Nov 25 2017

Zarrab is the source of Turkey’s paranoia: analyst

Turkey’s recent anti-western rhetoric and paranoia is largely down to ongoing legal proceedings in the United States involving Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, writes Aslı Aydintaşbaş, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

While the story of Turkey’s tensions with the West has been ongoing for years, and accelerated after the coup attempt last summer, much of the current meltdown has to do with one man, Reza Zarrab. His appearance in a Manhattan courtroom… holds the key to Turkey’s short-term economic prospects – and possibly also its long-term geopolitical orientation.

Europeans are failing to grasp that “this one moment in history” is more important than any single issue in Ankara’s relations with Brussels, Aydıntaşbaş said.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy chief executive of Halkbank, will go on trial in the Southern District of New York on Dec. 4 accused of complicity with Zarrab in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars on through the U.S. financial system. Zarrab, with close connections to Erdoğan’s government, is likely to cooperate with the state. Prosecutors have also indicted Atilla’s former boss, Süleyman Arslan, and ex-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan.

With the Zarrab case hanging over his head, all Erdogan can do is shore up his domestic support and make sure that everyone in Turkey believes that the West is out to get him.  This might cushion the domestic impact of the verdict, but it will not improve Turkey’s precarious economic situation - or its deepening problems with allies.