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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/15/22

Oz candidacy in Pennsylvania is part of an Erdogan global influence operation

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As yet another example of the American political system falling under the influence of foreign actors it appears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has borrowed a page from his friend Vladimir Putin's playbook. Western intelligence agencies have identified a network of "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) tied to Erdogan's government that are establishing pro-Turkish political parties fielding candidates for local and national legislative seats in Europe and the United States. In the case of the U.S., Erdogan's scheme also involves the U.S. Senate candidacy in Pennsylvania of Dr. Mehmet Oz, a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen who actually lives in New Jersey.

Oz's campaign is linked to a lobbying office recently opened in Washington to facilitate dual U.S.-Turkish citizens voting for Erdogan in next year's Turkish presidential election. Erdogan's intelligence operation also involved recent French National Assembly candidates, including dual French-Turkish citizens Celil Yilmaz in Ain, Yalcin Ayvali in Rhà ne, and Ramazan Calli in Saà ne-et-Loire. All three French candidates are tied to the Strasbourg-based Council for Justice, Equality and Peace (COJEP), an arm of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). COJEP's activities are directed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Ã"avusoglu, a co-founder of the AKP.

Other political influence operations by Erdogan have included the defunct Equality and Justice Party (PEJ), which ran scores of candidates in the 2017 French legislative election and dissolved last October. Two other French parties are also linked to Turkey, the Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) and the Party of the Muslims of France (PMF). Erdogan's government also has direct ties with the New Movement for the Future Party (NBZ) in Austria, the "Denk" (Think) party in the Netherlands, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HOH) in Bulgaria, the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace (DEB) in Greece, in Belgium, and the Alliance for Innovation and Justice in Germany.

The AKP lobbying office in Washington coordinating Oz's Senate campaign was registered with the Justice Department, pursuant to the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), on May 11 of this year. The office is headed by Dr. Halil Mutlu, a resident of Connecticut and Erdogan's cousin. The AKP's FARA registration document on file with the Justice Department states: "AK Party representation to the United States represents the Justice and Development Party of Turkey in the United States. Its responsibilities include organizing political, social and cultural activities among the Turkish citizens in the United States. It also aims to contribute to furthering the cooperation and historical friendship between the United States and Turkey. It will also prepare and disseminate AK Party material in the United States for the political support of the Turkish citizens during elections. The registration document also states that the AKP's principal office is located in Cankaya, Ankara, Turkey, which happens to be Erdogan's luxuriant presidential palace.

Turkish opposition parties have charged that the New York-based Turken (Turkey Youth and Education Service) Foundation has laundered funds to pro-Turkish political candidates abroad. Erdogan's daughter, Esra Albayrak, and son, Bilal Erdogan, sit on the Turken Foundation's board.

The foundation reportedly has $43 million in assets. According to Turkish opposition leader Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal KÄ lÄ Ã daroÄŸlu, the head of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the funds for the Turken Foundation are laundered through two Turkish foundations, TÃ"RGEV and Ensar, run by Erdogan allies.

In 2019, the Turken Foundation purchased an 81-acre estate along the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan that had previously been owned by the late boxer Muhammad Ali. Another influential Turkish operation in the United States is the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), on whose board Mutlu's wife, Lynn Mutlu, currently sits as a member. Oz, whose Senate candidacy has been endorsed by Donald Trump, has been a frequent guest at TASC-sponsored events.

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