U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, as French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, looks on at the sidelines of a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. NATO leaders gather in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss Russia, Iraq and their mission in Afghanistan. (Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool)
According to reports, during the NATO summit, President Trump met with Turkish potentate Recep Tayyip Erdogan to try to arrange the release of imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson has been in prison nearly two years after being accused of terror-related offenses after the abortive 2016 coup attempt. In reality, Brunson is simply a hostage/bargaining chip to coerce the US into extraditing Turkish preacher, Fethullah Gülen, who serves as Moby Dick for Erdogan’s Captain Ahab. A deal was reached. Trump would get Israel to release Turkish national Ebru Ozkan, who was also being held on terrorism charges. And Erdogan would see to the release of Brunson. Trump did his part. Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest but he is still going to be required to stand trial on terrorism charges.
Trump was not happy and the White House let it be known that the United States was prepared to impose sanctions on Turkey.
The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
As I said earlier this week – and @POTUS has made clear – transferring Pastor Andrew Brunson to home arrest, it’s just not good enough. And the United States of America is prepared to bring sanctions against Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free. pic.twitter.com/nEHmcPQkpk
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 29, 2018
At this point it seems only appropriate to look to The Big Lebowski for the logical and foreseeable consequences of Erdogan punking Trump. NSFW Language and plenty of it.
Via the US Treasury Department:
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today targeting Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, both of whom played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson. These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses, and are being targeted pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” which builds upon Treasury’s Global Magnitsky Act authorities.
“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
Pastor Andrew Brunson has reportedly been a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the Government of Turkey. He was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and with an absence of evidence to support the charges, he was accused of aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage.
As the head of Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, Abdulhamit Gul is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse.
As head of Turkey’s Ministry of Interior, Suleyman Soylu is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse.
As a result of these actions, any property, or interest in property, of both Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Turkey’s Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
Announcement of US Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on Turkey weakens their currency within seconds. pic.twitter.com/KFPiB59iZD
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) August 1, 2018
— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) August 1, 2018
And actual economic sanctions are being readied if Brunson isn’t released.
US considering sanctions on Turkey "modeled on those against Russia." The experience of Russia tells you broad-based sanctions would make capital flows to Turkey collapse at a time when the country needs to finance a 6% current account deficit. pic.twitter.com/9VyDVJDoFw
— Sergi Lanau (@SergiLanauIIF) August 1, 2018
Now would be a good time to announce that multi-billion dollar fine on Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank for Iran sanctions busting.
— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) August 1, 2018
I find it remarkable that Ankara for years has been providing support to Hamas, Iran, ISIS, AQ and Libya jihadists, yet it's this incredibly stupid decision to hold an American hostage that has ultimately earned Turkey its first US sanctions.
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) August 1, 2018
At risk of hot-taking, quick thoughts about this sanctions announcement on Turkey:
1) It's unprecedented. Sanctioning ministers is a big deal.
2) It's probably economically meaningless, in terms of direct impact.
Ergo, 3) it's intended to be symbolic.
— Nate Schenkkan (@nateschenkkan) August 1, 2018
As noted above, this is a symbolic act but it should leave no doubt that the administration is very serious about this issue and after publicly dissing Trump by reneging on a deal Trump had delivered on, Erdogan can expect very little in the way of mercy.