I don’t know what sort of coverage it got in your part of the world. I did find a piece or two in the UK’s Guardian, and on the BBC, linked to a lot of “related” pieces about Turkey’s “Islamic dictator” imprisoning poor innocents merely because they tried to have him ousted by a military coup last July. Both articles make judicious use of words like “allegedly” and “reportedly”, but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about the facts.
Turkey had sent 40 soldiers to participate in a NATO training exercise in Norway. Well, even military exercises need an enemy, and apparently the NATO organisers in their wisdom chose to use the name of Turkey’s much-maligned President Erdoğan, alongside a picture of the revered founder of Turkey’s republic.
Understandably, the Turkish government was not amused and withdrew its participants from the exercise. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg promptly issued an apology, followed by a statement by Norway’s minister of defence expressing his “concerns about the incident”. So, it seems pretty clear that the facts are essentially as reported.
Stoltenberg’s statement claimed the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” – a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a NATO employee – and did not reflect the views of the alliance.
Turkey, it seems, is not to be so easily appeased. The country’s EU Minister asked, with some justification, “Is there no chain of command? Does he [the civilian contracted person] not have a commander?” A government spokesman, addressing a press conference, said “We welcome the apologies issued. We welcome the removal of those responsible from office and the launching of an investigation. But we don’t see these incidents as solely extending to individuals. It’s not possible to explain these incidents merely in terms of individual responsibility,”
Meanwhile, a curious court case is proceeding slowly in the United States. An Iranian-Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in the US last year “on charges that he conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities to evade U.S. sanctions.”
Whatever we may think about the rest of the world being expected to support corporate America in its vendetta against uncooperative foreign leaders, it struck many people as strange that Mr Zarrab would voluntary enter the USA knowing that he would probably be arrested.
An opinion piece in Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News voiced these concerns, suggesting CIA involvement:
“It was never convincing that Zarrab, known worldwide for breaching the U.S.’s Iran sanctions and getting arrested in Turkey in the Dec. 17- 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations, came to the U.S. to take his child on a trip.
His arrival in the U.S. was thought to be the result of a negotiation. It is claimed that he negotiated to become a confessor in return for a permission that will allow him to keep his assets outside Turkey and continue commercial activity.
If he becomes a confessor, the story will widen more and a new indictment will be written.
‘It smells fishy,’ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said about it.
The writer, Abdulkadir Selvi, goes on to say, “The U.S, after failing to overthrow Erdoğan through FETÖ on Dec. 17 – 25, 2013, stepped into the issue with the Zarrab case.”
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdağ said the other day, “We make no secret of it: This is a political case and does not have a legal basis. It is a plot against Turkey. The prosecutors have been openly imposing pressure on the accused. . . [Zarrab] is in a sense taken hostage,” Bozdağ said, claiming that Zarrab is “under pressure from prosecutors to become a confessor and to make accusations against the Republic of Turkey.”
Another writer in Hürriyet, Barçın Yinanç, no slavish supporter of the government, made some apt observations about negative portrayals of Turkey and its government in foreign media. In a piece entitled “Who is losing Turkey? She wrote:
“Turkey lives in a troubled neighborhood and the Western world has often had problematic relations with its neighbors.
There has been a bad guy in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. No one was supposed to cooperate with him and Turkey was once asked to follow suit.
There was also a bad guy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Sanctions were applied against his regime and Turkey was asked to abide by those sanctions.
In Iran, there has been a bad regime ever since the Islamic Revolution. Tehran has been continuously under sanctions, which Turkey has been under pressure to abide by.
There has also been a bad guy in Russia, the Kremlin. Sanctions have been introduced and Turkey has been required to follow them.
People sometimes forget that economically thriving nations trade with their neighbors. Some also forget that while the EU wanted Turkey to abide by the sanctions it imposed on countries to its east, north and south, it did not exactly have its arms wide open when Turkey turned to Europe.
Currently, when a foreign observer looks at Turkey, they see an Islamist leader distancing Turkey away from the transatlantic alliance. But the same observer may forget that it was that same leader who once undertook the most sweeping democratic reforms Turkey has ever seen. They may also forget that when Ankara knocked on the EU’s door in the 2000s, Germany’s Angela Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy effectively closed the door in its face. It also suited Europe’s interest to keep Turkey at arm’s length, hiding behind the Greek Cypriot administration which has been blocking accession talks.
This has all been forgotten. No one in Europe is questioning who caused the EU to lose Turkey. Why should they?”