The Tangled Web of Flynn

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

When President Donald Trump appointed Michael Flynn as his national security advisor, the following warning appeared in this column: “The president-elect would do a good service to his country to take a hard look at his choice before his final appointment. Otherwise, he would be planting a time bomb in his office.” (Mirror-Spectator, November 23, 2016)

The time bomb went off, earlier than anticipated, and Flynn was fired and now is in legal hot water. He might even drag with him the resident of the White House.

The warning was recorded in this column not out of anti-Turkish hysteria, but because the checkered past of the man was already a matter of public record, with revelations that he had attended a meeting with the representatives of the Turkish government, where Fethullah Gulen’s fate was discussed. As well, there was the fact that Flynn was on the Turkish government’s payroll without registering with the US government as a foreign agent. His boundless recklessness even led him to publish an op-ed piece in The Hill (“Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support,” November 8, 2016), calling on the US government to come to the aid of Turkey, while characterizing Gulen as a terrorist.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations will reveal more about his recklessness and personal agenda to the detriment of US foreign policy, such as delaying the takeover of Raqqa from ISIS. Shortly before the transition of power from President Barack Obama to Trump, the former’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, informed Flynn of the Pentagon plan to retake Raqqa, the nerve center of ISIS. Flynn opposed it, though no reason was recorded at the time, because the government of Turkey opposed the move.

Governments have invisible tentacles to carry out illicit actions, which are conducted under the cover of secrecy, until they hit a raw nerve.

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Take the case of Oliver North, who blatantly bypassed Congress in the Iran-Contra affair, buying and distributing weapons in violation of the law, only to receive a slap on the wrist and to become an icon and ideologue of the far right, even entertaining dreams of entering the presidential race.

Mr. Flynn’s fortunes turned sour because his client, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went too far in alienating the US government and shaking the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.

These days, Turkey’s name is constantly in the headlines with negative stories, though none are related to Armenian issues.

Azerbaijan similarly has gained notoriety in equal parts thanks to the revelations of the Panama Papers and the subsequent assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The Aliyev clan’s $600 millions in investments in Israeli banks and the confession of a German Christian Democrat Karin Strenz that she had been on the Azeri government’s payroll to promote that government’s interests in Germany and in the European Parliament have done plenty to paint an accurate portrait of that government internationally.

The fallout between the US and Turkey has manifested itself on three levels.

First is Michael Flynn’s $15-million sellout of US policy regarding Turkey. Also, Mueller’s investigation focuses on Flynn’s role in Russian meddling in the US election process. That investigation is circling closer and closer to the White House.

Next, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader was arrested on March 16, 2016, for perpetrating a scheme to get around UN sanctions on Iran, which may lead to fines totaling $6 billion. But what is more serious is “a lot of Turkish laundry is likely to be aired” as Steven A. Cook reports in his blog post.

Mr. Zarrab has been very close to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and intercepted conversations between the two implicated then Prime Minister Erdogan.

Finally, the political strain that is pushing Turkey and the US apart exacerbates the above two cases. Governments have a way of circumventing transgressions if and when they enjoy cordial relations. But in this case, Erdogan’s diatribes against the US, political conflict with the White House over the Kurdish issue in Syria, where Kurds enjoy US support in their drive to carve out an autonomous enclave on Syrian soil at the Turkish border, have distanced the two countries.

To top that all, Erdogan has just completed a deal to buy $2 billion worth of military hardware from Russia, which NATO partners claim are not compatible with the alliance’s standards.

In an opinion piece, Stephen Kinzer comments: “Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, making it a military ally of the United States for 65 years. Officially it still is. The reality is different. Turkey has written itself out of the western alliance. Rather than accept decisions made in Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels, it now behaves like a Middle Eastern Country pursing its own interests. Turkey has become the first NATO dropout.”

The US being the sole surviving superpower can control the situation and restrain Turkey in its erratic policy. But what is happening on the other side of the equation is that Turkey is veering towards Russia. Mr. Erdogan is on his way to Sochi to engage in serious negotiations with President Putin. The way Turkey has violated UN sanctions in the Iran case is undermining US and NATO policy to contain Russia. Gas and energy deals are on their negotiating table. Russia has already agreed to build more than one atomic power plant in Turkey. The two parties have agreed to raise the level of mutual trade to $100 billion annually. Having Erdogan at his side, Putin will have to scoff at the US sanctions against Russia.

But there is a political price to pay for all these deals. It has been reported that the Karabakh issue will be on the agenda. Russians have a history of selling out Armenia to Turkey since the days of Mustafa Kemal and Lenin. Moscow is eager to have Azerbaijan join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU); Turkey’s leverage can bring that to bear.

In that case, Karabakh will become the casualty. Without suffering any political pain, Moscow can force Armenia to cede its strategic positions, to placate Baku and Ankara.

In today’s interconnected reality, global conflicts may end up influencing the remotest corners of the world, which might appear to be immune to that ongoing conflict.

When Turkey’s interests dovetail with those of Russia, Baku has no other choice but to oblige and Armenia will lose.

Flynn’s web of lies and deceit, ultimately will not only hurt the US government’s interests, but further constrain the rights of Armenia.

 

 

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