Crisis between Ankara and Washington averted – for now

My colleague Semih Idiz reports, for Al-Monitor, that ‘patience with Erdogan is running thin on the American side’, given the rhetoric he has continued to use to put the blame on Obama Administration for the corruption inquiry, which now seems to have encircled his government:

Here is what Idiz writes:

The massive corruption probe that has left Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the most damaging crisis of his political career has started to spill over into Ankara’s relations with Washington. 

A crisis between the two countries has been averted for now, following intense diplomatic contacts, but Western diplomats have confirmed to Al-Monitor that patience with Erdogan is running thin on the American side, where officials are threatening dire consequences to relations should he continue in this vein.

Never the one for diplomatic niceties or sensitivities when it comes to politicking, Erdogan has latched on to reports in Turkey targeting US Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. in connection with the current probe. 

After accusing the ambassador, without naming him, of engaging in “provocative actions,” Erdogan even threatened to send him packing. Erdogan’s attack followed an orchestrated and concerted assault on the ambassador by pro-government media trying to deflect attention from the government after news of the corruption scandal hit the headlines on Dec. 17. Days later, on Dec. 21, Aksam, Star and Yeni Safak accused Washington, in large print, of being behind the probe that has left four government ministers under suspicion.

Washington was said to be angry with Turkey for circumventing sanctions on Iran by buying oil from Tehran and paying in gold cleared through the government-owned Halk Bank. The CEO of the bank has been arrested for taking bribes and is facing a trial after millions of dollars were found in shoeboxes in his home.

According to the papers above, Ricciardone told the EU ambassador in Ankara the day the scandal broke that Washington had warned Turkey to cut its ties with Iran. “They did not listen to us. You will now watch the fall of the empire,” Ricciardone allegedly said.

Erdogan has trotted out his usual accusations when he finds himself in a difficult political situation, claiming once again that there is a conspiracy against his government by international forces and their lackeys in Turkey. Such accusations invariably involve the United States and Israel in one form or another. A day after news of the corruption probe became public, Star claimed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, had unleashed the scandal to undermine Erdogan and his government.

The massive corruption probe currently under way has seen the arraignment of the sons of three ministers, with two of them being sent to prison, while the third awaits trial for involvement in the scandal. Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse has provided full coverage of the scandal…’

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