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Turkey and the US have several shared interests, but the fact is that Turkey does not see itself as a 'junior partner' in the relationship anymore - and that means that when the US pushes, Turkey won't bend.  The United States and Turkey can’t stop squabbling over minor issues – and their enemies are profiting accordingly.  Iran is building an arc of influence to the Mediterranean Sea and has recently threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. Bashar al Assad is mopping up the last pockets of opposition resistance – the opposition Turkey and the US supported in the hopes of bringing Assad down. Russia is hoping Assad and the YPG, the Syrian branch of the PKK, will reach a power-sharing agreement that will preserve the current scenario on Turkey’s southern border.

And yet, despite all this, there is no indication of a joint strategy to curb Iran’s ambitions, to destroy the Islamic State (Daesh), to weaken Assad, to discredit Russia’s intervention, or to find some basis for compromise on northern Syria. Instead, the news of the week is that the US has imposed sanctions on a couple of Turkish ministers—ironically the justice minister sanctioned was not in charge at the time of the arrest—for detaining American pastor Andrew Brunson in December 2016, and that Turkey is preparing a retaliatory response. 
From a purely interest-based perspective, this should not be happening. But politics can outweigh interests sometimes, and that’s what’s happening here.  From Turkey’s point of view, Washington’s actions are inexplicable. Turkey has charged Brunson with spying for the PKK, which both the US and Turkey consider a terrorist organization, and with aiding and abetting the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). The US has said the charges are unfounded and that Brunson was simply “spreading his Christian faith.” The government in Ankara understandably believes US opinion is hardly a good enough reason to overturn judicial process. 

For Turkey, sanctions are not a good-faith gesture of a partner that has respect for Turkish institutions. And comparing Turkey to Nicaragua, China, North Korea, Russia and Daesh—as US Vice President Mike Pence did in a speech on July 26—is downright insulting.  From the United States’ point of view, Turkey’s actions are equally baffling. First, Turkey wants the US to turn over Gulen for masterminding the failed military coup two years ago without providing enough quality evidence that Gulen is guilty. (Turkey of course has provided the US with large amounts of evidence – the problem is the US finds it unconvincing.) 
Now, the US is equally unconvinced that an American pastor who has lived in Turkey for decades without any issue, was plotting to bring down the government. For Washington, this goes beyond disapproval of internal political developments inside Turkey. Detaining a US citizen in this manner is as confusing to the US as Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. Like Turkey, the US feels it has been disrespected.
Which brings us to the current impasse. US President Donald Trump cannot afford to look weak on this. Brunson’s detainment is a major political issue for evangelical Christians in the United States – an important source of Trump’s support. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, too, can ill afford to look weak on this issue. The US has already embarrassed Erdogan by refusing to hand over Gulen and Erdogan has also embarrassed the US by bringing the Jerusalem issue to the UN. 

President Erdogan, at least, is not about to turn over a man accused of espionage and terrorism to the US just because Washington says so. The Brunson affair is just the latest in a series of small diplomatic incidents between the two NATO allies. But these incidents are merely symptoms of the deterioration of bilateral relations. The underlying cause is the massive transformation that Turkey has undergone in the past decade. Turkey’s people have voted to overhaul the country’s governance structure. Turkish society is struggling to find a new balance between the new Turkey, and the old Turkey. And Turkey’s leaders are grappling with how best to use Turkey’s considerable economic and military power to pursue Turkish interests abroad. 

Any one of these transformations by themselves would be enough to strain Turkey’s foreign relations. But together, they have upended the US-Turkey relationship. Turkey’s government, not the Turkish military, is now the ultimate power in the state. Instead of military officials being the primary conduit for US-Turkish relations, politicians–who are accountable to their political bases of support have taken their place. The most important change, however, is that Turkey no longer wants to be a junior partner of the United States. The US and Turkey may share interests, but Turkey isn’t merely Washington’s regional lackey. 
Washington’s willingness to support the YPG against Daesh showed Turkey that the US doesn’t regard Turkish interests as highly as Ankara would like. Thirty years ago, when the Soviet Union was still strong and when Turkey’s economy was a shadow of what it is today, Ankara might have had no choice but to swallow its pride and simply do Washington’s bidding. But that was then and this is now, and Turkey doubts the US has its bests interests in mind. Everything else that is happening now goes back to that key breakpoint – when the US threw its weight behind the YPG.
At the broadest level, there is still a basis for the US-Turkish partnership to not only continue, but to improve. For that to happen, though, both sides have to compromise, and if the Brunson affair is any indication, those compromises may have become too politically costly for both presidents.

Turkish president says his country will not back down to the bullets, cannonballs and missiles of economic wars
  • Turkey's president has pledged to defy what he describes US attempts to weaken his country's economy, rallying supporters a day after Washington imposed even higher tariffs on Turkish metals - and sent the lira tumbling. The two NATO allies remain at loggerheads over multiple issues ranging from diverging interests in Syria to Ankara's expressed desire in purchasing Russia's S400 anti-missile system, as well as the lingering case of an Evangelical pastor who is on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges.
Amid the worsening relations, the Turkish lira has lost more than 30 percent of its value against the US dollar since the start of the year. On Friday, US President Donald Trump's decision to double steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey sent the lira into another dive, falling as much as 18.5 per cent at one point. Speaking on Saturday in the northeastern Turkish province of Rize, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US would pay a price by challenging Turkey for the sake of "petty calculations", denouncing Washington for declaring "economic war on the entire world" and holding countries "for ransom through sanction threats".

He also described dollars, euros and gold as "the bullets, cannonballs and missiles of the economic war being waged against our country".  "Those who can't compete with us on the ground have brought online fictional currency plots that have nothing to do with the realities of our country, production and real economy," Erdogan added.  
"The country is neither crumbling nor being destroyed or bankrupt or in a crisis," adding that the way out of the "currency plot" was to boost production and minimise interest rates.  
Erdogan is a self-described "enemy of interest rates" and wants cheap credit from banks to fuel growth.

Investors however fear the economy is overheating and could be set for a hard landing, while concerns over the dispute with the US have also hit Turkish stocks. The lira's fall meanwhile has raised concerns in the European Union about the exposure of some the bloc's biggest banks to Turkey. "There is a currency crisis, kind of promoted by the geopolitical risks, and which is obviously used by the American foreign policy decision-makers," Selva Tor, a financial security analyst, told Al Jazeera.

Pastor's case
Ankara's delicate relations with the US soured further following the arrest of pastor Andrew Brunson in 2016 on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and espionage.  Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. He was detained by Turkish forces in the aftermath of a failed coup blamed by Ankara on Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Gulen has denied any involvement. Trump has described Brunson's detention as a "total disgrace" and urged Erdogan to free him "immediately". The Christian right, an important component of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence's voting base, has been pressuring the administration on the Brunson case.

But in a New York Times opinion piece published on Saturday, Erdogan cautioned against pressuring his administration into meddling with the judicial process. "Attempting to force my government to intervene in the judicial process is not in line with our constitution or our shared democratic values."

Partnership in 'jeopardy'
He also said that his country's partnership with the US is in jeopardy, warning that Ankara may start looking for new allies. In Rize, Erdogan said Turkey had alternatives "from Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries".  Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waded into the intensifying dispute, accusing the US of an "addiction to sanctions and bullying".

"The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions [and] bullying or the entire world will unite - beyond verbal condemnations - to force it to," he warned.  "We've stood with neighbours before and will again now."  Analysts believe that another factor in the growing disagreement between Turkey and the US is Ankara's unwillingness to join recent sanctions against Tehran in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.  Turkey is a buyer of energy from Iran, as well as from Russia and Azerbaijan.


Turkish President Erdogan's statements follow US President Donald Trump's announcement that he had doubled steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, noting that relations between the NATO allies were "not very good".  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turks should not be alarmed by exchange rate movements. (August 10, 2018) (Reuters)

Unilateral steps taken by the US only harm its interests and security, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday in an article he wrote for The New York Times. “At a time when evil continues to lurk around the world, unilateral actions against Turkey by the United States, our ally of decades, will only serve to undermine American interests and security,” Erdogan said in the article.

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium. Erdogan urged Washington to give up the misguided notion that bilateral relations could be “asymmetrical” and realise that Turkey had alternatives “before it is too late”. 

“Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, Trump ramped up his attack on Turkey by doubling US tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively. 
Erdogan said the two countries have been strategic partners and NATO allies for six decades and reminded Washington that Turkey and the US “stood shoulder to shoulder against common challenges during the Cold War and its aftermath”. 
 “Over the years, Turkey rushed to America’s help whenever necessary,” he said, listing a few occasions the two countries acted together.

Erdogan added that Washington had always “failed to understand and respect the Turkish people’s concerns”.  

He said disagreements had occurred between the two countries in recent years and Turkey’ s efforts to reverse the “dangerous trend” were in vain.

“Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy,” Erdogan said.

Damage relationship
In a tweet on Friday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said President Donald Trump's decision, which also violates the rules of World Trade Organization, "cannot be associated with seriousness expected from a state."  

"All the steps taken against Turkey will be given a befitting response as they have been given before," he vowed. 

Aksoy said sanctions would only damage the relationship which has withstood the trials of time.  
The US decision is another salvo in the growing dispute between it and Turkey.

Ahmed Bedier, the President of the United Voices for America, speaks to TRT World about Trump's moves.

Earlier this week, a Turkish delegation returned from Washington with no movement on the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is under house arrest in Turkey over terrorism charges.

TRT World's Lionel Donovan reports from Washington.

Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK – listed as a terrorist group by both the US and Turkey – and Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).  Turkey and the US are currently experiencing rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul for not releasing Brunson.

The two NATO allies have been at odds since the coup attempt, which Ankara accused US-based Fetullah Gulen and his FETO of masterminding.

After Turkish president urges people to support currency, US counterpart adds pressure with doubling of metals' tariffs.

Turkey became the fastest-growing country in the world last year, with an economic growth rate of 7.4 percent, according to the government [Presidential Press Service via AP

US President Donald Trump has announced a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, piling economic pressure on the NATO ally after its currency went into a tail-spin.  Trump's announcement on Friday came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out against a shadowy international "interest rate lobby" which, he suggested, was "campaigning" to harm Turkey's economy, after the lira fell more than 14 percent overnight.

The Turkish currency extended its losses following Trump's statement, dropping as much as 20 percent amid growing worries about worsening relations with the US. Washington has been pushing Ankara to release an American pastor, who is being held on terrorism charges.

Earlier this week, Erdogan ordered the asset freeze of two US officials in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Turkey's justice and interior ministers over the detention of an Evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.

Donald J. Trump

I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!

Since the start of the year, the lira has more than 30 percent of its value against the US dollar, with the currency tumbling even faster after the country's June presidential election which saw Erdogan re-elected with expanded power. On Friday, Erdogan renewed a call for Turks to exchange gold and dollars into liras, framing the country's currency crisis as a "national battle" against economic enemies.  

"The dollar cannot block our path," Erdogan said during a speech in the Black Sea city of Rize.  
"However, I say it once again from here. If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for liras at our banks," he told the crowd. Erdogan, a self-described "enemy of interest rates", wants cheap credit from banks to fuel growth, but investors fear the economy is overheating and could be set for a hard landing. But in a defiant tone, the president brushed aside concerns, telling the roaring supporters not to worry. 

"There are several campaigns being carried out [against Turkey]. Do not heed them," Erdogan said. "If they have their dollars, we have our people, our God. Know this: We are better than yesterday, we will be even better tomorrow. Have no doubts about it," he added.

Despite the turmoil, Turkey became the fastest-growing country in the world last year, with an economic growth rate of 7.4 percent, according to the government
Following Trump's announcement on Twitter that he would double duties on Turkish aluminium and steel, to 20 percent and 50 percent respectively, Ankara responded by saying the tariffs were against the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). 
"Turkey expects other member countries to abide by international rules," the Turkish trade ministry said in a statement, adding that it would support steel and aluminum exporters in all international platforms. It also said the US remained an important trade partner.

A spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry said it would retaliate against the tariffs as it has done so far. Sanctions and pressure would only serve to harm ties between the two NATO allies, Hami Aksoy also said in a statement. Ankara wanted issues to be solved through diplomacy, dialogue and good intentions, Aksoy said.

Political reasons?
Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Turkey's largest city of Istanbul, said that "the growing but fragile" Turkish economy "has been struggling for a few years over a combination of several financial and political factors".  Analysts said that the lira was not protected against any currency speculation, especially after a failed coup in 2016, while the dispute with the US over a variety of issues has complicated things further.  "There is a currency crisis, kind of promoted by the geopolitical risks, and which is obviously used by the American foreign policy decision-makers," Selva Tor, a financial security analyst, told Al Jazeera.  Apart from the disagreement over Brunson's detention, Koseoglu said another factor is Ankara's unwillingness to join recent US sanctions against Tehran in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.  Turkey is a purchaser of energy from Iran, along with Russia and Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the crisis was also felt abroad, with investors selling shares in European banks amid concerns about their Turkey exposure.  Jane Foley, head of Rabobank's foreign exchange strategy, said the Turkish government has a huge task ahead to earn back investors' trust.  She described the situation as "a crisis of credibility" amid some investor concerns over the Central Bank's perceived lack of independence  "The speculation in the market is that if that Central Bank is to retake credibility, it might need to hike interest rates next month by 5 or 10 percent ... which seems very unlikely given that Erdogan is very much against high-interest rates in Turkey," she told Al Jazeera.  






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