Diplomacy on a rollercoaster

Diplomacy on a rollercoaster

The United States’ decision to suspend visa applications from Turkey indefinitely is another chapter in the worsening relations between the two NATO allies. If you read the pro-government papers in Turkey, (which are distributed practically for free), you get a sense of the movie ARGO, where the U.S. Embassy in Tehran becomes the center of all espionage. Some fanatics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would certainly love the idea of a “siege and conquer.”

Turkey’s legal combat with the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), that ignited the bloody coup attempt on July 15, has come to a critical point. Last week, President Erdoğan claimed the heads of mayors of nine major cities claiming they had done business with the Gülenists. Mayors, especially Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, revolted and the issue fizzled after a long meeting at Beştepe Palace. Erdoğan seemed like he would take a step back but the fight is far from over.

To divert the attention from the internal party fight, FETÖ investigations and its links to U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey became the icing on the cake. Metin Topuz, the consulate worker who apparently had been in that position for 33 years, is under arrest and confessed how he illegally participated in wiretapping and other political blackmail according to pro-government media.

On the topic of consular arrests, one thing keeps popping up. Without his links to the Turkish police departments, Topuz would not even have been able to get that job under normal circumstances. He most likely had some pretty big brothers in the Turkish government who pushed for his employment and promotion. And they are not limited to the Gülenists.

Not too long ago, ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) their daughters, their sons, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, grandchildren, even their nannies and remote relatives would be able to receive U.S. visas in a day, without any interview process, no waiting and no hassle. While doctors, academics, journalists would pray to have their date scheduled in the İstinye visa section, even the smallest chapter officer from the AK Party would be treated like a VIP at the U.S. Consulate. What has changed? Or who has changed?

For more than a decade, the AK Party has relished its ties with the U.S. Now that Metin Topuz, the go-to-man for visas at the consulate is under investigation, a lot of people should be worried.

From 2007 to 2010, the AK Party’s policies regarding the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer Trials were shaped with utmost cooperation from Gülenists in the police and judiciary. The seeds of this policy were laid during high level visits to the U.S. in late 2007. To solve the Kurdish problem, the AK Party’s heavyweights brought up the issue of resistance they were facing internally, especially from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the military. With the FBI’s training techniques and judicial frameworks linked to the Patriot Act, the U.S. provided some help. Then came the illegal arrests, wiretapping, fabricated evidence etc.

The AK Party’s radical papers and trolls may be shouting for revenge like the embassy siege in Tehran. But if the judiciary truly start investigating the political links of these people, Adil Öksüz may look like only a pawn in this game. So prepare for a rollercoaster ride in the next six months at least.

Opinion, Ahu Özyurt,