Atilla, Zarrab, and U.S.-Turkish Relations

January 18, 2018
12:00 pm -

Event Video

Speakers (from left to right): 
Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s Senior Vice President for Research
Mark Dubowitz, FDD’s Chief Executive Officer
Merve Tahiroglu, Former FDD Research Analyst
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Former Senior Director, FDD’s Turkey Program
Amb. Eric S. Edelman, Chair, FDD’s Turkey Program; Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

Event Description

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance hosted a lunch conversation on Atilla, Zarrab, and U.S.-Turkish Relations: Implications of the Biggest Sanctions-Evasion Scheme in Recent History, on Thursday, January 18, 2018, from 12:00pm to 1:30pm. The conversation featured Mark Dubowitz, FDD’s Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow at FDD and former member of the Turkish Parliament; Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s Senior Vice President for Research; and Merve Tahiroglu, a research analyst at FDD focusing on Turkey. Amb. Eric S. Edelman, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and Senior Advisor at FDD, moderated the conversation.

The landmark trial involving Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla and gold trader Reza Zarrab concluded this month. FDD’s Turkey and Iran teams were intimately familiar with the background, having conducting extensive research for years on sanctions-busting and sanctions-evasion.  It is now clear that the 2012 “Gas-for-Gold” scheme, the “Gold Loophole” in American sanctions law, and a scheme involving falsified humanitarian trade yielded Iran as much as $100 billion at a time when the U.S. policy was ostensibly to pressure Iran to verifiably halt its nuclear weapons program. That there was complicity at the highest levels of the government of Turkey, a NATO ally, is now beyond question.

Atilla, Zarrab, and U.S.-Turkish Relations: Implications of the Biggest Sanctions-Evasion Scheme in Recent History
A conversation with Mark Dubowitz, Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, and Merve Tahiroglu,
moderated by Amb. Eric S. Edelman

Thursday, January 18, 2018
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Mark Dubowitz is the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he leads projects on Iran, sanctions, countering threat finance, and nonproliferation. He is an expert on Iran’s global network including the regime’s nuclear, terrorist, missile and cyber threats to the United States and other allies, and is widely recognized as one of the key influencers in shaping sanctions policies to counter the threats emanating from Iran and its surrogates. Mr. Dubowitz was featured as one of the key “financial warriors” in the book “The Iran Wars.” Mr. Dubowitz has advised the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Iran issues and testified more than twenty times before the U.S. Congress and foreign legislatures. A former venture capitalist and technology executive, Mark heads FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and is the author or co-author of over twenty studies on economic sanctions and Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Dubowitz was called as an expert witness in the Atilla-Zarrab trial.

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). Turkish prosecutors, on the false premise that Dr. Erdemir was on the witness list of the Atilla trial, issued an arrest warrant for him on the first day of the hearings, and later seized all his assets in Turkey.

Dr. Jonathan Schanzer is Senior Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and is part of the leadership of its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. He worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers.  A former research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Dr. Schanzer has published numerous books, including State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State and Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine. Dr. Schanzer has testified before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media. Dr. Schanzer was tapped to be an expert witness in the trial, but did not end up testifying.

Merve Tahiroglu is a research analyst focusing on Turkey. She supports the work of FDD scholars with Turkish language research and analysis on Turkey-related matters. Her research focuses on Turkey’s foreign policy, domestic politics, and Ankara’s ties to Tehran. Ms. Tahiroglu’s personal areas of interest include Turkey’s Syria policy and Islamic extremism in Turkey. Born and raised in Istanbul, Ms. Tahiroglu earned her B.A in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations from Duke University in 2013. She is currrently an M.A. candidate at Georgetown University’s History Department.  Ms. Tahiroglu has published and/or co-authored pieces in various outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, Huffington Post and Foreign Policy, in addition to FDD-linked publications such as FDD’s Long War Journal and Military Edge. Ms. Tahiroglu attended nearly every day of the trial in New York.