One of the ways the Trump administration tends to show displeasure towards a foreign nation, is by making it more difficult for said nation’s citizens to travel to the United States. First there was the infamous Trump travel ban which included Iran, a country which is fighting Takfiri terrorism, while excluding Saudi Arabia, a state which even members of the US establishment accuse of having a part in the 9/11 atrocity.
Then there was the closing of regional visa centres in Russia which has the effect of forcing Russians throughout the world to travel to Moscow in order to attempt and visit the US and its territories. Notably, this came even before the seizure of Russian consular and diplomatic properties in the US.
More recently, Venezuela and North Korea have been added to a list of countries whose citizens can no longer travel freely to the United States.
Today, Turkey has joined the club of nations from which the US is partly withdrawing visa issuing consular services, in a move which illustrates just how far Washington and Ankara’s relations have deteriorated over the last year.
Even since the attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the summer of 2016, relations have plummeted at a rate which has stunned even many sceptics.
Today, Turkey is actively cooperating with Russia and Iran in Syria, in spite of the mostly unchanged domestic rhetoric on the part of Erodgan. However, Erdogan’s clear friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his warm words that were recently offered before Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, indicate that Turkey’s pivot towards Eurasia is far more meaningful than many originally suspected.
In general, Washington’s views on Turkey’s pivot have been mostly expressed by omission, rather than through any direct statements or acts. Turkey has found itself excluded from the list of countries that US officials frequently name as allies in a clear sign that the US no longer views cooperation with Turkey as possible or even desirable. Furthermore, US cooperation with Turkey over Middle Eastern affairs has more or less vanished in recent months of the Trump administration.
Days ago, a US consular official, particularly one responsible for issuing US visas, was arrested in Turkey under suspicion of aiding the banned terrorist organisation of Fethullah Gulen. Gulen’s group is also accused of orchestrating the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, a coup whose failure was partly due to Russia warning Erdogan of the forthcoming insurrection.
Since then, both President Obama and now President Trump have done precious little to assuage Turkey of its fears that the US is covertly working with Gulen and his terrorist group. Gulen is currently living in the United States and Washington continues to reject Turkey’s calls to extradite the wanted terrorist ringleader.
Today, the US consular mission in Ankara has suspended its visa issuing service citing security concerns as expressed in the following harshly worded statement,
“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel”.
While this is not a full travel ban on Turkish citizens coming to the US as is the case for citizens of Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea, it is similar to the large scale withdrawal of US consular services throughout the Russian Federation.
In this sense, Turkey has de-facto joined the club of nations the US views unfavourably. It is merely a direct confirmation of preexisting realities that have been obvious for almost a year.