The Election Day commentary in The Hill by Michael Flynn, a recently appointed National Security advisor to President-elect Donald Trump began with the following words:
“Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support,” and continued with a prolonged pitch on why Turkey was important to the United States and why U.S. policy needed a shift of support towards the Erdogan regime.
The commentary was a strange, new development to those following the ever-evolving foreign affairs nuances of the new Trump transition team, particularly since it was Flynn himself who celebrated, just a few months prior, the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July.
At the time, Flynn said the attempt against the authoritarian Erdogan was “worth clapping for” since he viewed the Turkish President as an Islamist who was leading Turkey down the wrong path.
As the events unfolded to remove the Turkish president unfolded in July 2016, Flynn addressed an audience in Cleveland, where he was promoting his book on radical Islam and slammed President Obama for being “very close” to Erdogan, despite the reality of chilled relations between the U.S. and Turkey under Obama.
“Probably most of you don’t know, but there’s an ongoing coup going on in Turkey right now,” Flynn said during his speech. Turkey, Flynn warned, had begun “to move toward Islamism.”
“If the military succeeds, one of the things that the military immediately said is, ‘We recognize our responsibilities with NATO, we recognize our responsibilities with the United Nations, we want to make sure that the world knows, we are, we want to be seen as a secular nation.’”
“That is worth clapping for,” Flynn said.
Fast-Forward to the Election Day opinion piece published in The Hill penned by Flynn himself.
He applauded Turkey and encouraged Americans to “see the world from Turkey’s perspective” and understand that “Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Turkey is really our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as a source of stability in the region.”
He went on to reverse his own comments against Barack Obama whom he once called “close” to Erdogan, and accused him of “keeping Erdogan’s government at arm’s length ― an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.”
Enter the all-mighty dollar.
Mandatory lobbying paperwork filed by the Flynn Intel Group (you guessed it, Michael Flynn’s own company) shows that the company was retained by Inovo BV, a company founded by Kamil Ekim Alptekin, chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council and a man closely connected to Erdogan.
Flynn’s company was hired and paid “tens of thousands of dollars” world affairs analysis and to provide advice on funding bills for the Departments of State and Defense.
Flynn’s comments in July supporting a coup against Erdogan and calling him an Islamist who was taking Turkey down the wrong path, compared with his stark reversal in November praising both Erdogan and the country as America’s most important ally could be blamed on the winds of politics and the fluidity that politicians themselves— on both sides, treat the issues they handle on a daily basis.
But when we add the tiny detail of the “tens of thousands of dollars” that Flynn’s company received from a company with close ties to the Turkish government is added to the mix, not to mention its timing, it could imply that Flynn’s opinion— and now the policies of incoming President-elect Donald Trump, could be shaped by the highest bidder.
Henri Barkey, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars called the matter “problematic,” asking, “Which Flynn are we dealing with? Is it the Flynn who got money lobbying for Turkey or is it the Flynn who is worried about what he calls ‘Islamic extremism’?”
It’s one thing to be a typical politician, flip-flopping on important issues and adjusting positions based on political expediency– or even compromising on things with those from the other side of the aisle.
But it’s a dangerous game when positions on important geo-strategy in the most volatile region of the world can be shifted abruptly after the exchange of “tens of thousands of dollars.”
Michael Flynn has assumed one of the most important National Security and foreign policy positions in the incoming administration.
It’s dangerous to the United States’ ally in the region, Greece a nation struggling with its own stability that is impacted on a daily basis on what happens in neighboring Turkey, and it’s dangerous for the United States, and not to mention the entire region.
President-elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and rid Washington of these ugly, slimy lobbying connections that have long shaped U.S. policy both at home and abroad on everything from the food we eat, the air we breath and which countries we call friends and allies.
He should take a good, hard look at Michael Flynn, whose flip flop on an important foreign policy matter regarding Turkey appears to be closely timed to his firm’s acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars, making Flynn himself one of those swamp monsters that Trump has pledged to go after.