- 12 Feb 2019 02:05
Turkey's Erdogan Uses Khashoggi in PR War, But Some Look to His Record
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to leverage the international backlash over the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to damage his arch rival Saudi Arabia, analysts warn.
Erdogan’s latest attempt to exploit the Khashoggi killing came last week, when he told state-run Turkish television: ‘I cannot understand America’s silence. … We want everything to be clarified because there is an atrocity, there is a murder.”
Despite his high dudgeon, experts say Erdogan has orchestrated a massive crackdown against political opponents in Turkey -- especially since the July 2016 coup attempt he blamed on Turkish expatriate dissident Fethullah Gulen, who resides in Pennsylvania.
Amnesty International, the human rights organization, noted that Erdogan used the coup to arrest some 10,000 political opponents.
Once imprisoned, the organization reported many were subject to brutal “beatings and torture, including rape.”
Another human rights group has chronicled at least 117 murders of detainees at the hands of Erdogan’s regime.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says Turkey's Erdogan’s is the “biggest jailer of journalists” in the world, and the group currently counts 68 imprisoned colleagues there.
Erdogan has leveraged the 2016 attempted coup to conduct a purge and consolidate power. Among the reasons Western leaders are increasingly alarmed by his authoritarian presidency:
Over 50,000 citizens have been arrested, and over 150,000 lost their jobs, ostensibly because they did not actively oppose the coup attempt. Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy has stated Erdogan “has demonized, brutalized, and cracked down on [citizens] who are unlikely to vote for him.”
He has filed lawsuits or arrested thousands of people for the crime of “insulting the president,” an offense punishable in Turkey by up to four years in jail.
He supported the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups during the Arab Spring, alienating erstwhile allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Erdogan, the leader of a NATO-member nation, purchased an S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia two years ago, reducing NATO interoperability and security.
He has publicly denied that Hamas is a terror organization, and has allowed Turkey to be used as a safe-haven for Hamas operatives.
On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Erdogan helped embattled strongman Nicolas Maduro remove nearly $1 billion in gold bars from Venezuela, stashing them inside Turkey. “It’s not the first time that Turkey has positioned itself as a work-around for countries facing U.S. sanctions,” Bloomberg News reported, “potentially undermining Washington’s efforts to isolate governments it considers hostile or corrupt.”
When Iran was suffering under withering U.S. sanctions over its rogue nuclear program, he inked three trade deals with the pariah nation. Phillips says his regime “has helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions to the tune of billions of dollars.”
In what many saw as an attempt to pressure U.S. leaders into handing over his rival Gulen, his forces imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson for over two years on threadbare charges before letting him return home.
Last month, Erdogan snubbed Trump national security chief John Bolton during his visit to Ankara, saying Bolton made “a serious mistake” by pledging the United States would not abandon the Kurdish fighters who shed their blood to help the Trump administration decimate ISIS. Erdogan has branded the Kurds terrorists, and bitterly opposes the establishment of an independent nation for the displaced Kurdish people.
Erdogan even once threatened to launch attacks on U.S. Special Operations forces working with the Kurds in Syria, stating “Don’t force us to bury in the ground those who are with terrorists.”
Trump administration officials would prefer to maintain good relations with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but that is increasingly difficult given Erdogan’s broadsides.
The Turks allowed known militants to cross their country going to Syria. They allowed wounded ISIS fighters to receive medical treatment inside Turkey. Also, a lot of the oil that ISIS controlled was leaking over the border into Turkey. One of the reasons ISIS expanded so quickly in Syria is that Turks saw ISIS as the lesser threat, compared to the Syrian Kurds.
The more I study science, the more I believe in God.
- Albert Einstein