With the Turkish currency in free fall, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a boycott of US-made electronic goods. Showing defiance in the wake of the recent US sanctions imposed in a dispute over the detention of an American pastor, Erdogan accused US President Donald Trump of waging “economic warfare” against the country.

The Turkish lira lost almost 20 percent of its value over the last few days. Erdoğan urged Turkish citizens to “sell their savings in euros and dollars and buy lira” to help the faltering currency.

“If they [the US] have dollars, we too have our people, our Allah,” Erdogan said on Friday. He also accused the US of “trying to stab Turkey in the back.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration raised tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steels, which triggered an economic crisis that had been in the making for some years. The measures taken by Trump may have precipitated the currency meltdown, but the crisis is rooted in the economic policies enacted by Erdogan, who’s Islamist AKP party has been running the country since 2002. “Fundamentally speaking, the reason for the Turkish meltdown is primarily a large current account deficit,” UK daily The Guardian reported.

Trump wants Turkey to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been under detention in Turkey since October 2016 on false charges. Brunson, an evangelical Presbyterian missionary, was arrested during the nationwide arrests following a failed coup attempt. Turkey is also holding an additional 15 to 20 US-Turkish citizens on trumped-up charges while three local employees of the US Embassy remain in Turkish prisons.

Trump first tweeted about Brunson in April, saying, “Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason.” In recent months, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have joined the President in calling upon the Erdogan regime to release the US pastor or face “significant sanctions.”

The UK newspaper The Independent reported Erdogan’s response to the unfolding economic crisis:

Turkey’s president has blamed the crash of the lira on the United States, claiming a “political, underhand plot” had sent the value of his country’s currency tumbling to record lows.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Donald Trump of waging “economic war against the entire world”, after the American leader escalated a diplomatic feud by doubling tariffs on steel and aluminium.

“The aim of the operation is to make Turkey surrender in all areas, from finance to politics,” the Turkish president told supporters in the Black Sea city of Trabzon.

“We are once again facing a political, underhand plot. With God’s permission we will overcome this.”

The lira has lost more than 40 per cent of its value against dollar this year, amid worsening ties between Turkey and the US and concerns over Mr Erdogan’s influence over the economy.

Amid worsening relations with Washington, there are signs that Erogan is now turning to Moscow. Turkish President called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss “trade and economic cooperation.”

The UK daily The Independent talked of a “new Turkey-Russia-Iran triumvirate,” claiming that the recent developments were “pushing Turkey into Putin’s embrace.”

Given Erdogan’s recent overtures to Russia and Iran, Trump is scaling down military cooperation with the country. Late Monday, Trump authorized a bill blocking the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara. The defense bill prohibits the sale of the aircraft if Ankara goes ahead with the plan to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system. The Russian system, once operational in a NATO member state, can give Moscow crucial data on how to detect the US planes.

For years the Erdogan regime has been helping Iran evade US sanctions, media reports have suggested. Government ministers and members of Erdogan’s own family allegedly have links to Tehran’s money laundering operation.

The DC-based journal Foreign Policy, often critical of the Trump administration, ran the headline: “Trump Is the First President to Get Turkey Right.” The magazine blamed the Turkish regime of “complicating” the US fight against ISIS, and “undermining'”US policy by helping Tehran “evade sanctions.”

[T]he pressure that the Trump administration has brought to bear on Turkey is a welcome change from the passivity of the last two administrations, which preferred to overlook Turkey’s malign policies, either in an effort to try cajole Ankara to support the United States or because they did not want to risk a rift with a “strategic partner.” Not only did this approach not work, but it also sent the message to Ankara that it was so valuable an ally that there would be no consequences for its actions. [Foreign Policy; August 13, 2018]

The worsening economic crisis could also prompt Erdogan to double down on his repression of political opponents and  ethnic minorities. Media reports suggest that Turkish authorities have renewed their cracking down of critical social media accounts, blaming detractors of “undermining confidence” in the economy.

Erdogan’s belligerent actions indicate that economic woes may have further raised the fanaticism of the regime in Ankara.


[Cover image via YouTube]