Is US trial dangerous for Erdoğan and Turkey?
A trial in which the Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab is testifying opened on 30 November in New York. Right at the start of the proceedings Zarrab gave evidence that compromises Turkish President Erdoğan and some of his close confidantes, claiming that they benefited from or at least approved transactions that were carried out in violation of the sanctions against Iran. The trial could prove dangerous for Turkey in several respects, commentators stress.
Dollar licences for Turkish banks soon passé?
What comes to light during the trial could have disastrous consequences for Ankara, Contributors suspects:
“If the trial in New York proves incontrovertibly that circumventing the US sanctions against Iran was part of Ankara's state policy the penalties could do far more than just bring down the implicated [Turkish state-owned bank] Halkbank: the US authorities could withdraw the licenses for dollar transactions of this bank and other banks suspected of involvement. Considering the already precarious state of the Turkish currency and economy this could precipitate a disaster. And a major domestic crisis may also ensue because of this scandal's ties to another scandal. ... Members of Erdoğan's family and high-ranking officials parked millions of dollars on the Isle of Man.”
AKP gave US a trump card
The Zarrab affair has only taken on such dimensions because the Turkish government failed to tackle the allegations of corruption within its own ranks in time, Karar concludes:
“The topic of bribery is neither new nor surprising for us. The Turkish public focussed on this for days and there were demands for 'purges' within the AKP and at the end of 2015 [then prime minister] Davutoğlu gave the green light for the ministers in question to be tried by the country's highest court. But Erdoğan prevented the criminal investigation because he considered it was dangerous, or in other words he was afraid that it could hurt the government or himself. ... We remain fragile on the subject of corruption. ... Is it clever to regard the US as an enemy and at the same time hand it a trump card?”
Turkey will pay dearly for government's conduct
For the Süddeutsche Zeitung the real scandal is that the Turkish government is willing to see the whole country suffer rather than allow an investigation into the allegations:
“For weeks an anti-American campaign has been running in Turkey aimed at keeping the conspiracy theories going. Yet Turkey is already isolated in its foreign policy. It has fallen out with key Western allies and its relations with the US are worse than ever. The lira is plunging because there's talk about Turkish banks being punished if it turns out that they were involved in the violations of international sanctions. All this is destabilising an already uneasy country. ... Erdoğan is lashing out at others more and more to fend off the allegations. The country will pay a heavy price for this.”
Even more anti-American propaganda on the way
The trial will take a heavy toll on relations between the US and Turkey, Offnews warns:
“The Erdoğan regime had carefully covered up the corruption scandal involving Reza Zarrab, but now it's reignited. By testifying before a US court Zarrab has gone from being a local problem to an international problem. The 'philanthropist's' testimony is uncovering inconvenient truths about Erdoğan and his entourage. Soon we will learn about many facts the Turkish leadership would rather keep quiet. In all likelihood Erdoğan will put the anti-American propaganda machinery into operation and put Turkish-US relations through a real test.”
We won't stand by the guilty
Representatives of the Turkish government and pro-government media are appealing to the people to present a united front against the Zarrab trial, claiming that they are all in the same boat. The liberal Internet paper T24 takes a different view:
“What places are we all supposed to have on this boat you are having such a good time on? A boat where the wheel is far out of our reach. A boat on whose deck it has become difficult even to move. ... Because of people like Zarrab and those who were paid in advance by them, there's not even enough air to breathe on it. ... And now we're supposed to rescue this boat from the storm and drag it onto land with the ropes tied around our bodies, right? Because after all, we're all 'from here'? No, dear gentlemen, no! Stop the talk about us all being in the same boat. There is no boat that we're all in. You are the ones who are sinking!”
Washington wants to topple Erdoğan
The trial against Reza Zarrab is clearly politically motivated, the pro-government daily Sabah concludes:
“The operation launched by the US is clear. The targets are Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. ... For three years the goal of an AKP and a Turkey without Erdoğan has been pursued. ... After 27 November [when the trial begins] a terrible wave of attacks against the Turkish Republic and its president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be launched. The attacks against Erdoğan won't be directed only at him. The Turkish state and Turkish Republic are clearly also targets. All its citizens are targets. ... We will oppose the operations directed against Erdoğan and Turkey and continue to fend them off. Those who fear this difficult battle and oppose it are vile and will pay dearly for it.”
Ankara should behave more rationally
Ankara should refrain from referring to the Zarrab case as a conspiracy, Hürriyet advises:
“In America the judiciary is independent, nevertheless the United States could exert influence during the investigations through executive organs like the CIA or the FBI. But in the end the file will be opened and a public trial will be held. ... Ankara should use legal arguments. The Turkish government's public statements haven't produced a good result. Quite the contrary, if you take a look at the American press. ... One could simply view Zarrab's case as that of a businessman who violated the embargo and carried out monetary and gold transactions.”