The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a lunch conversation on U.S.-Turkish Relations in the Era of Erdogan’s “Hostage Diplomacy,” on Tuesday, October 24, from 12:00pm to 1:30pm.
The event featured Amb. Eric Edelman, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and FDD Senior Advisor; Dr. Aykan Erdemir, former Member of Turkish Parliament and Senior Fellow at FDD; and Dr. Lisel Hintz, Assistant Professor of International Relations and European Studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Dion Nissenbaum, national security reporter for The Wall Street Journal, moderated the discussion. Clifford D. May, FDD President and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner, provided opening remarks.
A growing number of western nationals have been imprisoned in Turkey since the 2016 failed coup attempt, raising serious concerns over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “hostage diplomacy” — using Western nationals as bargaining chips to extract concessions from NATO allies. Erdogan’s recent proposal to swap imprisoned U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson with U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the abortive coup is perhaps the most well-known example of this. But it also echoes similar reports from this summer involving German nationals. Meanwhile, Ankara arrested a second U.S. consulate employee this month, prompting Washington to suspend visa services in Turkey. How will all of this affect Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and other NATO allies? How should the U.S. respond?
Amb. Eric S. Edelman retired as a career minister from the U.S. Foreign Service on May 1, 2009. He is a Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a member of its Advisory Board on Turkey. As the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (August 2005-January 2009) he oversaw strategy development as DoD’s senior policy official with global responsibility for bilateral defense relations, war plans, special operations forces, homeland defense, missile defense, nuclear weapons and arms control policies, counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, arms sales, and defense trade controls. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Finland and Turkey in the Clinton and Bush Administrations and was principal deputy assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a visiting scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, and a senior associate of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish Parliament (2011-2015) who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech in Turkey. He is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2014) as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. In 2016, Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on Turkey. Dr. Erdemir is co-author of Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge).
Dr. Lisel Hintz is an Assistant Professor of International Relations and European Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where she works at the intersection of identity politics and foreign policy. She is particularly interested in how domestic identity struggles spill over to shape, and be shaped by international affairs. Her regional focus is on Turkey and its relations with Europe and the Middle East. Professor Hintz’s forthcoming book with Oxford University Press draws on 18 months of fieldwork across Turkey. She has spoken and written widely on Turkey-EU and Turkey-Syria relations (particularly on the refugee crisis), the Kurdish Question, and how what she terms Ottoman Islamism shaped Turkey’s aggressive policies abroad as well as its authoritarian turn back home. She teaches courses on psychological approaches to foreign policy decision-making and European social movements.
Dion Nissenbaum is a national security reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Previously, Mr. Nissenbaum was based in Afghanistan, where he traveled around the country both as an independent journalist and with U.S. military. He has won several awards, including a National Press Club award for diplomatic correspondence. He has covered conflicts in many countries around the Middle East and South Asia. In December 2016, Mr. Nissenbaum was detained in Turkey for 2 ½ days without contact with his family or attorneys. In 2005, Mr. Nissenbaum was kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen on the Gaza Strip. He was held alongside a photographer for less than a day.
This event is made possible through a grant from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.