What Zarrab’s Arrest means for Rouhani

Zarrab’s arrest may be seen as a step toward the latter, as it strengthens Rouhani’s hand in the fight against corruption. Walter Posch, a prominent Austria-based Iran expert, told Al-Monitor that Zarrab’s arrest “shows that the worst perpetrators cannot hide wherever they go, and at the same time, it puts a burden on the Iranians because in case the sanctions are reinstated notorious criminal-political networks will shy away from re-engaging in sanctions dodging.”

It should not be overlooked that Zarrab is also a very sensitive topic for the Turks, as he was in 2013 accused of bribing several Turkish ministers who later resigned. These allegations were dropped following a clash between Erdogan and the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his network of supporters inside the judiciary and the police. Unsurprisingly, the Turkish opposition has lauded Zarrab’s arrest, which has attracted great public interest; the US attorney who is handling the case has seen his Twitter following jump from thousands to hundreds of thousands.

The first reaction to Zarrab’s arrest from the Turkish government came from AKP spokesman Omer Celik, who said that it was “sick behavior” against Erdogan. Pro-government dailies were even harsher in their tone, with Star newspaper calling the arrest “strategic animosity.” Given Erdogan’s visit to Washington this week, the newspaper went as far as accusing the White House of a “coup attempt.”

Prior to departing, the Turkish president said, “This is not an issue concerning Turkey. Whether this is money laundering or not, I don’t think it is right for me to comment before learning the reasoning behind it, but the king of money laundering [Gulen] is residing in Pennsylvania.”

Karabekir Akkoyunlu, an Iran expert and assistant professor at the University of Graz, Austria, told Al-Monitor that Zarrab’s arrest may signal a new era in US-Turkey relations, as “it is not far-fetched to think that the United States could use the case to co-opt Erdogan on a wide range of foreign policy issues.” However, not all experts agree.

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