What Did Erdogan Get in Return for Brunson?
Pastor Brunson is back home. Good for everyone involved!
US President Trump said he didn’t cut any deals to have the Pastor back. Erdogan said Brunson’s release is proof that the Turkish judiciary is independent.
As much as he insists on the independence of the judiciary system, Turkish public expects to have gained something from this. That’s how this whole ordeal seemed to be playing out. Our president gave the impression that Brunson was a pawn in a barter.
That’s the way Turkey acts in relation with the rest of the world: from time to time, we are detaining citizens of other countries under false pretenses, then we are trying to get something in return for their release. Just like we are using Syrian refugees as a tool for barter against the EU. President Erdogan expects the leaders of EU countries to establish a relationship with him in return for keeping the refugees in Turkey.
After Andrew Brunson returned to the US, President Trump personally thanked Erdogan, while Brunson’s father prayed for him. Looks like Turkey and US are going through a second honeymoon phase -at least, in front of the cameras. In reality, we know that the US was threatening Turkey with severe consequences if the pastor was not released. They were even considering pulling out all their diplomatic missions and embassy personnel. That would mean a total cutoff of the relations between the two countries.
There were also the economic ramifications to consider -next to the political ones. Trump had stated that new sanctions for Turkey were underway if Brunson wasn’t released. It is obvious that Turkey wasn’t able to keep on the rhetoric in the face of Trump’s fury.
Also read: Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Saudi Arabia Still Has Many Questions to Answer About Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing
What happens next? Well, Erdogan has to play cool and defend his position to his nation. WE must not forget that authoritarian leaders need popular support more than their democratic counterparts. After all, authoritarian leaders do not depend on democracy to pursue their policies, they need the unwavering respect and fear of their constituents. There are no principles or laws in autocracies. Instead there are popular support and populist policies. Erdogan has to get something out of this Brunson ordeal.
As we all know, the second phase of Iran sanctions take hold in November. The US is getting ready to sanction the countries that do business with Iran. That’s not the first time this is happening. The US had similar sanctions on Iran in 2012, but Turkey, as an ally, was exempt from most of its implications. After all, the US is aiming for the Iranian -not Turkish, economy to take a hit.
It seems quite possible that the US will announce that Turkey will be exempt from the upcoming sanctions. And Erdogan will present this as a masterful diplomatic move on his part.
But the thing is, had Turkey not taken this path, and not play the hostage game at all, he would have probably received the same exemption without all the fuss. It is as if Turkey did this to herself, she dug a hole for herself than managed to dodge it at the last minute.
The US will not change course in Syria or its position with regards to Fetullah Guven. Sources say that the US had notified Turkey of Gulen’s actions between 2011 and 2014, but Turkey did not pay attention to them.
We may also witness a few other small gestures coming from the American side shortly. We may see the US intervening for the extradition of some suspects of the July 15 coup attempt to Turkey. And that will be another tool for the government to use as propaganda for the upcoming local elections.
Originally published in Turkish at: https://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/erdogan-brunson-i-verdi-ne-aldi-233709.html