The winner and loser in Pastor Brunson’s case

Huffington Post Greece – Oct. 18, 2018

The Turkish Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of American Pastor Brunson, which led him to release and freedom to stay or return to his country. Indeed, within a few hours of the decision, the pastor was found on an American aircraft and was formally admitted by the US president himself. This unexpected, for many observers, decision came after weeks of crisis between the two countries, which led to a kind of interruption of political relations between them and the escalation of the economic crisis in Turkey as a result of economic sanctions and negative statements on either side. In a previous article I talked about the details of this crisis, stressing that it will not have a dramatic development but will lead to a mutual solution between the two sides. The question is whether an agreement has been reached or the Turkish side succumbed to US power?

First of all, it should be stressed that the talks between the two sides stopped in the first three weeks. Nevertheless, the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of September opened a window for this crisis. A Western diplomatic source confirmed that meetings were held between officials from the Foreign Ministries of the two countries during the presence of Turkish President Erdoğan in New York. These talks lasted for days before the court’s ruling, where agreement was reached on the release of Brunson and the change of the story of the witnesses on the case. If there was really an agreement, then Brunson’s release should in the first place affect Turkey’s economy in the next period but also the Turkish influence in the region in general.

It should also be emphasized that pastor Brunson, according to Turkish claims, is accused with clear evidence that he supported the attempted coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016 and his role was to interconnect the forces of the coup and transfer information to international parties that put their hand on it. Also, investigations showed his role in transferring large sums of money to important personalities of the Turkish army to join the coup. On this basis, he was arrested a few days later. Therefore, according to the above allegations, this person is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Turkish citizens during the course of the coup. His theatrical release is simply part of the US-Turkey consensus. The past period was a period of trying to overpower one or the other.

When one tries to override the other, one side faces economic and geopolitical losses. In fact, the biggest loser was the Turkish side during this period. The Turkish pound was depreciated and Washington imposed economic sanctions by freezing Turkish officials’ assets and restricting some Turkish imports, while was not affected by the Turkish economic response at all. From a geopolitical point of view, the agreement signed by Turkey on Manbij, which includes the withdrawal of Kurdish militias from the city and its surroundings, has virtually frozen by allowing it to only carry out limited operations in the region and to create a small military on the outskirts of the city. The Turkish movements in northern Iraq against the PKK have almost entirely ceased not having the green light of the US. The only negative that this crisis has caused for Washington was to stop coordination with Ankara regarding the Syrian north, and especially the last stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition, Idlib and its surroundings. Nevertheless, Washington continues to impose its view by emphasizing the need for no military invasion in this area.

Of course, it is proved in practice that Turkey, despite its economic empowerment and leadership in the Middle East and internationally, as well as its important role in Iraq, Syria and Iran, is not in a position to contradict US power and influence. Washington can easily hamper the Turkish economic situation without losing anything, as well as altering the equation in Iraq and Syria, making Ankara hard. In fact, Ankara tried to play with the pastor case to get from the US what it can about the future of the Kurdish presence in northern Syria and Manbij. But, in the meantime, Erdoğan found himself to be the victim of this crisis without gaining any gain. The agreement, in my view, relates only to the liberation of the pastor in return for some concessions from Washington to the Manbij crisis. Thus, Trump is twice a winner as, on the one hand, he managed to portray himself as capable of mastering any emerging power in the region and, on the other hand, gaining significant support from the hardliners evangelical voters by returning Pastor Brunson to his home safely. The biggest losers are the Turkish people, their trade and their economy.