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December 27, 2013

Turkish Corruption Scandal Fallout Could Spread Across Region

by Jeff Seldin

A corruption scandal rocking Turkey forced sudden turnover in the cabinet of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  As uncertainty spreads, there's a chance the impact could extend beyond Turkey's borders. 
 
The allegations of illicit money transfers and bribery for construction projects have already ensnared top ministers and their sons, forcing a defiant Erdogan to reshuffle his cabinet.
 
The developments have touched a nerve with an anxious public, some taking to the streets, clashing with police and calling on the government, and the prime minister, to step down.
 
"I think the picture is of a paralyzed Turkey which is continuing to burn bridges," said Soli Ozel with Istanbul's private Kadir Has University
 
Turkish newspapers are rife with speculation, some suggesting that diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Ankara were actively campaigning against the current government. 
 
The U.S. calls such allegations "baseless" and "deeply disturbing" but has otherwise been cautious.....
 
"We have no comment on the specifics of these cases,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week. “We would reiterate that we expect Turkey to meet the highest standards for transparency, timeliness, and fairness in its judicial system."
 
And while Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is still in place, the scandal could also impact Turkey's role in the Middle East, where it has worked to bolster its profile by trying to play key roles in Iraq and Syria.
 
Complicating the situation further are allegations that Iran is tied to the corruption scandal, with Iranian businessmen bribing Turkish officials in order to use Turkish banks to evade international sanctions.