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tv   Future of U.S.- Turkey Relations  CSPAN  November 28, 2017 10:45pm-11:56pm EST

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daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. this morning on c-span 3rks alex azar, president trump's pick will go to on live coverage. we will be starting at 11:eempb. e we will look at the state of always himmers and what they have done to prevent streemt and resurge. that is live an 2:00 p.m. eastern. today a turkish iranian gold trader has pleaded guilty and is
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cooperating with the american authorities. a federal prosecutor disclosed tuesday. the focus of discussion next. e we will show you all 70 minutes of it next. >> good morning, everyone. thank you for joining us. i'm the director of national security at the bipat srtisan center. i am pleased to see that some people are hungry for turkey. that is my only thanksgiving joke. i will live the it at that.
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we are here to discuss -- where in the world is raza harab, he has mysteriously disappeared. but perhaps just as interestingly as that, a question of why this case which involves allegations of this businessman helping iran e evade u.s. sanctions, why is that a sticking point for u.s./turkey relations. i'm pleased to have an expert panel with us. but first i want to announce a couple products coming out today. we are an explainer on the case of what it is and why it's important. we also launchinging a broader
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initiative in occurty, the firsthand written paper on the topics and allows to you explore the links and the impbt up you will be able to zoom through the constellation of power and corruption in turkey. with that, let me go to the panel. we have a turkish jornlist taniir writing for a new outlet. dr. pornel, stroll and bbc's very own nick dan worth, expert on all things turkish and other things too. let me start with you. can you give us a summary of what the case is about?
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what are the allegations in this case? >> sure, thank you. thanks for the invitation. m m and the rest -- in march of 2016 f and became very, very famous in hurkey. i think he stayed in jail in turkey for -- i don't know. a couple months and then he was kind of forgotten in turkey. but still seems he was -- and he still is married a pop star in turkey. everybody knows and more or
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less, he has been untouched against since 2013 but last year, in 2016, he got arrested. it was a shock to everyone. and he has been in jail since then. we don't since then. we don't know if he's still in jail but we know for sure he's under u.s. federal custody right,000. there are lots of speculations whether he's in hotel or somewhere else but he's under custody. so that have been for indictmen indictments. first one came right after zaza got arrested. the second one came about a year ago, actually day before u.s. elections, expanded second indictment included rzaz rzaza zarab's brother, mohammed zarrab. and when the second person got
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arrested from hap bank who was deputy manager. and he has been still in jail. and fourth one is just came out early september the most expanded one and included former finance minister, economic minister zafar and chellian plus the chairman general of hac bank, turkish public bank. maslan. palkan who is the international deputy general manager who was taking care of international banking. so total of nine people. it really hit turkey. mr. erdogan -- >> what are they charged with? >> there are six counts and four charges, separate charges. one of them, conspiracy against
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united states. basically the fraud in the united states. the other is defrauding u.s. banking. the other one is money laundering. the fourth one is -- will come back to me. about 75 years they are asking for. for reza zarrab. but experts say actually if the judge counts every transaction in this money laundering it could be really, really long, which apparently is the -- how these things go. so we are looking at maybe more than a century of jail sentence. all these allegations, of course. reza zarrab was not convicted in turkey.
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and dismissed his charges. and the police and the prosecutors who launched those investigations also dismissed and i think many of them either fled or in jail. and here 20 months we have seen dozens of pretrial conferences, hearings. but we have not so far had a person, convicted person that we can say. so these are allegations. >> svante, johan alluded to the background of this of zarrab's arrest in 2013. can you tell us the context for that? >> sure. for me the case of reza zarrab is very symptom mick of turkish-american relations right now. because if you are so to speak in turkey or if you are in the united states you are living on different planets in many ways.
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and what you interpret when you see the details of the case are completely different. it's the lack of trust at the end of the day. and i'd go even further, the very deep suspicion, mutual suspicion that exists mainly from turkeyy and that is of course that you can't understand the reza zarrab case without understanding the gulen movement in turkey. from the superficial american perspective this is an issue about corruption and this is an issue about sanctions busting. and therefore, this is a legal case and it has a judicial process. i'm not saying that anybody in the u.s. would say that this is purely out of politics. but it's mainly a legal case, right? this is not only an issue of manipulating political things. but we have to remember the way the whole reza zarrab case came
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out was by the december 2013 raids that were directly targeted at president erdogan and his proxies, family members and his close associates, and i think the interesting thing about the december '13 raids is they were not about just any kind of corruption case. we know there is a clientistic economy that has been built up in turkey. but the allegations and the raids of december 2013 focused particularly on those issues that were the most damaging for erdogan from an american perspective. we have the cases of, you know, al qaeda-linked saudi financiers that he had been meeting with that were raised. we also had obviously the issues about the iran sanctions. the fact these raids targeted specifically those things, not just ordinary corruption but specific things that would be damaging for erdogan are very important. and we know now the prosecutors who were involved i think beyond
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any reasonable doubt were affiliated with the gulen movement and this is why this in turkey was understood by erdogan and his associates and friends and supporters as a judicial coup against erdogan. this is the background to how they see it. now, obviously then following this we have a -- we had elections, we had referenda. we had a coup last year that erdogan with quite strong evidence alleges the gulen movement to be the leading -- well, he says it was all good the gulen movement. i would say it was certainly about the gulen movement but it was much broader than that and it's much more complicated than that. but in any case, this means that from the perspective of erdogan and his supporters when suddenly reza zarrab gets arrested in the united states and indicted in the united states this is not just an ordinary legal procedure in the u.s. this is about a continuation of the coup against him.
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and what we have to understand and which i think most people may not be fully -- internalize is from erdogan and his supporters' perspective gulen is not an autonomous actor. i'd suggest to anybody interested in turkish affairs to read a book written by daniel pipes 20 years about conspiracyism in the middle east and how conspiracy theory thinking. the interesting thing about his book which was mainly about the arab and iranian worlds. had an appendix for turkey that said this is not relevant for turkey today but may be in the future. that future has arrived. everything in turkey is based on conspiracy theery, and therefore we have to -- whether we agree, disagree, that for erdogan and his supporters the gulen movement is an american-controlled operation and therefore a gulen-orchestrated coup against him is an american coup against him. and for that perspective for
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erdogan what we're seeing in new york is part and parcel of an american effort to overthrow him. i'm not saying i agree with that. i'm just saying we have to understand that this is not just a propaganda thing for erdogan and his media. obviously, they use propaganda very effectively. but this is what they appear very strongly to believe. >> so nick, maybe picking up from that, could you talk a little bit about how this turkish view of what the zarrab case is about has played out in u.s.-turkish relations in recent months and where it might go from here? >> i'll very much follow up on what svante was saying and that right now we're in a situation where people in turkey, not just people reading the papers in turkey but people at high levels of the turkish government and people in the united states really are living in different realities, both in regards to this case and to the broader context of the u.s.-turkish relationship. as svante said, to understand
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this case it's wrth looking at both how this case has helped perpetuate those different realities and helped exacerbate and will continue to help exacerbate many of the deep divides in u.s.-turkish relations but also to try back and show beyond the gulen issue, which i'm glad you highlighted, how the inaccept yent divergent opinions about turkey's role in the world and the u.s.-turkish relationship in itself going back to 2012-t2013 when this ca came into being how this sxats crisis we find ourselves in now was in itself a result of a growing divergence that predates it. in that respect from the united states' perspective people look at this as a very simple legal matter. zarrab and his turkish accomplices violated u.s. law, now they're being tried for it in u.s. court. the turkish response to this very clearly has been, you know, what right does america have to
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make it against the law for us turkey to do business with iran? these weren't united nations sanctions, turkey claims, this was a bilateral trade between two sovereign countries, why is this in violation of u.s. law? and up to a point i think it's worth acknowledging where this argument is coming from. certainly the united states by virtue yew of the vast sweep of its financial sector does have a unique ability to make our national interest into a matter of universally enforceable law. if these were i'd say paraguay's sanctions against iran and turkey had done what it did, zarrab would not be facing trial right now. but that only goes so far. the point is also worth mentioning, and i think this is where the problem really goes back to how the akp approached this issue in 2012. they may not have agreed with the united states laws. they may not have agreed with the united states sanctions against iran. indeed at the time they made it
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clear they had concerns about u.s. sanctions against iran. however, at the point when these sanctions were put in place, at the point when people in the turkish government and people in the turkish banking sector knew these laws were in place, they were also aware of the consequences of breaking them. and at that point the decision to go ahead with this gas for gold scheme was taken with the knowledge these actions were against u.s. laws. that's why turkish ministers accepted large bribes for allowing these actions to go forward. so there is in this context something problematic about presenting the consequences that turkey not just individual turkish citizens but the entire turkish economy is now facing as a result of these actions as a conspiracy against turkey. these are the result of actions taken against turkish government officials often for personal
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profit. i'm sure they genuinely believe they were also doing it for turkey's national interests. in a conscious decision to violate u.s. laws which whether or not they agreed with them they should have realized were going to have consequences. in addition to the legal issue i'd make a very similar point about the broader geopolitical context in which this has happened. turkey has long had a very complicated relationship with iran. the two countries have been rivals and neighbors for centuries now. at the time the gas for gold scheme was taking place, turkey was actually in a period of considerable tension with iran vis-a-vis their very divergent positions in the syrian civil war. yet at the same time turkey saw the geopolitical benefits and the economic benefits of maintaining a functional relationship with iran and helping iran evade u.s. sanctions. this has been a matter of considerable outrage for many in the united states, to which people in turkey have pointed
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out that turkey is not the first country, not the only country to maintain economically profitable relationships with a very nasty regime. turkey is not the first country to maintain good relations with let's say oppressive but hydrocarbon rich state that has a long history of promoting islamic extremism in the middle east. turkey is not alone in doing this. however, what's worth noting is that this happened in the context of turkey being a nato ally. this happened in the context of turkey being iran's neighbor, having deep geopolitical differences with iran. turkey, had it not been for turkey's nato membership, turkey would have had every reason to be terrified of iran's nuclear program. no country would be excited about a neighbor developing nuclear weapons if they did not have them. the reason turkey was not as concerned about this as they would otherwise have to be was because it was a nato member, because it enjoyed nato's nuclear umbrella, because it had nato protecting it from any nuclear weapons iran might get.
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at a time when turkey was relying on nato protection in the case that iran did develop nuclear weapons, for it to then take actions that undermined nato's or leading nato countries' efforts to stop iran's nuclear program seems like a pretty deep violation of the spirit of the alliance. >> i think that's a really interesting issue and maybe we can bookend this question of turkey's position between the u.s. and iran and maybe how that shifted because it also gets us to events of the last couple days with erdogan going to sochi and meeting with both president putin and hassan rouhani. the phone call that erdogan and trump had on friday and what that might mean. if we could bracket that sort of issue and talk more about the case itself and what it means. a couple questions. let's start with this. svante, you mentioned for most of the last year when turkey has
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talked about its concerns about u.s. legal issues it's been talking about gulen and asking for the extradition of gulen to turkey. it hasn't talked so much about the zarrab issue, at least until recently. why is that i guess is the question. is there a greater emphasis, is there more concern in turkey about gulen than there is zarrab? have they only just pivoted recently to paying attention to zarrab? why the disparate focus on gulen until now? >> i guess i have two ways to answer that. one is that there's an obsession with the gulen issue, which is an understandable obsession. because after all it is very -- erdogan was a person who enabled the gulen movement to spread in the bureaucracy the way it did because of a, as it turned out, erroneous belief that because both his movement from the
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naksha bendi origin and -- was sunni muslims they would support me because i am the leader of the sunni dlimuslims and they wt betray me. what turned out was there was a power struggle between the two coalitions and that power struggle has basically destroyed the turkish state. that is quite damaging for everyone because everyone in turkey understands that erdogan was the person whoen abled -- the rise of the gulenist wave started earlier. it started in the '70s, '80s, but he enabled the spread of gul gulenists and the rise to power across the turkish society because it -- i talked to a good friend in turkey last night, very secularist, foreign trained, who said we need erdogan because he's the only person who can get rid of the gulenists from the whole system of the state. so it's very strange -- >> so is the assumption in that statement that he hasn't done that yet? >> yes. for example, the akp itself has
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not been purged. a lot of state institutions have been purged. the party has not been fully purged. and i think the -- what i'm trying to get to is that maintaining the pressure on the gulen issue is both for the domestic political regime stability of erdogan a necessity but it's also something that unites him with his new coalition partners, if you will. now, where erdogan's earlier coalition as we all know was based on conservatives, liberals, and kurds, it's now been turned since 2015 really but even more so after the coup into a strong tactical alliance with the neonationalist forces. they usually refer to as the you' eurasianist forces, ethnic nationalists in the state and military. they are highly skeptical if not hostile to the united states and to the west, and this focus on gulen unites them and i would say also the tensions with the united states and the suspicion
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that the zarrab case generates strengthens the neonational forces in the turkish government and puts him and erdogan in the same bed if you will. >> ilhan, do you think erdogan really wants gulen back? is it just sort of this tactical political ploy? >> i do believe he really wants him back. the reason i do believe that, the latest revelations about how he tried to get him through mike flynn affairs, if we're to believe, obviously these are the claims and have not been confirmed yet but i think what erdogan's government have been wanting, fete yooula gulen back to turkey. but at the same time whether he wants zarrab more or fethullah gulen more is the question.
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we now know that in september 21st of 2016 when the president erdogan spoke to us, president biden, only two months after the coup, 60 days. 65 days. and still the trauma that big event was being felt very much in turkey and obviously apparently about half of that meeting, mr. erdogan talk about the zarrab case. and he wanted zarrab. so i think when it comes to zarrab-gulen i think mr. erdogan wants gulen back but i think he wants zarrab more than gulen. >> svante, ilhan, also happy to hear about this from you. but nick, a, would you agree with that assessment? and why would he want zarrab more than gulen? you sort of mentioned a variety of issues. is it sort of this issue of this case could reveal that turkey was involved in sort of undermining its allies' interests with iran or is there
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something greater involved here? >> this has been one of the strange things period gann's focus on the zarrab case that i think a lot of people in washington at least have wondered about in that as ilhan said there has -- it seems like in private meetings erdogan has been very focused on this. he's very much wanted zarrab off, he's wanted the case to go away. he's hired people like rudy giuliani in order to negotiate a diplomatic solution which would make this case go away. and yet right, it's not immediately clear to people outside turkey -- many very explosive revelation koz come out of this. certainly if this case ended up confirming the corruption allegation that's were originally raised by gulenists in turkey, one of the possible consequences of this could actually give these a newfound legitimacy whereas previously erdogan's been able to dismiss them domestically. and yet looking from the outside my assumption has been that any revelation that's would come out of this would be very easy for erdogan given his control of the media in turkey, given his very
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effective use of rhetoric, are very easy for erdogan to dismiss. it seems like erdogan is more concerned about the potential revelations than people from the outside think erdogan needs to be. this is also -- some people trying to understand why this might be the case have pointed to the fact that if the case results, if it proves that turkish banks were involved in sanction busting there could be heavy fines levied against turkish banks, this could have a damaging impact on the turkish economy. it's still not clear to me even were the case to result in fines it seems odd erdogan would deal with the case by trying to make the case go away rather than moving forward and trying to use his diplomatic power to make the fines go away afterwards. any fines that come out of this could be ones the state department could help mitigate for acceptable political reasons. i guess this is a long-winded way of saying i don't have a
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great answer for why this has seemed as sensitive for erdogan as it seems to be. >> ilhan, sfantdee? >> i think the reason mr. erdogan is worried about this case is because in zarrab might be talking to prosecutors and if he's talking to prosecutors, which right now every indication shows that he is talking to prosecutors, and we don't know yet whether they got a deal. but if he's talking to prosecutors, that mean he has to give up everything. >> by everything? >> everything means the names, the people they work with in the scheme with sanctions on iran. that probably is going to implicate a lot of key officials, former officials or key allies or people like amanda
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slot, former u.n. senior official. she just said a couple days ago these might implicate president erdogan's son, son-in-law. these are her words. that's why i think mr. erdogan is very much sensitive, possible that he might be talking, that means maybe dozens, we don't know, maybe dozens of mr. erdogan's close allies will have a lot of limitations whether inside turkey or outside turkey. >> mr. erdogan appears to be very concerned, and i think that's because he sees this as a gateway to something that's going to hit closer to home. whether that's family members or something else, i don't know. i don't know what mr. zarrab knows and mr. erdogan probably doesn't know what mr. zarrab is willing to talk about. but i think what's important is
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to look at this in the context of like nick was saying, erdogan doesn't need to be this concerned. maybe he should because erdogan is weaker than he looks. he looks like especially after the coup he's in total control of turkey. if you scratch the surface a little, what appears is first the little dirty secret that i keep talking about of erdogan's is he never had enough people to run the turkish state. which means that he always had to rely on others. that was the whole rationale for bringing in the guden movement, these were the educated cadres on which he could return turkey on which he could base his regime. when he fell out with the gulenists he didn't have enough, still, ten years later, enough people of his own, loyalists, to run the state. he had to lean on the nationalists of the ado adol perenchick types to run the state agencies. that's one thing. the other thing is that turkey in spite of a referendum is still not a presidential
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republic. it will only become a presidential republic after the next presidential election. in the meantime, everything mr. erdogan does is illegal. every decision he takes, every time he calls you an undersecretary at some agency or ministry, it's illegal. it's the prime minister's prerogative to run the government, not the president's under the current constitution. which is why mr. erdogan is understandably worried about legal matters. and you know, we also know that when in 2015 he almost lost power, he lost an election and managed to nullify that election he sent family members out of the country to run the family fortune and other things like that in case that was to be needed. so i think his behavior suggests that he actually has much more reasons to be concerned about these kind of things than what would appear to be the case. >> so we've sort of heard -- ilhan, you just told us that there might be some sort of deal brewing. although i feel like we've been
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talking about this for a while. there was this strange question of why did reza zarrab come to the united states in the first place? he gets arrested in turkey for basically breaking u.s. laws. he's released. and three years later he comes to miami to take his kids to disney world. it seems like a bit of a gamble. we've been talking about a potential deal for a while. why do you think this sort of might be happening now? >> first -- yes. there have been a lot of scenarios, talk and lots of speculation whether reza zarrab came to the u.s. knowingly. i do not believe this scenario. i think he came to the u.s. -- not because i don't believe this scenario. because i've seen his what's app messages published by the court that he was, you know, having fun talking to habanian, others until the last minute, he got in the plane and he was talking
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about different ideas and the planning in miami. but also it has been 20 months. if he came here to get a deal, he could have done the deal without spending that much time in the jail. but my bigger question is why menetako attila came. >> he's going on trial starting today. >> yes. he's going on trial that's for sure because his lawyers have been battling fiercely. if reza zarrab turns out to be a witness against him that would really weaken his defense because basically reza zarrab is going to confirm much of the allegations against him if that's the case. >> you raised the question of why he came to the u.s. do you have a good answer? >> i think he came to the suhr because he was 32, 33 and he got away with everything in turkey.
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he has been rich all his life. and he did not get a good advice from his lawyers. i don't know who heard his lawyers. and he came and told all these allegations and fraud and all the other claims he thought the u.s. -- according some sources he also checked his -- through akp officials he checked his status that he's clear. he got his visa and got on the plane. i think he thought that there was nothing danger, there's no danger for him. >> so assuming there is a deal, what do you see as the legal consequences? what would happen next? >> lots of unknowns. i've been talking to quite a few experts on that including
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financial crimes expert. it looks like if he got deal he's thinking about names and information, every single bit of it, and he needs to basically convince u.s. prosecutors that he really do really good information. and as preet bharara just tweeted yesterday he has to have substance, either he's going to help u.s. authorities recover a big amount of money, plus he's going to give intel information, how this money moved around the world. this is not only turkey, not only iran, only abu dhabi but people are talking about malaysia, talking about germany, uk, dominica. there are a lot of players around the world right now very much worried that reza zarrab might talk. reza zarrab has been already in
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jail for 20 months. so if he gives good information, again, according to people who know this in cases, he might get out very soon, maybe a couple years. >> svante, let's talk built political consequences. you talked about how it could be seen from the turkish side. would love to hear more about that. but also the u.s. side. will it matter for turkish relations if there's this revelation of turkey's complicity in sanctions busting? i think you sort of said turkey would not be the first country to do business with a corrupt state. the u.s. has done so meanty of tim. does the revelation of turkish corruption matter for the united states? >> i guess i'd give two answers to that. one specific and one general. the fact this corrupt country
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was in fact iran i think really will matter in that there is even before the most recent election in the united states, before trump came into office and afterward certainly one of the are approaches that turkey has used for the united states is to present itself as a potential ally to america in confronting iranian regional influence in the middle east. now, this from the outset might have been a tough sell. certainly turkey's response to the qatar crisis didn't necessarily convince anyone in washington that turkey was going to be a strong supporter in any future confrontation with iran. but nonetheless, clearly this administration wanting to take a tougher take on iran. it remains a sales pitch that turkey has open to it. and i think were it to become so blindingly obvious that turkey had been sabotaging our most recent effort to constrain iran that would make that much more difficult. i also think more broadly the details of the corruption and
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the extent of the corruption are going to have an impact on the way people in the united states see turkey as a potential partner. this is something we actually explore in a paper which i would encourage everyone to take a look at, corruption and consequences. you can grab a copy at the table out there. but one of the things that seems most troubling is that up until now in many cases the united states' frustrations with turkey have been couched in terms of turkey's refusal to cooperate on u.s. policy goals. the united states wants turkish support in dealing with iran's nuclear program and turkey has refused to cooperate. the corruption raises the issue of not simply about turkey's voluntary decision to cooperate but if corruption in turkey becomes too widespread, too systematic, turkey is simply no longer going to be able to cooperate with the united states on key issues even when the united states and turkey have shared interests. one of the things, there was lots of frustration in the united states over turkey's
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initial response to isis. but eventually turkey got on board, recognized the threat of isis, seemed to be making consistent effort to confront isis and had engaged some some meaningful intelligence cooperation that helped western countries in the fight isis. to the extent turkey's police force, to the extent turkey's judiciary becomes compromised by corruption, becomes undermined by the purges erdogan in many cases is carrying out in order to be able to better get away with corruption, that is going to make this kind of cooperation even on clear-cut shared interests more difficult. that in the long term as we colored in the paper is something that's going to have long-term consequences for the u.s. >> svante? >> i think that makes perfect sense, but on the other hand, what erdogan would hear from what you just said is, well, just because i got rid of your guys in my police and your guys in my prosecutors' offices you're saying i have a problem
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with corruption but at least i have people i can trust and people who work for me rather than work for you. i'm saying we're back to the situation that we live in different worlds. and i think -- and that's a bigger problem also because what gulen has really misunderstood is when forced to choose between erdogan and this octopus-like gulen movement, faceless, nobody really knows what they want and where they're headed, the overwhelming majority of people in turkey opted for choosing what you see is what you get, erdogan, he's out there, you may like him, you may dislike him but you know who he is. as my secularist friend who i spoke to last week suggests. and i think we have to understand for a lot of turkish public opinion the coup is much more alive than we think. that for us the coup has morphed into being about erdogan's post-coup repression. and i think for understandable
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purposes for most people in turkey this is not what's going on. this is still about gulen. it's still about the trauma from the coup. and if we don't understand that we're going to have trouble in the relations with turkey. now, the other part of that is deal, if there is a deal, you will not be able to convince either erdogan or his supporters, or actually most turks that this is just a legal procedure in the united states. you will not be able to convince people this is not u.s. policy. whatever president trump says, whatever anybody else says, everybody will understand that this is the united states going against turkey, trying to turn erdogan's associate against him. zarrab will be one of the greatest traitors in turkish history. and i wouldn't know where he will be able to go after this. i'm not saying that we can somehow stop the process of justice. i'm saying we have a train wreck. and erdogan, when this happens, if a deal is struck he will have to react and take measures not
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just any measures but very strong measures against the united states. and i think how do we manage this process? i'm not even at this point only concerned about how do we manage the day-to-day bilateral relationship with turkey. how do we manage the long-term relationship with turkish society so that the great majority of turks don't see everything that the united states does as being something that is scheming against their backs or right in their face. so i think we have some homework to do. >> as a quick follow-up, i think you bring up something fascinating, which is in a way to the extent that gulenists seem to have badly miscalculated in the way they pursued these december corruption trials it was almost in that they bought into a conspiracy that erdogan is now the first person to promote, namely, that they thought being on good terms with the united states, or that u.s. influence would somehow have some impact on turkish domestic politics. and that clearly proved not to be the case.
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if they thought the united states supporting their corruption investigation was going to mean more than the vast majority of turkisherdogan, the grievously miscalculated. >> and now you're in a position where being seen as being friendly to the united states is dangerous in turkey. this is where we are. >> i agree with that. i think the gulenists miscalculated very badly for the last few years, which we have seen the gulenists not as a civil society organization but became political actor. but political actor in a way that i think nicholas said not what, you know, what you see what you get, but you don't know what you are seeing. and you have no idea what you are going to get. so i think the history of gulenists in the last five years is miscalculations. one miscalculation after
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another. >> so would it be too much based on this account to try to draw a straight line from the attempt to use the reza zarrab case in december 2013 against erdogan to where we've ended up today in turkish politics with the failed coup and the purges and the presidential system that's coming in the next election as you wait out, svante. >> everything is connected. all of these things are connected to one another. and you know, for erdogan he has internalized his own discourse about him being the representative or the epitomization of turkey. and his power being central for the stability and progress of the country. a lot of turks don't agree with that. but at this point with the whole mess going on in and around turkey you've seen in the past three years, two years, three years, how the nationalist
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mobilization in turkey has become extremely powerful. and if you like erdogan and if you see in his rhetoric he started talking about ataturk by name, not about mustafa kamal, he's been using the name ataturk, which again a concession to the nationalists in his new coalition, and if he becomes understood by the vast majority of turks as the representative of this nationalist impulse, which he wasn't even five years ago. it was still when the nationalists were against him because he was the islamist. now he's become -- he's kept his identity as the islamist while purging most real islamists from his government. and you know, adapted this nationalist costume. that's in a way in spite of what i said about his weak internal position, that is what he's doing in a sense by necessity in order to maintain his power. and that, he's channeling something that's very real in turkey and that's not just
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something artificial. >> so maybe before we go to questions from the audience we can pivot to the issue that you raised earlier on, nick, about sort of turkey's position in between the u.s. and iran and how it sees itself dealing with its sort of frenemy i guess would be one way to put it. and particularly in the context of u.s. bilateral relations, right? because the turkish-iranian relationship, or turkey's relationship intoian interests in the region has been part of what has been a problem in the u.s.-turkish relationship, right? early on syria war turkey was so opposed to assad, right? so opposed to the iranian position that it felt betrayed when the u.s. then stepped up and didn't do enough there. and now we're having almost the piflt pivot away from that where we have president ertd gann working with iranians and russians to reach a final disposition in syria at a time when maybe the u.s. is concerned about trying to push iran out of syria.
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all that culminated in the telephone call last friday between trump and erdogan where the turkish side came out and said president trump has agreed to stop arming the ypg, the syrian-kurdish force that has been instrumental in fighting isis. i think a lot of people here in washington including myself said that's impossible. a little while later the white house came out and said no, that actually seems to be exactly what president trump said. where do you guys see the turkish-iranian relationship, and where do you see the regional issues playing out in the bilateral relationship between washington and ankara? was this conversation on friday a turning point? can cooperation on syria allay concerns of what may come out of the zarrab case or are we on this collision course that svante spelled out? >> so no.
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to start with what svante was saying, i do think the anger in turkey, the sense of paranoia, the sense that the united states is out to get turkey is real, is very deeply felt, is felt by erdogan, is felt by these nationalist circles that are not part of erdogan's nationalist constituency. and i do think if there is, you know, some kind of cataclysmic in u.s.-turkish relationships, if the united states does quote unquote lose turkey it's going to be as a result of this anger, not because iran or russia managed to win turkey over. you know, the suspicion of russia remains real. the suspicion of iran remains real. russia has used a consistent policy of nothing but sticks in dealing with turkey. there have been no carrots. there have been no peals to turkish national interests. russia has invaded georgia, has invaded ukraine within the last decade. we're not going to lose turkey
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to russia. because of turkey's perception of the united states, in many case understandable, in many quass completely bizarre, if they conclude the united states is resolutely hostile to turkey's interests, again, the genuine belief the united states was behind the coup, the u.s. support for the ypg, which i think is a more legitimate cause for complaint, that this will lead to a rupture in u.s.-turkish relations, which will then force turkey perhaps into a somewhat desperate search for other allies in which they have to make do with russia and iran. but i think its first choice would remain a situation certainly where it stays in nato, where it gets the benefits of cooperation with the west. but again, given the deep anger and paranoia, whether that level of rationality will prevail remains to be seen. >> let me push back a little bit on that sort of purely instrumental narrative that you just laid out, nick.
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erdogan has gone to tehran and said things like tehran is my second home. he has evinced at times in what has been a very sort of up and down foreign policy something more akin to a brotherly affection, at least for the iranian regime purely a pragmatic calculation of i need to find someone other than the united states to work with. svante, what do you think? >> well, we cooperated a few years ago on a study on erdogan's foreign policy in which we see and that study very much talks about this oscillation between the early pan-islamist ideas where he was very much trying to -- building on this idea that we can work jointly with iran to a more sunni sectarian one that now seems to be going back out of necessity to a different approach to iran again. but i think -- so yeah. i think there is this thing, me
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against my brother, me and my brother against my neighbor. you know, this type of logic. which is at the end of the day who threatens my reskreem, my whole empire? russia if anything helps. it's pitch russia was making to authoritarian leaders in central asia in the caucasus 10, 15 years ago when we with the color revolutions and not that the russians were really going to help anybody but that was their pitch. the u.s. is out to get you, to overthrow you personally. and i will protect your regime. and that's exactly the pitch they're making to erdogan right now. on the other hand i think the ypg thing i would tend to disagree a little bit. i think this is a very serious issue because, and i understand fully why the united states feels it should or has to cooperate and support the ypg. on the other hand when the turks say this is an organization controlled by a marx evident-leninist group inside turkey they are right.
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this creates a problem. and we try to say no, no, we're only cooperating with these guys in syria, this is not going to affect -- it doesn't work like that. the kurdish issue is transregional. if you work with marxist leninists, abdullah ajulan supporters in syria that means you are de facto strengthening the pkk and that becomes a problem. we've never fully resolved if we were going to choose the kurds or choose turkey. we tried to finesse it so we can have both. at some point maybe we can't. that goes back to the -- >> did you see the phone call on friday as us choosing turkey? >> i don't think so. because maybe we'll make another choice in two weeks. there's a real problem which is that we don't have a strategy. for example, the turks got very surprised by this visa issue when the united states seems to say enough already. what's been the follow-up? what's the context? is there a policy that -- i mean, this was an action that may have made sense if it was part of a larger policy, if it
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was part of a strategy toward turkey. i see we have a lot of different things happening but there is no red thread. i don't see any logic, any larger strategy and policy. if we don't have a real strategy and a real policy toward turkey, i don't see how this relationship can be normalized in the near future. >> ilhan, any thoughts on the future of the relationship? >> it's a bit unpredictable. i think it's above my pay grade. i'm trying to catch up with the daily happenings but i think very valid laid out by experts here. on the one hand, this white house we really cannot figure out what's going on exactly. president trump calls president erdogan and says arming the ypg will stop but the second day we hear from the coalition spokesmen saying this is going to continue over the umbrella f
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of -- yeah, it's above my pay grade but we'll try to keep up with that. >> on that very optimistic note, let me open it up to the audience to see if there are any questio questions. we have someone with a microphone just waiting to hand it to you. in the back. >> stanley colbert. it seems to me to look at this as solely a krumgs issue, it's part of the deterioration that's been going on for some time. mr. danforth mentioned russia won't replace the united states. i'm really not so sure now why you're so confident about that. there have been threats about closing down incirlik before. the way the relationship is going from what i'm reading, i'm seeing more articles skeptical of nato membership. and you're nodding. what would be the balance of
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power here? let us say that turkey blocked our access to incirlik and things deteriorated. let's say it told the european we're not holding the refugees here, we're sending them on, build a wall if you want. and we would do what? response? >> well, on russia that was nick's point but i think what i would mean by that is if you want somebody to experience what it's like to be friends with russia, you know, good luck. the thing is we see everybody around this region from the uzbeks to everybody else, they fall out with the united states over something, they think they can strike some kind of deal with the russians. the russians treat them so badly and abuse them so badly that they get very much fed up with it very quickly.
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that's what i think -- that's what i would say on that. that doesn't mean that you're wrong. we would have lost a lot by the time that happens. in that sense i think you're probably right, that there is a scenario in which this goes very bat and the turks make -- take decisions that are hard to undo later on. i share that concern. >> that would be very much my take. like i said russia's been offering turkey nothing but stakes. you look at the negotiations over aleppo, turkey basically caved in in return for seemingly helping allow the regime to take back a crucial city in syria they essentially got tacit russian permission for a very small operation around jirables. similarly russia still has forces in canton. even with the s-400s deal which
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has been telling, russia has given nothing turkey wanted in terms of technology transfers and at one point wouldn't even give turkey a good deal on the price for the sake of securing this arrangement. with awful turkey's relationship with russia it's very striking when you read turkish papers like "daily sabaa," they've been very eager to -- almost too eager to remind america you're going to lose us to russia. and the overeagerness has undermined the effectiveness of this ploy. that said, also getting back to what we were talking about earlier, i think for the s-400 specifically this is about protecting erdogan. i think he wants the s-400s if nato claims come for him he can shoot them down. whether they're piloted by americans or turks or whoever is going to be flying them. it doesn't mean they still don't want nato weapons to be able to protect themselves against russia. they want the best of both worlds. and the extent to which they're
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going to be able to achieve this is very detainable. and the risk is they end up with the worst of both worlds, aisle alienated from the west and -- >> you have to see what's important with them. in syria it's very smaum things. what they and the ultra nationalists are panicking about is this kurdish corridor to the sea. and if the russians are allowing and the u.s. is not. if the russians can allow turkish troops on the ground that can brock a corridor for this project that probably could never happen anyway, they feel they've gotten something very strong out of the russians. >> it's also important to note the russians have not been shy about playing footsie with the kurds at times. another stick against the turks. let me ask you to build off that question, swvante, you said
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russia has offered to go around the region and offer protections for regimes. turkey sees the u.s. as conspiring against the erdogan regime. given we're in this situation how do you fix the relationship? on the one hand should the united states be happy and willing to work with a regime and ensure it can remain in power? so how do you convince it that the u.s. is not out to get it? if that's what it takes. >> as you alluded to, the russians have played to the kurds whenever that suit their purposes. ajulan, he's spent a month or more in moscow, not in washington before he was apprehended in kenya. and still it's the united states the turks suspect of conspiracy
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theers, not the russians. the ideological upbringing of erdogan and his people is basically anti-american. it's not anti-russian. so they live in an anti-american conspiracy world. not an anti-russian conspiracy world. but also that the russians -- mr. putin is a very skilled poker player with very bad cards. russia is not that stable a house of cards if you will, and yet he's able with an economy the size of the netherlands or something slightly larger than that, um not sure what the problem is with that, but he can play these cards and sees every part of the geopolitics of this region as a whole and he's able to play it as a whole and therefore achieve success. and press the turks everywhere he needs to. whereas we don't even have policies. we have a bunch of different decisions or policy that's are
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almost out of our control. that then -- if you're from that part of the world where turkey is, you cannot comprehend the idea all these things happen in washington they are disconnected from each other. they have to be connect bid the us staechlt a code -- what's the translation of the usta code? the greater mastermind, yeah. then you wouldn't be a mastermind and you are trained and programmed to believe there's a mastermind. so you have to find the logic. and i'm sure the russians are very skillfully feeding in some lays in the middle of all their intelligence sharing they're feeding to the turks. and i go back to what i said. we need to take a holistic approach to this and how to deal with this and we need to focus not only on the immediate future because erdogan may be there for a year, two years, fivar ten years. and we need to think about how we build a long-term
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relationship with turkey as a country as difficult as that country can be because after erdogan it's not going to be easy to deal with. >> that's why i come back with the ypg issue. we may decide the benefits outweigh the costs. we have to be aware that just like the decisions we took after the first gulf war in the early '90s had implications for the what i the whole of turkey views the united states. if we choose to go down this road with the kurds in syria, it will have many long-term implications with every constituency in turkish society. >> just as a very brief follow-up one of the most amaegz conspiracy theories i ever came across was that when the united states -- when the cia helped turkey capture the pkk's leader, abdullah ajulan this was part ever a plot to strent the pkk because he was no longer running off and tlfrn advanced this united states goal of creating a
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greater kurdistan. at the point where we are now genuinely supporting the pkk it is really hard to imagine how we overcome the amount of suspicion that's created. i'd say how do we solve this is above my pay grade but i'm afraid that's what you're paying me for. >> mostly they have been marginal since -- until 2013 protest. mr. erdogan and akp party, one of the things they really did very well was they were very realistic. they had really good relations with the eu. obviously they became the full candidate member and the relation with the u.s. although there were lots of up and down during the 2008, 7, 9,
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10. every time always we have seen a crisis in the relations but mr. erdogan and his party never went for conspiracy stories until the protests. since then it kind of picked up and then for about four years now everything is explained by conspiracy theories. >> thanks, ilhan. any additional questions? let me ask one final one, then, based on that, ilhan. so what changed on may 31st, 2013? i mean, why did gezi change everything so suddenly? >> i think for the first time mr. erdogan saw he might lose, he might lose his power. i think there was a real danger. i still remember on the first day of the gezi protests i tweeted and i said i didn't see any danger, i thought it was
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just right after -- the syrian protests were ongoing. and the administration was supporting syrian, obviously, syrian uprising. and i was also personally very much in favor of akp still this 2013. and when the same protests happened in istanbul, suddenly next day i start to hearing, then i had good relations with the akp pundits, i started hearing the second day these protests somehow planned by the germans. >> lufthansa. >> lufthansa. and this was alavi's plot and this was in the making for some years. so i think that mr. erdogan suddenly saw that for the first time sizable middle-class people are not happy with him. and i think he saw as his
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personality, he has been in power for about 12 years, 10, 11 years. he became already i think very much entrenched with power. he was -- i think if those protests happened in 2003, 4, 5 mr. erdogan could have handled much better and very differently but that came to -- mr. erdogan was very much powerful in the coalition with gulenists, which gulenists mostly in majority backed mr. erdogan and at the end of today he really got away with this protest blaming half of the country as in the bed with the western powers. and since then same song and same rhetoric. it's very, very unfortunate for
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a country that was so close to becoming very realistic, very real player in the region. now explain like another middle eastern authoritarian regime. we explain every single problem as a plot including the reza zarrab case. which one more sentence on reza zarrab. i think it's very unpredictable because we don't know what reza zarrab is going to talk about it. once he's talking, i think according, to again, experts, he will open lots of -- implicate lots of other people, and we won't see those indictments very soon. so if he's talking, these may trigger events that may go for a while because it's federal prosecutors and nobody know from turkey's side, you know, who's
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in the indictment list. >> so it sounds like this could be a real pandora's box. >> yes. >> for u.s.-turkish relationships laying out a main field for us to navigate for the near future. nick, svante, does that agree with your assessment? >> yeah. >> yes. >> on that optimistic note, we will end for today. thank you very much for joining us. i encourage you to check out our reza zarrab explainer and infaux graphic at i look forward to seeing you next time. thank you. [ applause ] c-span's "washington journal" live every day with
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policies and issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning, oklahoma republican congressman tom cole will discuss republican tax reform efforts and the possibility of a government shutdown. and oregon democratic congressman earl blumenauer will join us to discuss the possibility of a government shutdown and republican tax reform efforts. and "wall street journal" congressional reporter siobhan hughes will be on to talk about the senate tax debate. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live at 7:00 eastern wednesday morning. join the discussion. the c-span bus is traveling across the country on our 50 capitals tour. we recently stopped in baton rouge, louisiana asking folks what's the most important issue in their state? >> the number one issue facing my district continues to be flood recovery. in baton rouge we had a historic flood in 2016 and my district was heavily impacted. my citizens and my district
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right now are forced to deal with issues regarding sba loans. the federal government considers those loans to be a duplication of benefits, and right now we're having trouble getting those families the necessary dollars to recover because with our state-run program they have to deduct the amount that they were -- received through the sba loans. so right now our recovery has been stalled because of this issue. we are working with our congressional delegation. but again, it's a tough issue in our community. >> and the most important state issue to me is coastal restoration. our coastline is eroding at a very quick rate. we're losing a football field worth of land per hour. and i would like for our state to focus on restoring and replenishing our coastline. so future generations can see it. >> i think the most pressing issue that we'll face and one that we're already working on and have been since the conclusion of our sessions this past year has been our fiscal
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budget situation here in louisiana. not uncommon to a lot of other states. i think ours is a little unique that a good bit of what we face in 2018 is the roloff of some temporary revenue in the form of taxes that will expire in june of 2018. so the ability to be able to find the solutions for, that both on the revenue side and on the expense side of what we'll be looking at and diligently hopefully coming up with solutions before we arrive in 2018. >> voices from the states, on c-span. the cia recently released the latest assortment of the thousands of files recovered in the raid on osama bin laden's compound in pakistan. two senior fellows with the foundation for defense of democracies spoke beening given


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