Current events can boggle the mind these days. That was especially true this week as the crazy and the chaotic spilled from Washington and the Ukraine into Syria, where Turkish forces began bombarding innocents in an effort to wrest control of territory controlled by the Kurds.
Casual observes might wonder in amazement about how much can spin out of control in only one week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seemingly emboldened by our American president’s abrupt announcement Sunday night to have U.S. troops advising our Kurdish allies stand down, quickly amassed his forces along the border and launched a strike Wednesday against the Syrian Kurds and everybody who stood in his way.
Newsweek reported Friday afternoon U.S. Special Forces — the ones President Donald Trump said he was bringing home to get them out of harm’s way — were being shelled by Turkish forces. It was reported as an apparent mistake, but that’s what happens during the “barbaric and indiscriminate” shelling of civilian populations that appears to have been green-lighted by an American president who betrayed allies who helped defeat and detain ISIS fighters — at least five reportedly escaped Friday after mortars struck a location near a prison.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment while trying to keep up with rapidly evolving events in times like these. But it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture — try to understand why these things might be happening where they are now.
Understanding Trump’s connections with Erdogan and the Turkish government provides some context. The president and his family’s ties in Turkey run deep. The Trump Organization describes the Trump Tower in Istanbul as “a landmark in the historic city” and, according to NBC News reports, “the organization’s first and only office and residential tower in Europe, with offices, apartments and upscale shops.”
Ivanka Trump reportedly made numerous trips to Turkey beginning in 2009, and in 2015 candidate Trump said when it came to issues involving that country he would “have a little conflict of interest.” He attributed that conflict to “a major, major building in Istanbul” and “a tremendously successful job ... called Trump Towers two towers, instead of one.”
Trump never fully divested from his business interests after being elected president, and government watchdogs contend that can result with self-dealing and unpredictable public policies. An analysis performed for NBC News by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found businesses linked to Turkish government have made 14 visits to Trump properties during his presidential tenure, more than any other country.
Also interesting is a chronology of Turkey’s ties with Trump’s campaign, his transition team and the presidency, which was published this week in Slate. Most infamous, perhaps, are the country’s ties with Trump’s foreign policy adviser and disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who awaits sentencing after pleading guilty for failing to register as a foreign agent when acting on Turkey’s behalf.
As an unregistered foreign agent, Flynn reportedly had contracts worth $1.1 million to build support for the extradition of a Turkish dissident from the United States to Turkey. Flynn also is reported to have blocked a decision to arm the Kurds made by President Barack Obama after the Trump administration came in.
Trump later defended Flynn when his malfeasance came to light, and he congratulated Erdogan after he took steps to roll back democracy in Turkey. When Erdogan’s bodyguards beat up protesters in 2017 at the Turkish Embassy following a visit to the White House, there were no repercussions.
Now I am no conspiracy theorist. But for those of you — like me — who are fans of NCIS, you’re probably familiar with Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Rule 39: There is no such thing as a coincidence.
D.E. Smoot covers city/county government for the Phoenix.