Ideas. Action. Results.


  1. Visa Ban:

    On October 8, 2017, the United States Embassy of Turkey announced that it would suspend the processing of all nonimmigrant visas – the type of visa used by students, business travelers, tourists, and diplomats – while it analyzed Turkey’s commitment to the security of its staff. This came after a Turkish employee of the American Consulate in Istanbul named Metin Topuz was arrested by Turkish authorities over suspicions that he was linked with Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed 2016 putsch attempt. In response to the American suspension, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced similar measures against the United States, including suspension of electronic visas and visas at the border – the way most tourists and other short-term visitors enter Turkey.

    On November 6, tensions began to ease as Washington partially resumed issuing visas in Turkey. The crisis was fully resolved on December 28, when the US and Turkey resumed full visa services following assurances from Ankara that no other employees of American diplomatic missions in Turkey were under investigation and that local staffers wouldn’t be prevented from doing their jobs.


  2. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Halkbank, and Iran Sanctions:

    On January 3, 2018, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted of participating in a billion-dollar scheme to circumvent American sanctions against Iran. Mr. Atilla, the deputy general manager for international banking at Halkbank, a Turkish state bank, helped Iran get around American sanctions and gain access to billions of dollars of restricted petrodollar funds held at Halkbank. A co-defendant in the case, Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, pleaded guilty before the trial began and claimed that the scheme received support from the highest levels of the Turkish government, as well as from Iranian officials and the leadership of Halkbank. Zarrab testified that he paid former Turkish Minister of Economic Affairs Zafer Caglayan tens of millions of dollars in bribes as part of the scheme.

    On May 16, Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison for his involvement in the scheme. The US is also expected to fine Halkbank for its participation in the scheme. For months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo negotiated with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) Chief Hakan Fidan over the issue of Atilla. There was reportedly a tentative deal whereby Atilla would serve the rest of his sentence in Turkey and the United States would not pursue prosecution against Halbank in return for pastor Andrew Brunson’s release, but this deal collapsed in late July. According to Cansu Camlibel, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, new investigations by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Southern District of New York (the district where Atilla had been tried) into Halkbank were a major reason why the deal fell apart. Turkish government officials also blamed Vice President Mike Pence’s threat to impose sanctions on Turkey over Brunson’s captivity as a key cause for the deal’s scuttling.


  3. Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act:

    On June 21, the US Senate introduced a draft of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. The draft bill prohibits spending funds from FY 2019 or prior fiscal years to transfer or facilitate the transfer of the F-35 fighter jet to Turkey until Secretary Pompeo assures lawmakers that Turkey isn’t purchasing or receiving the S-400 from Russia.


  4. Travel Warning:

    On June 28, the State Department updated its travel advisory for Turkey. In a statement it urged American citizens to reconsider traveling to Turkey because of terrorism and arbitrary detentions that have been occurring throughout the country in the state of emergency imposed in the aftermath of the 2016 failed coup attempt. The State Department specifically advised that American citizens not travel to areas along the Turkey-Syria border and to the southeast of Turkey. The statement mentioned that American citizens had been detained as part of the post-coup state of emergency.


  5. Turkey International Financial Institutions Act:

    On July 19, six US senators introduced the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act. The bipartisan bill would restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until Ankara stops its “unjust” detention of American citizens. The bill directs the U.S. executive of the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to oppose future loans, except for humanitarian purposes, to Turkey. The United States is the ERBD’s biggest shareholder. The ERBD invested 1.5 billion Euros in Turkey last year alone.


  6. Sanctions:

    On August 1, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against two top Turkish government officials over the detention of Andrew Brunson. The sanctions, imposed by the Department of the Treasury’s OFAC, target Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Turkish Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu. Both ministers played key roles in the arrest and detention of Brunson.

    The sanctions were imposed pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” which builds upon the Magnitsky Act. This act, formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, was passed with bipartisan support during the Obama administration and was intended to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison in 2009. The penalized Russian officials were prohibited from entering the US or using the American banking system. In December 2016, Congress expanded the Magnitsky Act’s purview, authorizing the US government to sanction human rights offenders worldwide, banning them from entering the US and freezing their assets.


  7. USTR Announces Review of Turkish Eligibility for GSP:

     On August 3, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it was reviewing the eligibility of Turkey to participate in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, citing concerns about Turkish compliance with the GPS market access criterion. The criterion covers the extent to which countries benefitting from the GSP (like Turkey) have assured the US reasonable and equitable access to their markets. 


  8. Tariffs:

    On August 10, President Trump imposes steep tariffs on Turkey, raising steel and aluminum tariffs to 50 percent and 20 percent respectively. On August 11, the White House announced that the tariffs would take effect on August 13. This move represented a doubling of existing tariffs on steel and aluminum that the White House had already imposed in March.

    On August 15, Turkey responded with its own tariffs. In a presidential decree issued by Erdogan, Ankara imposed tariffs on American rice, tobacco products, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics. The decree raised Turkish tariffs on American passenger cars to 120 percent, on alcoholic drinks to 140 percent, and on leaf tobacco to 60 percent.


  9. National Defense Authorization Act:

    On August 13, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019. Section 1282 of the NDAA mandates that no later than 90 days after the enactment of the bill as law, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in consultation with Secretary Pompeo, must submit a report on the current state of U.S.-Turkey relations to Congress. Critically, until this report is submitted, the Pentagon may not deliver any more F-35 aircraft to Turkey.

    The report must contain a review of the American military and diplomatic presence within Turkey. In addition, it must include an assessment of the proposed purchase of S-400s by Turkey, and an analysis on how Turkish acquisition of the S-400 would affect American weapon systems operated jointly with Turkey, including: the F-35 fighter jet, Patriot surface-to-air missile system, CH-47 Chinook helicopter, AH-64 helicopter, H-60 Black hawk helicopter, and F-16 fighter jet. It must also contain a study of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program, including a review of how Turkish industry has contributed to the program and an assessment of how the overall program would be imposed, should Turkey’s role in the program change in a ‘significant’ way. Finally, it must discuss potential alternative air and missile defense systems that Turkey could acquire instead of the S-400, including those manufactured by the United States and other NATO countries.


  10. Electronic Products:

    On August 14, President Erdogan proclaimed that Turkey would boycott U.S.-made electronic products. Erdogan contended that Turkey has alternative to American electronic products, like those made by Turkey


  11. Turkish Airlines:

    On August 14, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was considering sanctioning Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier airline of Turkey. On the same day, it was reported that Turkish Airlines and its main telecoms firm, Turk Telecom, announced that they would stop advertising in American media.