Thursday, October 17, 2019

Literary Corner: Recep, Don't Be a Tough Guy

President Trump being castigated by the Speaker of the House, enlarged from the picture in his Twitter feed.

Letter to his Excellency the President of Turkey
by Donald J. Trump

Dear Mr. President:
Let's work out
a good deal!
You don't want to be responsible
for slaughtering thousands of people,
and I don't want to be responsible
for destroying the Turkish economy —
and I will.
I've already given you a little sample
with respect to Pastor Brunson.
I have worked hard to solve
some of your problems.
Don't let the world down.
You can make a great deal.
General Mazloum is willing
to negotiate with you,
and he is willing to make
concessions that they would never
have made in the past.
I am confidentially enclosing
a copy of his letter to me,
just received.
History will look upon you favorably
if you get this done the right and humane way.
It will look upon you forever as the devil
if good things don't happen.
Don't be a tough guy.
Don't be a fool!
I will call you later.
As with the Zelenskyy phone call transcript, our emperor has released the text of his letter of 9 October to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan so everybody can get a taste of how great he is at communicating with foreign leaders—he passed copies out, on White House letterhead, to the congresspersons attending yesterday's contentious meeting—and once again he's surprised and pained that nobody's willing to admit how impressed they are by his rhetorical skill, his mastery of the issues, and his firm but friendly tone.

This was the Wednesday after the 6 October phone call in which he told Erdoğan he intended to remove the tiny US force monitoring the Syrian-Turkish border out of the way of the impending invasion and said Turkey would have to take charge of the 70,000 detainees in camps well to the south of where Erdoğan was planning to stop. Trump seems to have changed his mind about the invasion and decided in favor of the art of the deal ("let's work out a good deal... you can make a great deal"). It's not clear whether he understands that Erdoğan regards Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as a Marxist terrorist with whom no negotiation is possible.

Erdoğan is said to have read the letter and thrown it in the trash, then immediately issued the orders launching the invasion, so you might say he wasn't too impressed by it either.

But I think we can appreciate it for its strong, simple language (Stephen Miller is not the stenographer this time), the interesting antinomies ("you don't want to be responsible" and "I don't want to be responsible" in section II, the pair of ways "history will look upon you" in section V, and the pairing of "don't bes" at the close) and the proportions of the arched shape.

It's hard, by the way, to decide to what extent Trump gave President Erdoğan a little sample of his technique for destroying the Turkish economy in the matter of Rev. Andrew Brunson, the Evangelical Presbyterian missionary who was jailed in Turkey for two years on trumped-up charges of espionage and aiding terrorists after working in the country for 20-odd years. We know he put financial sanctions on the Turkish ministers of justice and interior, and doubled the tariffs on steel and aluminum (probably still more illegal than his usual unilateral tariff hikes, if it was done to free Rev. Brunson, since he's theoretically only allowed to do it in the case of a national security emergency).

The steel tariffs were pretty bad in the context of a lot of other factors, includin unrelated steel tariffs imposed by the EU around the same time, but what Erdoğan himself seemed to be chiefly worried about was the US treasury department, and an expected multi-billion-dollar fine on the state-owned Halkbank for a conspiracy led by the infamous Reza Zarrab to violate sanctions on Iran by masking illegal money transfers as gold sales; and Trump has seemed to be on consistently on Erdoğan's side in that case, under the prodding of Turkey agent Rudolph Giuliani—one of the illegal things Trump and Giuliani have both asked Secretary of State Tillerson to do was push the justice department to free Zarrab, and just yesterday we learned that the two of them roped Attorney General Barr into an effort to negotiate a settlement with the bank:
Mr. Erdogan had repeatedly raised the topic of Halkbank with Mr. Trump, including in a November 2018 phone conversation [a month after Rev. Brunson was freed, but five months before Trump remembered to cut back the steel tariffs], which was followed up by an appeal by Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law, who serves as Turkey’s finance minister, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Mr. Trump told Mr. Erdogan in April that Mr. Barr and Mr. Mnuchin would handle the matter.
If this is a conspiracy of Trump's to get Erdoğan what he really wants, it's now been frustrated by the heroic US attorney's office of the New York Southern District, which has just filed its own charges against Halkbank, thus doing more to pressure the Turkish president over the Syrian invasion than the White House and Congress put together.

US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reached a deal to suspend Ankara's operation in northern Syria within 120 hours to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated safe zone, a Turkish official told Middle East Eye.
No representative of Kurdish interests or SDF was at the meeting, obviously. The Turkish military will occupy all the land it wanted, the Kurds leaving the area will be disarmed, the "sanctions" Trump imposed will be lifted, and Trump will work with Congress to stop them from passing any more:
Once the military operation stops, Trump will lift the sanctions that he imposed on Turkey earlier this week. MEE understands that the White House will work with Congress to prevent further sanctions by US legislators. 
The agreement also stipulates that Kurdish militants, including the People's Protection Units (YPG), would have their heavy weapons collected and their fortifications and fighting positions disabled. 
"We got exactly what we wanted out of the meeting," a senior Turkish official told MEE.
They certainly did.

And that's clear too.

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