Colleagues covering the New York trial busting Halkbank deputy Director General Mehmet Hakan Atilla for helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions posed proudly for cameras as the trial entered the jury deliberations phase. Irrespective of the outcome, the case will obviously constitute a landmark in Turkish-American relations, like President Lyndon B. Johnson’s June 5, 1964 letter to Turkey or the 1975 arms embargo.
It was not gold trader Reza Zarrab, who had confessed and became a key witness in the case, Atilla, or any of the other eight people accused in the indictment of the case who were on trial there. Unfortunately, it was indeed the Turkish leadership and government implicated in the U.S.-imposed Iran embargo bust, millions of dollars distributed as bribes during that scheme, illegitimate gold trade, money laundering, favoritism and such crimes. Would it make much of a difference if Atilla is acquitted and only Zarrab received a reduced punishment? Unfortunately, not. For the global public opinion, particularly the American and European public who have detested the Turkish president’s leadership style for a long time, Turkey has already been sentenced in that trial.
It could be argued that Turkey is under some sort of siege by the United States-led Western community of nations. As is said in Turkish, a tongue does not have a bone. If there is an effective propaganda machine, no one can stop Turkey’s government from making Turks believe it is not the failed policies of the ruling party and its leader but Turkey, who is under attack.
The world is definitely “bigger than five” and obviously far bigger than “one,” as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been saying since the Jerusalem Act had been signed by President Donald Trump. It might even be correct that with his proactive attitudes and provocative undertakings, Trump was trying to win some new and influential allies in the fight for power in the United States. The “quarantine” of the U.S. delegate during the United Nations Security Council vote against the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital had indeed demonstrated what serious “precious isolation” Trump had achieved in such a short period of time.
The Trump administration’s decision to blackmail nations at the U.N. General Assembly with warnings that countries who voted against the U.S.’ Jerusalem move would pay a price was not the best move by the U.S. Nor was the statement from the U.S. delegate at the U.N. Security Council that no country could tell the U.S. what to do and how to do it. Such megalomania might fit well for an arrogant Trump but an American top diplomat engaging in such mania definitely demonstrates the severity of the situation in Washington.
Could Turkey find a remedy to this swing by changing its direction from the West to Eurasia? Could Turkey replace U.S. as its strategic partner with Russia? Could Turkey abandon NATO and move on to create something together with the Shanghai Five?
A new world order is shaping up, even if many of us resist to concede. Growing nationalism, xenophobic tendencies and Islamophobia are sweeping through the Western world. Unilateral undertakings by the U.S., as if it had been entitled with the role of global gendarmerie, adds further tensions to the global system. Russia, on the other hand, has been in efforts to consolidate its presence in the Middle East. Thus, while on the one hand tensions are brewing in American-European relations, the world is moving towards a new multi-polar order.
Once upon a time, after receiving Johnson’s letter—warning Turkey that should Turkey intervene in Cyprus and trigger an attack from Russia, NATO might not come to Turkey’s aid—the Turkish premier of the time, the late İsmet İnönü, had said “If needed, a new world order will be created and Turkey will take its position there.”
Could President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan using the New York trial as a pretext, rising Islamophobia in the West, the arrogant leadership style of Trump—which Turks were made familiar to by Erdoğan’s own leadership style—change Turkey’s direction?
We are going through very interesting times…