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Aug 16 2018

Trump must show Erdoğan dictatorship costs – Washington Post

The precipitous decline in the Turkish lira was predictable, not because of a political crisis with the United States, but because of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s accelerating shift to one-man rule, the Washington Post said in an editorial.

Erdoğan’s authoritarian approach, augmented by a newly empowered presidency introduced after elections on June 24, means his son-in-law Berat Albayrak is now in charge of the economy and a desperately-needed increase in interest rates has not been forthcoming, the newspaper said.

“The economic mismanagement is a piece of Mr. Erdoğan’s increasingly megalomaniacal rule, which has included massive domestic repression and deluded attempts to bully other states, including Israel, Germany and Russia,” the Washington Post said. “The Turkish ruler eventually backed down from those battles, only to take on his country’s closest military ally: the United States.”

Erdoğan has imprisoned Americans on trumped up charges in an apparent attempt to force the extradition of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, an ally-turned-rival in Pennsylvania who Turkey says masterminded a failed coup in 2016. He openly admits that the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson is a bargaining chip, the newspaper said.

But the problem with the U.S. response is that it is too narrowly focused on Brunson. Trump should be demanding the release of all 20 Americans being held in custody, as well as several local consular workers, the Washington Post said.

Rather than imposing tariffs on Turkey, which are a “dangerous breach of international norms”, the Trump administration should have expanded sanctions on individuals responsible for the detentions and other human rights abuses, and to hold up delivery to Turkey of F-35 fighter jets, it said.

“The decision to get tough with Mr. Erdoğan is nevertheless the right one,” the newspaper wrote. “Analysts who worry about a fracturing of relations with a key NATO ally ought to recognize that Turkey has not been behaving as an ally; allies do not take U.S. citizens hostage.

“Mr. Trump evidently believes that he has decisive leverage over Mr. Erdoğan, and he is probably right. He should use it not just to free one Christian pastor but also to show an unhinged ruler the costs of playing dictator, either to his own people or to the rest of the world.”