Erdogan is leading Turkey to disaster
NOMINALLY, the current US-Turkey standoff is over American pastor Andrew Brunson, whom the Turks are holding hostage under trumped-up terrorism charges. But the root problem is Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s determination to lead his nation to ruin.
Erdogan rose to power on the promise of honest government and economic prosperity, and in his early years delivered some of both. But his obsession with gaining an ever-stronger lock on power, along with crushing dissent from all possible rivals, is undoing those achievements.
Brunson isn’t even the only hostage Erdogan’s holding in a blatant attempt to force Washington to deliver his former ally, the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has long lived in exile in Pennsylvania. Erdogan blames Gulen for a 2016 coup attempt, as well as for the exposure of major regime corruption a few years earlier.
Yet the failed coup gave Erdogan the excuse to crack down, arresting 50,000 and firing some 110,000 government employees, all for supposed Gulenist ties, as well as silencing the last of Turkey’s once-free press.
Even Erdogan’s road to prosperity is looking like a dead end: Turkey now has foreign debts of $217 billion and one of the largest trade deficits of any emerging-market nation. Inflation was soaring even before the latest crisis; the currency has lost half its value in recent months. (Erdogan’s naming of his son-in-law as finance minister inspired exactly as much confidence as you’d expect.)
Then President Trump this month imposed sanctions over Erdogan’s refusal to free Brunson, and he’s threatening even more.
Erdogan replied by calling for a boycott on iPhones and other American electronics products — meaningless bluster that won’t even rally the autocrat’s shrinking base of faithful.
Between the state of emergency, he declared after the coup and his victories in subsequent voting (as well as his years of purges of the military), Erdogan has achieved near-total power — even as his policies are pushing the wheels off the economy.
The common people are suffering, and will suffer more if he stays the course. But the ever-increasing signs are that Erdogan doesn’t care.
Turkey has a long way to go before it hits economic free-fall like Venezuela, but Erdogan is already taking the first steps in that direction. Maybe, just maybe, Team Trump’s tough approach will shock the tyrant back to his senses.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkish Head of State