US-Turkish Ties Hit Rough Patch after Rough Erdogan Visit

US-Turkish Ties Hit Rough Patch after Rough Erdogan Visit
Fri May 19, 2017 13:08:00

The Trump administration is facing growing calls for a forceful response to violence on American soil by Turkish presidential guards who were briefly detained this week but then set free. The unseemly incident is adding to U.S.-Turkish tensions compounded by a spat over U.S. war strategy against ISIS in Syria.

The United States said Thursday it had summoned Turkey's ambassador to the State Department, where the No. 2-ranked U.S. diplomat raised concerns about the security detail for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington, after the guards were recorded on video violently breaking up a protest. U.S. lawmakers demanded stronger action.

Republican Sen. John McCain said the government should "throw their ambassador the hell out" of the U.S.

The calls came as the Trump administration acknowledged it had released two members of Erdogan's detail after holding them briefly after the incident, which took place outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in the U.S. capital on Tuesday. Even as officials vowed an investigation, the guards were already safely back in Turkey with Erdogan, dampening any prospects for holding them accountable.

Local police and lawmakers initially speculated that diplomatic immunity prevented the U.S. from holding the men. A U.S. official said Thursday that wasn't the case. Instead, Erdogan's guards were released under a globally recognized custom under which nations don't arrest or detain visiting heads of state and members of their delegations, said the official, who wasn't authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

The guards' release left the U.S. struggling to point to anything that amounts to accountability. It also fueled the perception that the U.S. allows Turkey's leader to bring strongman tactics with him when he visits the U.S. capital. Last year, Turkish security officials manhandled several journalists at a Washington think tank where Erdogan was set to speak.

"There must be consequences," Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Thursday.