Last year, the shortest tenured national security adviser in American history—who was literally on Turkey’s payroll—tried to kidnap Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen at the behest of the Turkish government. Per The Guardian:
Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is under investigation for involvement in an alleged plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident cleric living in the US and fly him to an island prison in Turkey in return for $15m, it was reported on Friday.
The former national security adviser’s company, Flynn Intel Group, is allegedly under scrutiny for failing to register work it did for interests linked to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Flynn is in legal jeopardy for his statements to investigators about his contacts with representatives of the Turkish and Russian governments.
Michael Flynn may be gone, but his ideas sure aren’t. The Trump Administration is now trying to repeat this plan, but instead of a direct payoff (as far as we know), it’s about placating a group of murderers. Per NBC:
The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.
Saudi Arabia is critical to Trump’s Middle East policy. The White House’s relationship with Prince Mohammed is key to Trump’s goals of countering Iran and helping to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Turkey is a NATO ally in possession of evidence about Khashoggi’s murder that positions Erdogan to stoke international outrage over Riyadh’s culpability in and cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder.
Not to mention, a few weeks ago, a Turkish group froze plans to hold a lavish event at a Trump hotel. What a crazy coincidence! Per ABC:
In the midst of the tense diplomatic negotiations over the fate of an American pastor jailed in Turkey earlier this month, organizers of a Turkish-American business conference quietly moved to cancel an event that was set to take place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., this week.
To summarize how we got here: journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. What we know about it largely comes from leaks emanating from the Turkish who obtained this information by definitely not spying on the Saudis in Istanbul. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are not enemies, but they’re not exactly allies either, and Khashoggi’s murder has provided the Turkish with a prime opportunity to squeeze their regional adversaries. Now, it sure looks like Trump is trying to hand over a dissident that Turkey has wanted to imprison/murder for quite some time in order to get them to ease up on the Saudi murder of a dissident. This is what authoritarianism looks like.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.