Is there still a Zarrab case? Is there a US plot against Turkey?

Is there still a Zarrab case? Is there a US plot against Turkey?

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Nov. 22 that the Reza Zarrab case in the United States has started to harm Turkey and its interests on a global scale. He suggested that the defendants in the case, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and Turkish public bank manager Hakan Atilla, who are under arrest for violating the U.S. embargo on Iran, have been under pressure and forced to give statements against Turkey and Turkish interests. 

Yıldırım also said something very interesting, as if to implicitly confirm a rumor that has been swirling for a few days: “The suspect in the file you opened as a defendant has now turned into a witness even before the court hearing has started. Is there justice in that?” 

His remarks have endorsed questions on whether the “U.S. vs. Zarrab” case has actually turned into a case on the “U.S. vs. Atilla.” If so, it means that Zarrab, the main actor of the gas-for-gold trade between Turkey and Iran, will not be tried, while Atilla, bank manager allegedly dealing with the financial bureaucracy of the trade, will be. It would also mean that Zarrab has already pleaded guilty for a reduction in his penalty and the focus of the case is now only on Atilla. 

There is also this “Individual 1” who has appeared in the case files as a witness, and who is reportedly not one of the existing defendants or witnesses. What’s more, there are reported demands from the the court to the Turkish authorities to provide evidence in support of Atilla, if there is any. The prosecutor of the case is reportedly questioning whether Atilla’s interests contradicted the interests of the public lender Halkbank, which he managed. That question would have implications on whether Atilla was helping Zarrab in terms of political instructions.

President Tayyip Erdoğan claimed last week that pressure was being put on Turkish citizens to make them “confess against Turkey.” Many assumed that he was talking about Zarrab. But since Yıldırım has started to mention Zarrab as a witness, not as a defendant, could it be possible that Ankara considers Zarrab already “lost” and is now urging the U.S. not to put pressure on Atilla to make him plead guilty?

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, who is in charge of the economy, recently denied allegations that Turkey has done anything wrong in its foreign trade. President Erdoğan also pointed out that since there was no U.N. embargo, doing trade with Iran - just as other countries do - was not a crime. He claimed that the Zarrab case (or whatever it is now) was a “plot against Turkey,” saying that “those who could not succeed” in bringing himself and the Turkish government down in the corruption probes of 2013 (when Zarrab’s name surfaced for the first time) and the July 2016 military coup attempt were now “trying to do it via this court case in the U.S.”

During a Nov. 21 press briefing, U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked whether Washington was “trying to cook up a plot against Turkey?”

“That old same song and dance from Turkey … Accusing us of trying to foment some sort of a coup … That is ridiculous. We are not engaged in that,” she said in response.

Her tone was not exactly diplomatic and it was laced with mockery, though the question may have been put in a way to invite a ridiculing answer anyway.

But speaking of historic plots and coups, Nauert may want to reflect on some of the past coup d’etats that are understood to have been carried out by - or with heavy involvement of - the CIA, as in Iran, Chile and Grenada. Regarding U.S. involvement in Turkey’s military coup in 1980, I recommend Nauert takes a look at the memoirs of James Spain, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara at the time, titled “American Diplomacy in Turkey.”

There are still unanswered questions by the U.S. authorities about the position of the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen and his role in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Certain experiences turn into burdens on the shoulders of countries, whether it is Turkey or the U.S.