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Brunson has left. Is it over?

The American pastor Brunson who has been living in Turkey for 23 years has left the country he said to “love very much.” Brunson, the protagonist of the story reminiscent to American action movies, between Ankara and Washington, turned out to be one of the largest investments of President Donald Trump for the coming midterm elections on November 6. Turkey’s interest in this investment is the question how Trump will be conducting future relations with Turkey amidst the havoc of forthcoming elections: Brunson being back in the US, are the tensions in the Turkish-American relations over?

Hilal Köylü

Brunson is back in the US. However, are the tensions between the US and Turkey over? Although The president Donald Trump seems to have replied this questions, Ankara, having been preoccupied with the issue is impatient for a definitive answer. Because Trump’s statement that the relations with Turkey might be “great, great” is far from being satisfactory for Ankara. The world, having watched pastor Brunson leaving the Turkish courtroom for the US as if on a ‘reality show,’ do not also seem to be forgetting the question what Trump will do solid about Turkey.

Ankara, upset by Trump’s Twitter massage announcing, “working very hard on Pastor Brunson!” reminded the US government once again that Turkish courts are independent however, the opposition parties in Ankara have placed the question of judicial independence on the top of their agenda.


“Actually this issue will sink into oblivion. What is left is a number of serious problems” argues the international relations expert Prof.Dr. İlhan Uzgel. We suppose it will not be forgotten yet it is the nature of political agenda. Turkey’s agenda in these recent years, on the other hand, is considerably uncertain. Uzgel also points out that the Brunson issue will disappear from the eyesight within this volatile agenda. He also expresses the question that is not only in Turks’ but in whole world’s mind: What will the president Trump do? What will he give to Turkey? Indeed, Trump has replied this question and chose to clarify the situation by saying “There was no deal made at all, there was no deal,” “I don’t make deals for hostages,” “We’ve been negotiating hard. We do not pay ransom in this country, ”To President Erdoğan, thank you very much. To the people of Turkey, thank you very much.”

Prof.Dr. İlhan Uzgel not only argues that this reply indicates an “apparent deal” but also reminds the news on both the US and Turkish media claiming that the US will be releasing Hakan Atilla, the vice president of Halkbank in exchange for Brunson’s release. Uzgel says, “It seems the US will act in exchange for Brunson and most probably release Atilla.” He also points out that the US has done as many mistakes as Turkey did in scaling the situation up to a movie like scenario. That’s, both sides, instead of facilitating diplomacy, have entered in a “duel” of acts and words.All the colors have faded. In Uzgel’s words, “both parties have made whatever in their chests public.”


According to Uzgel, the possibility that the US will be releasing Atilla “after a while” does not settle Ankara. The real question arises from the forthcoming new wave of sanctions against Iran beginning in this November. “The crisis in the US-Turkey relations may recur at this point,” argues Uzgel, “The Brunson issue was tabloid news but Iran issue is extremely serious. We will witness how Turkey will formulate its resistance, if it can at all, to the sanctions against Iran.” İlhan Uzgel argues that the Iran-related aspect of the Brunson case will, then be “clearer:” “What if the US has already determined in what manner Turkey would abide by the sanctions? Namely, what if the US has developed the formula?” Uzgel’s assessment signals that the the sanctions wave against Iran on November will influence world’s agenda a lot more than the Brunson case. Such that, Uzgel says, “The US expressed its willingness to work with Erdoğan. However, they want to work with a weak Erdoğan.”


Faruk Lordoğlu, who had previously served as Turkish ambassador to Washington, also states that the Brunson tensions will bring the Turkey-US relations to the issue of sanctions against Iran. Loğoğlu says, “The Brunson incident has arrested the agenda of the Turkey-US relations but the crisis is not over. What’s left from the Brunson case is the US’s threats towards Turkey,” and adds: “The structural crisis and crises are intact.” Greatest of the problems is Iran. The Trump administration ‘deliberately’ raised the tension, threatened Turkey in Brunson crisis. According to Loğoğlu, Ankara could not decipher what Washington’s actual intention. Here there is again a question of ‘Why?’ and Loğoğlu answers to this: “Bravado always works for the domestic politics however in foreign affairs it backfires. Ankara should get this fact.” Loğoğlu thinks that the way the US and Turkey acts regarding the sanctions against Iran will reveal the backdrop of the Brunson strain and reminds that the unwilling Ankara has been asking for exceptions regarding the sanctions against Iran: “If there will be exceptions for Turkey, the negotiations on the Brunson case will be uncovered. If not, we will witness once again clearly how the US threats envelop Turkey and what sorts of grave mistakes the Turkish diplomacy makes.” Loğoğlu has a suggestion for the government: A crisis diplomacy should be promptly created and it should be run not by politicians but expert diplomats.


Translation: Benan Eres


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