Cold War politics back again?
It might be assumed that the exchange of prisoners, spies, important sportspeople, political or business personalities can only be seen in films. A country sending some of its undercover secret service agents to capture and bring home some wanted people might as well appear to most people as “nothing but fiction.” Most people in this country grew up with stories of secret operations in this region by American, German, British or the Israeli intelligence services. Maps drawn at Britain’s Istanbul consulate, Lawrence of Arabia and such stories belong to the past, while the current secret operations of the spy agencies of the U.S., Russia, Israel or some other countries might not yet have been exposed to the societies. How many people were carried on CIA’s secret flights through Turkey from Afghanistan or Middle Eastern countries to some secret questioning and prison centers elsewhere?
Such issues, however, were not at all limited to Hollywood films, thrillers or the Cold War era. All prisoner swaps do not have to be carried out at the Charlie Checkpoint.
Was it not the American and Israeli “friends” that gave Turkey’s number one enemy, the chieftain of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — Abdullah Öcalan — who was at a Kenyan airport at the time, to Turkey in 1999 on a silver platter?
Collaboration and cooperation among secret services, if and when there is a common interest, appears rather probable or at least logical. How many of the recent operations of the Turkish spy agency in allied and non-allied countries were successful, or how many wanted members of Fethullah Gülen’s organization were captured are not yet clear. What is known is that many of our “friendly” and “brotherly” neighbors or allies have expressed discontent about such covert operations on their territories, by Turkey, without their prior consent. Had alleged discussions between some top Turkish personalities and some American senior people went smoothly as Ankara hoped, perhaps Turkey would have achieved bringing home Gülen as well. That plan, however, failed.
Many people, remembering the surprise release of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel in the aftermath of a meeting between then Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made some farfetched speculations. Accordingly, the release of pastor Andrew Brunson — now under house arrest — might be believed to have been done for the exchange and the release and travel to Turkey of Halkbank’s deputy general manager Hakan Atilla or the Israeli permission for Ebru Özkan, a Turkish citizen who was arrested in Israel, to leave the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan openly declared that Turkey never engaged in such a deal. Would Erdoğan concede if there was such a failed deal?
Obviously Turkey is heading toward a very strong confrontation with its longtime ally United States, and the sanctions both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence reiterate at every opportunity might land Turkish-American relations at an unprecedented, devastating confrontation. Congress initiatives to sanction Turkey by suspending the delivery of F-35 fighter jets, if Turkey buys the Russian-made S-400 missile system, and persistent vows by Trump and Pence, which are responded by Ankara with statements like “Turkey cannot succumb to any sort of pressure,” demonstrate a strengthening cold war between two allies. Let’s hope it stays there.