Zarrab Case: Strong Signal of Change for Turkish Foreign Policy


During three investigations held by İstanbul Public Prosecutor between 17-25 December 2013, various people including businessmen, bureaucrats, and government officials were subjected to operations for “money laundering”, “gold smuggling”, and “bribery for public officials” allegations. During these operations, 14 people arrested including Rıza Zarrab, Salih Kaan Çağlayan, and Barış Güler.

After Rıza Zarrab was released in 28 February 2014, this first initiative of terrorist group of clergy Fethullah Gülen (FETÖ) towards the government was ground-breaking for Ak Party, and was resulted with resignation of Ministry of Economy, ZaferÇağlayan, and Ministry of Internal Affairs, Muammer Güler. Additionally, İstanbul Chief of Police dismissed and many personnel relocated.

After these events, FETÖ and Ak Party government were in constant combat, and in 15 July 2016 second attempt of FETÖ using military members infiltrated in Turkish Armed Forces was unsuccessful. Erdoğan, President of that period, had received a massive public support and declared a war against FETÖ. In this process, thousands of people were arrested, dismissed, and the cards were reshuffled in the political arena.

Turkey asked the return of FETÖ Leader cleric Fetullah Gülen from U.S., which is one of the most important allies of Turkey. However, mutual visits and dialogues have failed. Additionally, as U.S. provided large weapon, food etc. aid to PYD terror organisation which is regarded as PKK extension in Syria as Turkey had opened a corridor in the norther border, had raised the question of whether Turkey and U.S. are still allies.

Since Turkey was unable to receive the necessary support from U.S., the country shifted to east and tried to strengthen the relationships with Russia. After “Fighter Jet Crises” with Russia, Vladimir Putin called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when coup attempt occurred in July, 15 and offered unconditional help. This offer opened a new page for the political relations. During this process, multiple visits made and solution for problematic Syrian crises gained momentum with Russian-Turkish-Iranian cooperation. Additionally, Turkey had signed large economic projects with Russia and signalled new paths with “Turkish Wave” project. As U.S. Offered weapon support to PYD/PKK, this cast doubt on NATO and defence systems in the region, and even though there were reactions from Europe and U.S., purchase of S-400 missile system from Russia was not prevented. Additionally, during this process, Turkey became closer with Iran and after independency referendum in Northern Iraq, diplomatic relations with Tehran developed.

With the latest development in U.S., 2 diplomatic notes were sent to Federal Court for RızaZarrab, who has been on trial as confessor.  Rıza Zarrab is accused of infringing embargoing of U.S. on Iran for nuclear program. Additionally, it seems that Zarrab will cause certain problems for the reputation of Turkey in the international arena for bribing ZaferÇağlayan, Ministry of Economy of that period, and money laundering.  Ak Party government follows all these events with great care. RecepTayyipErdoğan claims that FETÖ and the organisation members in U.S. are conspiring and he has achieved a high public support in national environment.

With these developments in Turkey, the country will try to react to these chains of events which include unable to find support from Europe in 15 July attempted coup night, U.S. not returning the FETÖ leader FetullahGülen, support for PKK/PYD terror organisation, and RızaZarrab case which will make Turkey guilty in the international area, by positioning itself to East.  Turkey opened a new military basis in Qatar and is planning to open new military basis in certain points of Asia. Turkey is one of the strategic partners of China and is one of the greatest supporters of “New Silk Roads” project. Increased diplomatic dialogues with Russia and Iran had the power to change powers in Middle East. Additionally, on national level, there is a support for participating to Shanghai Union Organisation rather than EU. It is unclear that which path Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will choose. Yet, Turkey is shifting to East as the country is constricted by Europe and U.S.


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