On Saturday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the US that it could lose a “strategic partner,” declaring a rally: “We only bow before God. It is wrong to try to punish Turkey for a priest who is here. I am addressing the US once again: it is a pity that you chose a pastor over your strategic partner in NATO. We will only do what justice demands.”
The Turkish president was referring to American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is accused of ties to Erdogan’s arch-nemesis, Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, and whose extradition the Turks have been demanding on the grounds that he organized the 2016 coup attempt against the Erdogan regime. Brunson is facing 20 years in prison, where he would remain until the US surrenders Gulen.
The Turkish lira on Friday hit a record low following President Donald Trump’s announcement he was doubling US tariffs on Turkish metals. The currency is currently down 13.5% against the US dollar, after a brief 20% fall, resulting from a Trump tweet that declared, “Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%,” and concluded: “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
President Erdogan urged his people in a counter-tweet: “Change the euros, the dollars and the gold that you are keeping beneath your pillows into lira at our banks. This is a domestic and national struggle.”
Erdogan is also upset at the protection US coalition forces are providing the Kurds in Syria, against the invading Turkish army. He threatened the US with an “Ottoman slap” if they continue to stand in the way of the Turkish incursion into northwest Syria.
Turkey has already retaliated by making its commitment to its NATO membership ambiguous. In December it announced its plans to purchase $2 billion of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which are incompatible with NATO systems. The Turks have also restricted American use of the Incirlik Air Base. In response to Turkey’s tightening embrace of Russia, Congress slapped a hold on delivery of F-35s to the Turkish air force, for fear that the Russians would be invited to examine the world’s most advanced stealth warplane.