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Sanctions for the Sultan

Sanctions for the Sultan

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to attend a session meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to attend a session meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27.


Photo:

gianluigi guercia/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Turkey’s President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

has become increasingly unreliable as an ally over the last decade, yet he has suffered few consequences from his NATO partners. That changed Wednesday when the Trump Administration followed through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey for taking an American hostage.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions against Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu for the “unfair and unjust detention” of American pastor

Andrew Brunson.

The action was taken under the Global Magnitsky Act, so Messrs. Gul and Soylu are now in a class with the likes of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and former Gambian leader

Yahya Jammeh

in being subjected to potential asset freezes and travel restrictions.

Pastor Brunson led a Presbyterian congregation in Izmir for more than two decades. He was jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges after a failed 2016 military coup. Turkey’s modern sultan may see Mr. Brunson as leverage to get the U.S. to extradite a Pennsylvania-based imam who Mr. Erdogan believes masterminded the coup. The Turks also hold NASA scientist and Turkish-American citizen Serkan Golge, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in February for alleged terrorist ties.

Mr. Trump has tried private diplomacy with Mr. Erdogan, and last month he threatened sanctions if Mr. Brunson wasn’t released. A Turkish court released him to house arrest, but he continues to face charges. Mr. Trump had no choice but to impose the sanctions once he had threatened them.

All of this marks a new low in U.S.-Turkey relations, and the potential for additional U.S. sanctions if there’s no solution won’t help Mr. Erdogan as he tries to stabilize a falling currency and stop capital flight. The lira has lost almost 25% of its value this year and hit another low Wednesday.

If Mr. Erdogan thought the U.S. President didn’t mean what he tweeted, he now knows better. A more serious breach would damage U.S. interests in the region, but failing to respond to hostage-taking would damage them too.

Published at Wed, 01 Aug 2018 22:48:22 +0000