There is all plenty of evidence that suggests the situation in the Middle East is in for another round of escalation. The relationship between the US and Turkey nosedived last week when a US consulate was arrested in Istanbul. After the arrest, it was obvious why the authorities in the US felt ‘deeply disturbed’. If there were any hopes of reconciliation behind closed doors, the last couple of days have yet again proved why you should always expect the unexpected in the Middle East. On Sunday, Turkey suspended visitor visa services across all the diplomatic facilities that are working in the US. That was a tit-for-tat move, but was it really required is the question that may haunt the Turkish government in the days to come. Until things get back to normal, no Turk will be granted a visitor visa for the US. However, more than 113,000 people successfully used this facility in 2016. Topuz is the second US consulate employee to have been nabbed by Turkish authorities this year. On top of this, news reports claim that an arrest warrant had also been issued for another US consulate worker on Monday When President Donald Trump took over, it was expected by many that the bilateral relationship between Turkey and the US would find itself on a strong footing. With the Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s heroism and Trump’s flashiness, the bilateral relationship seemed to be doing fine. That was until Turkish authorities decided to arrest Metin Topuz. It must be noted that Topuz is the second US consulate employee to have been nabbed by the Turkish authorities this year. On top of it, news reports claim that an arrest warrant had also been issued for another US consulate worker on Monday. When Turkey was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1952, it was the US that fast-tracked it’s admission process. The United States, of course, wasn’t doing the Turks any favours. The idea was to keep the USSR in check by having active military presence in Turkey. For this, Turkey received a total of $4.5billion from the US between 1948 and 1975. Since last week the Turkish Lira has tumbled, and Turkish stocks have performed equally badly. The Turkish economy has weakened over time. Inflation is on the rise, and the current account deficit might become too difficult a situation to handle later NATO membership had given Turkey an esteemed position in the US world-view. This is for this reason that the American government, otherwise apprehensive about military coups in the world, somehow welcomed the 1960 coup. U.S. ambassador Avra M. Warren stated on the occasion that the U.S. government “intends to work with (the military government) just as loyally and faithfully as the United States did during the Menderes government”. One may wonder why Gaddafi and Saddam Husain didn’t receive the same courtesy. Anyway, let’s move on. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it was George H W Bush who recognized Turkey’s importance. Again, primarily, because of it being a NATO member. Bush praised Turkey in no meagre terms, and stated, “Turkey (had) stood firm and steadfast despite the heavy burden the Iraqi invasion [had] placed on its own economy.” So, what’s in store for the two NATO allies? There’s a very legitimate question that’s been asked across the United States as to why Turkey seems to arrest (or see with suspicion) every other US citizen. Many American diplomats in Turkey have voiced concerns over the botched legal trials and arrests that have been taking place in Turkey as of late. Does the name Andrew Brunson ring a bell? And, one must recall what happened in Washington when the Turkish president visited the United States last May. Attacking unarmed protesters didn’t help one bit. From divergent opinions on Kurdistan to Trump’s Middle Eastern policies, perhaps what sealed the fate of US-Turkish relations was the recently signed Turkey-Russia S-400 air defence missile system deal. Furthermore, Turkey is no longer interested in being an EU member. This might complicate things even more, particularly considering the authoritarianism the Turkish government has been espousing lately. Almost 150 soldiers were announced to go on trial on Monday. Authoritarianism, unfortunately, continues. Relationship between Turkey and the US has remained fraught over the past many years owing to divergent views on Kurdish YPG militia and the People’s Protection Units, an armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) based in the Kurdish majority regions of northern Syria, but the bubble has now burst. From here on, it will all be about damage control. Since last week the Turkish Lira has tumbled, and Turkish stocks have performed equally badly. The Turkish economy has weakened over time. Inflation is on the rise, and the current account deficit (the difference in net exports and imports) might become too difficult a situation to handle later. When it comes to international politics, and particularly the Middle East, playing it diplomatically is always the safest bet. The Turkish president should realise there are already plenty of other Middle Eastern security related issues that require his time and energy. Why muddy the already complicated situation? Many neutral observers and analysts assert that Trump is becoming too fallible. However, the question remains, is Erdogan’s heroism setting the Middle East up for another escalation? Considering what the Middle East is currently embroiled in, let’s hope sanity prevails, and the answer to the above-posed question turns out to be a big NO. But, keeping in view how Trump and Erdogan usually go about their business, a possibility of a US-Turkey escalation can’t be ruled out. What a strange world we live in! The writer is a counterterrorism and security analyst Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.