Turkey, an old US ally in the Middle East, has always been regarded by Washington as a forward outpost. This explains the amount of attention America would pay to both Turkey’s foreign and internal policies, along with all the machinations the White House used to prevent Ankara from seeking rapprochement with Moscow and a number of Central Asian states which remain loyal to Russia long after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.
Washington started the process of Turkey’s conversion as early as 1947 with the implementation of the Marshall Plan which ended with Ankara’s accession to NATO in 1952. During that time the US would deploy its nuclear capabilities across the territory of this Middle Eastern country without notifying its authorities, as it’s been noted by Cumhuriyet. This step transformed Turkey into a weapon in the hands of American policymakers, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis with Ankara as exposed as Havana was. Almost seven decades later, Washington is still willing to use Ankara as a battering ram for its aspirations to redraw the geopolitical map of the Middle East.
However, it’s clear that there’s a few people that actually understand that the US uses a number of tactics to both trick or force Turkey in fulfilling the role allocated for it, as no sane Turkish politician would voluntarily take steps that would be detrimental to his own country while beneficial for Washington.
Among these tools of deception an important role is played by the so-called parallel government of Fethullah Gulen or the “Gülenist Terrorist Organisation” (FETO). To this day, in spite of Washington claiming to be an ally of Ankara, the US provides shelter to the self-exiled cleric who resides in Pennsylvania. The foundation of his power lies in a network of private schools that provide an outstanding level of education. There was more that 300 of such schools opened in Turkey, while their total number across the globe exceeded 1,000 facilities.
Initially, the US would use these schools to create new political elites who would be loyal to the West no matter what. The primary target of such meddling were Central Asian states, as there’s a large number of Turkic ethnic groups living there. To turn away local Muslim communities from their well-established ties with Moscow, FETO would spread separatist ideas, while promoting radical forms of Islam and pan-Turkism across the former Soviet republics.
Back in the 90s, the notions of Turkic nationalism promoted by FETO would go hand-in-hand with the pan-Turkism vision that Tayyip Erdogan adopted. This resulted in the creation of the establishment of the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking countries (TurkPA), together with the Turkic Academy in Astana and the International Organization of Turkic Culture. All of these entities allowed Ankara to exercise an extensive amount of soft power across Central Asia.
That is precisely why, for the longest time FETO would remain sympathetic towards the clever moderate Islamist, Tayyip Erdogan who was quick to become a sworn enemy of the secular elites in Ankara.
However, once Erdogan and his supporters got deeply entrenched in the Turkish political system, he became increasingly critical of the harsh dictates of the United States. In turn, Washington became frustrated with the stubborn perseverance of their former champion, which resulted in the decision to use FETO in a bid to undermine Erdogan’s power in Turkey.
That is precisely why every time we observe yet another coup d’etat attempt in Turkey, we soon learn that it was Gulen’s secret network that tried to take down their former ally by using Islamist or military factions in yet another assault on Tayyip Erdogan. Over the course of the latest attempt in 2016, Ankara managed to collect enough evidence to prove that all of its allegations against FETO were true.
It’s been noted that FETO is “a new generation terror group” which, besides being a threat to Turkey, is a danger to international peace and security, according to a Turkish Police Academy report. The report included information about the organization’s history, basic characteristics and objectives and its links with the media and education sector as well as its structure in Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
There’s a reason why Washington chose Afghanistan to host FETO’s headquarters in Central Asia as this country remains occupied by US troops, creating a precondition for the power void that characterizes the current situation in this country. This decision was taken as early as 2008, as was revealed by the arrested members of FETO who failed to escape prosecution by Turkish security agencies in the aftermath of 2016 coup d’etat attempt. According to their testimonies, Fethullah Gulen tried to arrange the infiltration of local police and military bodies in a number of Central Asian states in a bid to exert direct influence on the development of the situation in these respective countries.
Throughout this time, FETO would enjoy full support of NATO-affiliated entities and US diplomatic missions. To advance its agenda, NATO decided that Afghanistan’s national police should be formed from Gulen’s former pupils who were admitted to Turkish police academies through a bilateral student exchange program back in 2011. To achieve this goal, for a long time FETO would recruit Afghan, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz students from the Mazār-i-Sharif and Shibargan regions of Afghanistan. These students are now promoting Washington’s interests from within the law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.
However, it turned out that the coup d’etat attempt of 2016 wasn’t the worst period in US-Turkey relations, as on the next year Ankara arrested a liaison for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Metin Topuz who coordinated the steps of anti-government conspirators with the control center in Pennsylvania, where all of the planning of Erdogan’s attempted toppling was done. It turned out that Topuz had close ties with a number of high-profile Turkish police officers, who would be accused of plotting against the government after his arrest.
The current anti-American position of the sitting Turkish government has recently become even more extreme as American think tanks began advancing the notion of a new Turkish state that must replace the existing one. They’ve even come up with a name for this entity, they call it the Anatolian Republic.
Under these circumstances, it’s clear that there can’t be any significant improvement in the bilateral ties between Turkey and the US, as long as Washington keeps hiding Fethullah Gulen from prosecution in Turkey. Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that according to opinion polls, most Turks believe that Washington represents the greatest threat to the security of their state.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”