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Erdogan, Gulen, and the U.S. - Turkish triangle

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Erdogan has been supportive of U.S.-NATO efforts to destabilize the region.  He backed the effort to take down Gaddafi's Libya and has been a solid supporter of the attack on Syria.  When differences have arisen, Erdogan has been caustic and difficult.  He was a firm ally of the Moslem Brotherhood presidency of Egypt's Mohamed Morsi.

When the Egyptian army removed Morsi, Erdogan was irate and irritated with the U.S. for not standing behind Morsy.

When the Obama administration failed to attack Syrian forces after the chemical weapons incident, again Erdogan was irate.  He harshly criticized the U.S. but moderated his criticism after a trip to Washington.

The damage may have been done.  The Obama administrations experience with Turkey has been less than positive over the past few months.  Over the same period, Saudi Arabia threatened to downgrade its relationship with the U.S. over disagreements on Syria.  It may be that Erdogan's antics were simply too much to tolerate.  The Saudis may come around after their threats to distance from the U.S.   On the other hand, Erdogan is erratic and unpredictable.  Turkey guards the southern flank of NATO and those two qualities are probably not preferred in a the leader of key ally.

It's certainly not beyond the U.S. to seek regime change and more likely that it will do so through stealth rather than with military force, based on public reluctance to send troops anywhere but home.

Where does Gulen fit in?

A previous Turkish government accused Gulen of trying to overthrow the state.  He fled Turkey for the United States where he received fast track admission as a resident alien.  When his residency status was threatened, key figures in the U.S. intelligence community served as character witnesses as his immigration hearing.  He was allowed to stay.

Gulen runs his Turkish Hizmet movement and worldwide network of Madrasahs from his mansion in rural Pennsylvania.  He also has a lucrative charter school business in the U.S. as well, supported by tax payer dollars.

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Sibel Edmonds reviewed a memoir by a former Turkish intelligence chief for says that Gulen's central Asian madrasas were used by the CIA in Central Asia to house operatives in the 1990s.

Erdogan's opponent, Gulen, received the following from the U.S.: special immigration privileges when he fled Turkey; freedom to runs lucrative schools worth millions and a worldwide network worth much more from his home in Pennsylvania.  He has a record of cooperating with US. intelligence according to a former Turkish chief of intelligence.

How independent is Fethullah Gulen?  Would he move aggressively on a head of state of a NATO ally at the risk of losing his U.S. sanctuary?  Would he do so without knowledge of and, perhaps, encouragement by the U.S. government through the CIA or other intelligence agencies?

I suppose all of that is possible but it certainly seems unlikely.

In any case, the Erdogan versus Gulen theme in the news is a mask for a much deeper conflict that will become more obvious as time goes one.  One clue is found in this headline from Today's Zaman, December 26:  EP [European Parliament] strongly warns Turkish gov't not to cover up corruption.

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That's the sort of warning autocratic leaders in the Levant and Middle East get just before the U.S. and its NATO allies bring democracy to the target nation.


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