The U.S. Embassy in Ankara denied that an apology letter was sent.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland defended the U.S. Ambassador during her briefing on Thursday, February 7, stating that Ricciardone had not said anything that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had not already said, and nothing that the current secretary of state is not going to say.
American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin – who is no fan of Ambassador Ricciardone – told The Jewish Press that the evidence against the Sledgehammer prisoners is “so flimsy as to be laughable.” Rubin said, “the only thing those prisoners are guilty of is crossing the Prime Minister and Fethullah Gulen.”
TURKEY TAUNTS SYRIA FOR NOT ATTACKING ISRAEL
In a separate incident which highlighted a divergence in positions between the U.S. and Turkey, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu brutally criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for failing to respond with force to Israel’s bombing of a weapons convey near the Lebanese border that was allegedly carrying chemical or biological weapons to Hezbollah.
Davutoglu said, “Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?” He went on, “Is there a secret agreement between al-Assad and Israel? Why don’t you use the same power that you use against defenseless women against Israel, which you have been as an enemy since its foundation,” he said to reporters on a trip to Belgrade last week.
In the February 5 news briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called Davutoglu’s comments “inflammatory,” and said they harmed U.S.-Turkish relations.
Despite the relatively high level war of words being waged between U.S. and Turkish officials, there is speculating that President Obama will visit Turkey sometime soon, perhaps during his spring trip to the Middle East.
AEI’s Rubin characterized that visit as an unfortunate “reward” for Turkey’s misbehavior.
He explained, “had U.S. ambassadors in Ankara taken a detached and firm line to Turkey, we might not be in a situation where ‘the model for democracy’ in the region had a press freedom ranking below Russia, Venezuela, and Iraq and was regaining its ‘Midnight Express’ reputation on human rights.”
IS THE REAL ISSUE OIL IN NORTHERN IRAQ?
There is speculation that the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Turkey are actually about an entirely different issue, one that crops up in most discussions about the Middle East: oil.
Until about four years ago, Turkey was adamantly opposed to establishing any relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq for fear that it would lead to a balkanization of that neighboring state. Now, however, due to its interest in investing in oil and gas projects in the region, Turkey’s position has thawed dramatically. Turkey has begun receiving crude oil from KRG fields, to be refined into gas and diesel fuel, with payment by the Kurds in crude oil.
Turkey’s burgeoning economic relationship with the KRG has infuriated the Baghdad government. The U.S., through Ricciardone, has warned Turkey that it might cause the disintegration of Iraq, creating even greater destabilization in the region. This scenario is of particular concern not only to the U.S., but also to Israel, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States.