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Turkish Corruption Probe Spills Over Into U.S.-Turkey Relationship, as Government-Linked Campaign Targets U.S. Ambassador

An escalating political struggle between two dominant Islamist camps inside Turkey – which in recent days has rocked the country and now threatens to destabilize the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) government – has spilled over into the U.S.-Turkey relationship and generated a sharp rebuke from Washington regarding “continued false and slanderous attacks” targeting U.S. officials.

A corruption probe conducted largely by figures linked to the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers have broad sway inside Turkey’s state and non-state institutions, has in recent days ensnared top figures in the AKP hierarchy on a range of charges. AKP figures, up to and including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have spoken darkly of a “dirty operation” and moved to purge Gulen-linked figures from police and security services. Another 25 police chiefs were dismissed this weekend.

Erdogan has also declared that “some foreign envoys” were helping to coordinate the moves against the AKP. Ilhan Tanir, the Washington correspondent for Turkey’s Vatan outlet, yesterday blogged that the lines are thinly veiled references to U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone:

Turkish PM Erdogan also accused “some foreign envoys” of provocative actions, in reality, he was clearly referring to the US Ambassador. Erdogan, told supporters in the Black Sea province Samsun: “These recent days, very strangely, ambassadors get involved in some provocative acts. I am calling on them from here, do your job, if you leave your area of duty, this could extend into our government’s area of jurisdiction. We do not have to keep you in our country.”

Ricciardone has also been the target of attacks from multiple pro-AKP newspapers.

Tanir conveyed State Department statements pushing back against the attacks, with a U.S. official condemning “the continued false and slanderous attacks by some elements of the Turkish media against our Ambassador, other senior U.S. officials, international media representatives, and private American citizens and groups.” Critically, U..S officials are calling on Ankara to “disavow and condemn such attacks.”

[Photo: Abdullah Kul / YouTube ]