Key Points

Trump, who showered Erdogan with praise when the Turkish strongman visited Washington last week, would fare better by warning Erdogan not to undermine U.S. efforts to fight the Islamic State. If Erdogan invested as much effort in pursuing jihadists as he does in silencing dissidents, Turkey would no longer be a primary destination for the Islamic State and other extremists.

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Eric Edelman is a former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and a senior advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Turkey project. David J. Kramer, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the George W. Bush Administration, is senior fellow in the Václav Havel Center for Human Rights and Diplomacy, director of European and Eurasian Studies at Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, and a TAI contributing editor.

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While President Trump has a warm relationship with Erdogan, Erdogan’s toxicity may not be Teflon-coated – as evidenced by the recent across-the-board condemnation of the Turkish president by Trump supporters in Congress, leading evangelicals, and supporters of Trump’s tough Iran policy. A red carpet for Erdogan is unjustified until he ceases Turkey’s malign activities rather than covering them up.

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Ahead of his November 13 meeting with Erdogan, Trump should not fall for the Turkish president’s public relations stunts. Instead, Trump should demand tougher action against the full range of jihadist networks active within and around Turkish borders, beyond just the Islamic State. Trump should also hold the Turkish government accountable for the war crimes committed by its Islamist proxies in northeast Syria. By aggravating instability in Syria, Erdogan threatens to reverse the gains that the U.S. and its allies have made against the Islamic State.

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Erdogan’s rehabilitation of sanctions evaders continues to hurt Turkey’s image, economy, and investment climate. Ankara’s apparent disregard for U.S. sanctions, including those targeting Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, does not bode well for Washington or other NATO allies. Yet so far, President Donald Trump has shielded Erdogan from U.S. sanctions, the most recent of which he lifted after only nine days. In contrast, a biting sanctions bill focused on Turkey passed the House 403 to 16 on Tuesday. Like Congress, Trump should communicate to his Turkish counterpart that his policy of evading sanctions and rewarding sanctions busters could have dire consequences.

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Events

EVENT: Results of Erdogan's Snap Election Gambit: Implications for U.S.-Turkey Relations

June 27, 2018 | 11:45

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