorists that who is not in the prison,” Erdogan then said of Gulen, noting that Turkish authorities have given the U.S. government 80 boxes of documents of evidence against Gulen.

Though Erdogan and Turkish government ministers have pleaded for Gulen’s extradition, American authorities in both the Obama and Trump administrations reportedly believe that Turkey’s evidence against the preacher is not strong enough to warrant action.

“From now on, everything will be reciprocal,” Erdogan warned.

Erdogan’s protestations mark a swift and dramatic shift in what started out as a positive relationship between Ankara and the Trump White House.

Trump had maintained a warm relationship with Erdogan, much to the consternation of some U.S. lawmakers and world leaders who are critical of Erdogan’s increased crackdowns against dissenters.

The two leaders have spoken multiple times since the Nov. 8 election, and Trump was the only Western leader to congratulate Erdogan after he won a disputed referendum in April expanding his already extensive presidential powers.

Erdogan did not expand on his warning to embark on a more transactional and reciprocal relationship with the U.S.

But his remarks, specifically regarding Gulen, could be a reference a case involving Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been jailed in Turkey on bogus terrorism charges since October.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence brought up Brunson’s case during last month’s meeting, the White House has said.

The Turkish government has accused Brunson of having contact with followers of Gulen and of allowing Kurds to speak at his small church in Izmir. Despite please from the White House, Erdogan has given no indication that Brunson will be released.

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