U.S. officials are visiting Turkey today to begin discussions about the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. But the timing of this exchange is raising questions about the true motive behind the meeting.
A former Turkish state imam who has been living in the United States for the last 20 years could soon be forced to return to Turkey where he faces charges for a failed government overthrow. But would his return be too little, too late?
U.S. officials are set to meet with government representatives in Turkey today to discuss the possible extradition of Fethullah Gulen. Officials in Turkey have said that they see this meeting as a time to discuss the Turkish government’s case against Gulen.
As a former ally of the Turkish government, Gulen was at the center of a religious movement. He broke ties with the government in 2013 after in-fighting led to a series of corruption investigations. Turkey has been accused Gulen of being the mastermind behind a failed coup targeting the country’s government that led to the deaths of more than 250 people.
Some citizens have even accused the CIA of being responsible for meddling in Turkey’s affairs by supporting and protecting Gulen directly.
But it was not until the U.S. needed to convince Turkey to take the pressure off of Saudi Arabia for the murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi that the extradition of Gulen suddenly became a bargaining chip.
As we know, after an investigation indicated that the Saudis were responsible for ordering the brutal murder of Khashoggi, the U.S. government responded by openly admitting that the act was not enough to justify cutting ties with Saudi Arabia. However, Turkey has not been as quick to back down, and finally giving in to Gulen’s extradition is being seen by many as a way for the U.S. to appease Turkey by using Gulen as a bargaining chip.
In addition to the conflict over Khashoggi, Turkey has criticized the U.S. for supporting Kurdish forces in Syria, even after Turkey has labeled them as terrorist groups. President Trump’s announcement that he planned to start pulling troops out of Syria was seen by some as another attempt to appease Turkey.
But it remains to be seen whether Gulen will be extradited to Turkey, if the U.S. will pull troops out of Syria anytime soon, and most importantly, how many of the United States’ recent foreign policy actions are meant to protect its close ally, Saudi Arabia.