Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrived in Washington, D.C. for a much-anticipated summit with President Barack Obama. The timing of the visit -- amid reports of chemical weapons usage in Syria and an attack against a Turkish border town by alleged Syrian agents -- will make it hard to talk about anything other than the civil war in Syria.
But some members of Congress want to draw attention to a less-obvious issue. Last month, a bipartisan group of 47 members of Congress penned a letter to Secretaries John Kerry and Jack Lew calling for clarification on Turkey's financial dealings with Iran. Under the initiative of South Carolina Republican Representative Jeff Duncan, the letter expressed deep concerns over Turkey's gold dealings that have helped Iran skirt Western sanctions designed to curtail Tehran's illicit nuclear program.
In February 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that Turkey's state-owned bank, Halkbank, was processing "payments from third parties for Iranian goods." This included "payments for Indian refiners unable to pay Tehran for imported oil through their own banking system for fear of retribution from Washington." Separately, the Journal also reported that the Turkish bank was responsible for many of Turkey's "gas-for-gold" transactions with Iran despite an executive order issued by the Obama administration prohibiting gold payments to the government of Iran. As Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan frankly admitted, Turkey's "gold exports [to Iran] end up like payments for our natural gas purchases."