Washington, D.C.– The U.S. government today took the unprecedented step of imposing sanctions on two Turkish cabinet ministers over their role in the continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
“Both the U.S.-Turkish relationship and the Turkish economy appear poised on the edge of a dramatic crisis as the Turkish government threatens a defiant response to the sanctions and the value of Turkey’s currency drops,” Nicholas Danforth, senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said.
U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained in recent years over a host of issues including Ankara’s imprisonment of Americans and State Department employees, warming relations with Russia, refusal to enforce U.S. sanctions against Iran, and frustration over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria.
“The case of Andrew Brunson has now become a high-profile symbol of both sides’ anger, creating a situation in which neither Washington nor Ankara are inclined to back down,” Danforth said.
“At this point, the U.S. government should continue to quietly search for a diplomatic resolution that would bring Brunson home without compromising American values or interests. At the same time, it should take steps to mitigate the fallout if these efforts prove unsuccessful,” he said.
Steps the United States should take include preparing for the possible closure of U.S. military bases in Turkey such as Incirlik Airfield, which is currently supporting the U.S. counter-ISIS effort in Syria. More broadly, Washington must begin rethinking its regional policies, from Iraq to the Balkans, on the assumption that a minimum level of Turkish cooperation can no longer be taken for granted.