- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
Turkey is mad at the United States for stopping its security forces from beating up protesters in Washington D.C.
The diplomatic spat started last week, during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington. Outside an event on May 16, and without warning, Erdogan’s security forces and supporters descended on anti-Erdogan protesters and violently beat them. Washington police eventually intervened, but not before nearly a dozen protesters were injured, some suffering concussions and lost teeth. The attack, caught on film, sparked widespread outrage and a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
Now, Turkey says it has summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara. The Turkish foreign ministry slammed U.S. law enforcement on Monday for its “aggressive and unprofessional actions,” saying it lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. ambassador.
Here’s a video of the brawl:
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 17, 2017
To make matters worse, another video later emerged showing Erdogan calmly watching his guards and supporters violently manhandle the protesters:
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 18, 2017
Turkey requested “a full investigation of this diplomatic incident,” saying the actions of U.S. security personnel were “contrary to diplomatic rules and practices.” (Because apparently a diplomatic practice is having your police stand idly by and watch a foreign leader’s guards beat protesters.)
D.C. police said they arrested two men unaffiliated with the Turkish government who took part in the brawl. Two of Erdogan’s guards were also briefly detained, but then released due to diplomatic immunity. All guards involved are safely back in Turkey.
The incident came hours after President Donald Trump lavished praise on Erdogan during a meeting at the White House. It took place outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, where Erdogan traveled to attend a private session co-hosted by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council and Turkish think tank the SETA Foundation. (Note: This author used to work at the Atlantic Council).
The Atlantic Council recently came under fire for its ties to Erdogan, though it condemned the violence in a statement released on May 17:
— AtlanticCouncil (@AtlanticCouncil) May 17, 2017
After Erdogan survived a botched coup attempt in July 2016, he consolidated power and cracked down on political dissenters and free press, straining relations with Turkey’s Western allies.
Turkey’s response to the incident could add salt to the wounds of this new diplomatic rift between Washington and Ankara.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday called the incident “outrageous,” but said he would wait for a State Department review before taking further action — sparking dismay among prominent Republican lawmakers.
“You don’t need any further information, just look at the clip,” said Sen. John McCain shortly after Tillerson’s comments on Fox News Sunday. McCain added Washington should “throw their ambassador the hell out” of the country.
“Those were his people and Erdogan’s people who were sent out there,” McCain said. “That’s not America.”
Photo credit: DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images