This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Thursday, October 12, 2017.
This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed the U.S.-Turkey relationship from bad to worse. On Tuesday, he claimed that “spies” had infiltrated U.S. missions in Turkey and said that Turkey didn’t consider the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, to be a legitimate representative of the United States.
Turkey’s president thus escalated a tit-for-tat diplomatic crisis that started on Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy announced that the United States had been forced “to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel,” and as a result would no longer process non-immigrant visas. The decision was undoubtedly a response to the arrest of Metin Topuz, a “foreign service national” who has worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s office in the Turkish capital for many years, but was accused of supporting the Fethullahist Terror Organization by the Turkish government, which holds the group responsible for the failed coup in July 2016. The Turkish government responded in kind to the U.S. refusal to process visas — before Erdogan followed up with his rhetorical broadside.
The Topuz case can now be logged into an increasingly long list of conflicts that have challenged the U.S. relationship with Erdogan’s Turkey over the last few years. It is now clear that Turkey and the United States are less allies and partners than antagonists and strategic competitors, especially in the Middle East.
But it would be a mistake to lay Washington and Ankara’s troubled relations at the feet of Turkey’s charismatic and pugnacious president.
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