The mountain could give birth to a mouse in the Reza Zarrab case
It is possible that people are expecting too much from the Reza Zarrab case in New York regarding links to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan. Many could end up disillusioned.
This does not mean that nothing will come out of the court and nothing will happen against Turkish interests, such as steps against public lender Halkbank. But since Zarrab has already said in court that he never paid bribes to number one defendant Hakan Atilla, the former deputy director of Halkbank, because Atilla never asked, one of the pillars of the prosecution has been damaged.
Zarrab’s other statements that he gave “40 or 50 million euros” to former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and former European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış need documentation. And Zarrab’s claim that “he was told there were instructions from the top” that other state banks should help him in his gold-for-gas trade with Iran cannot be directly linked to - then prime minister, now President - Erdoğan directly if no solid evidence is submitted to court.
The case is shameful for many Turkish citizens who think such a trial should have taken place in Turkey, not in the U.S. But when considered cool-headedly, the Zarrab case may not end up doing much damage to Erdoğan – unlike is hoped by some opposition circles in Turkey and some outside the country. If no solid evidence is submitted to the court, the Zarrab case might turn into the metaphorical “mountain that gave birth to a mouse,” to adapt a Turkish saying.
Ankara has complained that the telephone recordings between Zarrab and government officials submitted to the New York court are “illegal” because they were taken from the December 2013 corruption probe files. Those cases ended up quashed because the prosecutors and judges involved were later understood to have been manipulated by the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamist preacher accused of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.
But journalists reporting from the courtroom who are familiar with the cases in Turkey say the documents submitted to the court amount to more than Turkey’s December 2013 graft probes, including WhatsApp messages of Zarrab going back to 2012.
If Zarrab has not changed his cell phone or his number since 2012 - despite his arrest in the meantime by Turkish courts - and if he still had the same phone when he was arrested in Florida in March 2016, it could mean one of two things: Either the U.S. electronic intelligence services (perhaps the National Security Agency) were eavesdropping in Turkey (thus carrying out espionage), or WhatsApp handed over all that data retrospectively to U.S. officials, as Turkey does not have that technology.
It is also interesting to see how many people have forgotten that Zarrab was actually operating in the sanctions struggle between the U.S. and Iran, not between the U.S. and Turkey. He was a member of an Iranian network aiming to bypass the U.S. sanctions before he became a Turkish citizen and adopted the name “Rıza Sarraf.” Perhaps someone in Tehran has been watching all along how Zarrab’s statements in court have helped worsen the already fraught relations between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S.