What will happen on Nov 4? Will there be fresh tensions with the US? - MEHMET ACET

What will happen on Nov 4? Will there be fresh tensions with the US?

After the resolution of the pastor Brunson crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump is in high spirits. He declared that his view of Turkey has changed. He said, “I feel much differently about Turkey today than I felt about them two days ago. I have a very good feeling toward Turkey - two days ago, I did not.”

Right after that, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Ankara on his return from Saudi Arabia and met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Both sides declared their desire to improve bilateral relations. Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu revealed what Ankara’s priority is with the following words: “Sanctions are silly things. We stressed that there shouldn’t be such things in bilateral relations.”

The press release of the U.S. Secretary of State regarding Pompeo’s contacts in Ankara was more limited: “The Secretary expressed the United States’ concern over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and reiterated the United States’ willingness to assist Turkey in its investigation.”

You can easily guess what Çavuşoğlu meant with “silly”: it was about the restrictions for the Turkish minister of justice and minister of foreign affairs, put into effect after the Brunson crisis. Considering that the Brunson crisis is over, we can expect the U.S. to take some measures about this issue. Hence, Pompeo, on his way back to America, said “We will decide soon about the sanctions against Turkey.”

Relations with US will undergo a new test after Nov 4

If we come back to the sanctions issue, there is a new subject which may induce a new crisis in Turkish-American relations.

The sanctions on petroleum against Iran which is due on Nov. 4…

After the U.S. government suspended the nuclear deal with Iran in May, it put a series of sanctions into effect against Iran and set a 180-day schedule for the sanctions on petroleum.

This means that allies which will prefer to continue oil trade after Nov. 4 may also face the threat of sanctions.

Because, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury clearly demanded from ally countries and their companies to end their petroleum import from Iran by Nov. 4.

“That issue was resolved, there shall be no problem”

Nowadays, people who are dwelling on what kind of crisis may arise in the Turkey-U.S. relations immediately think of Nov. 4. In order to get an answer to this I consulted a source of mine, who follows these issues very closely. He laxly answered me saying, “That issue was resolved. There shall be no problem.” When he realized I was unsatisfied with his answer he gave more information:

“Turkey won’t be affected from the sanctions on petroleum starting from Nov. 4. Iran’s oil concerns the Koç Group and Tüpraş the most. Because these companies need this oil more than others. They negotiated with the U.S. and resolved the issue.”

If we regard these words as data, “sanction exceptions” which go into a series of detail actually relieves Turkey. The fact that natural gas deals are not included in the sanctions is another relieving factor for Ankara.

If things continue in this optimistic atmosphere, it seems that there are no signs of crisis in the Turkish-American relations, which the markets also follow closely. But, we should keep in mind that there is always room for surprises.

What sort of path will be taken for fundamental problems?

As a matter of fact, issues like pastor Brunson and sanctions on Iran are less risky and secondary matters in terms of the level of tension they bring to relations; in other words they are rather temporary problems.

From the perspective of the U.S., Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 Air Defense Missile System from Russia, the Turkey’s increasing rapprochement with Russia, and Turkey’s Ankara centered foreign policy in general are among the issues that are still bothering them.

From the perspective of Turkey, the fact that there is still no progress regarding the demands of Turkey in the case of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), the fact that the U.S. is still investing on its actual project, aiding the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the YPG, in northern Syria, are constituting the fundamental problems.

Our question is:

Will Trump, who talks differently every other day about the U.S.’s relations with other countries, ever go back to the status quo before August by pulling a rabbit out of his hat?

If he will, then there may be a chance of improvement on that ground.

After Pompeo’s return to his country, there will probably be new secret meetings about Turkey at the White House.

Will the policies that are decided in those meetings be in the direction of “Let’s continue where we left off from”?

Or, will it be in the direction of “We tried something in the pastor issue, let’s continue on that course”?

If things go in the first direction, then that may bring about a smooth transition period with it.

If they go in the second direction, then we may face new surprises.

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