Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill is concerned this week’s assassination of Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov in Ankara could be a sign of things to come in Turkey.
“I think this assassination really speaks to some really strong undercurrents that are going on now, and we’ll have to see how this plays out,” Hill, who served as ambassador to Iraq in 2009 and 2010, told CNN’s Erin Burnett Tuesday night.
Following the shooting, Turkish authorities blamed Imam Fethullah Gulen and tried to pile responsibility onto the U.S. government for allowing the exiled cleric to live here — a claim State Department spokesman John Kirby has dismissed as “absolutely ridiculous.”
“Could this escalate, Ambassador?” Burnett asked Hill.
“‘Absolutely ridiculous’ is not usually a diplomatic term of art,” Hill replied, “so I think this can escalate, and I think what is clear is something is happening in Turkey, especially with this [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan regime, especially after this coup attempt.”
He went on to say Turkey is becoming “much closer” to Russia, adding that the Middle Eastern country is allowing the Kremlin to take the “diplomatic lead” in the region.
“It’s quite extraordinary that Russia has the diplomatic lead and the U.S. has been reduced to sort of getting angry at the UN security council and otherwise not really playing a direct role in the diplomacy,” Hill said.