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19.01.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Operation “Gladio” as a new form of confrontation between F. Gülen and R. Erdogan

Over the past 20 years of the new century, for various reasons, relations within the NATO alliance have undergone certain transformations. It should be acknowledged that after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR, for some time the threat of nuclear confrontation between the leading powers was lessened. However, this state of global détente did not bring stability to the world, and this was due not only to persistent local conflicts with the involvement of major world players. First and foremost, it was owing to the US policy of expanding the NATO military bloc in relation to the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe in the 1990s, and the continuation of this strategy in relation to the countries of the post-Soviet space in the 2000s (in particular, the Baltic states), and subsequently in relation to Ukraine, Georgia and further to the East.

A similar trend in US policy has led to the formation of a de facto club hierarchy of NATO members in terms of their importance. In particular, the leading position in the North Atlantic Alliance is occupied by two Anglo-Saxon powers – the US and the UK, followed by the countries of continental Europe with a key role assigned to France, then by Turkey in the Middle East, and by the countries of the former socialist bloc led by Poland. In NATO, both before and now, due to objective historical, political and economic reasons, internal contradictions persist, where the complex nature of relations between Turkey and Greece stands out in particular.

Naturally, the United States, which retains a leading role in NATO and continues the course of world hegemony, is interested in and implements a policy of strict control of the political regimes in NATO countries in order to exclude from power undesirable forces that can challenge Washington’s monopoly. During the years of the Cold War, the main focus of the United States was directed against left-wing forces and pro-communist movements, discrediting and ousting communists from the ruling circles of NATO member states. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this area of US special activity was readjusted to counter those forces in NATO states that were aimed at a foreign policy course independent of Washington (primarily, a strategy of partnership with Russia or China).

In this regard, a fairly clear example is the rejection of the Bulgarian government in the 2000s to implement a mutually beneficial Russian energy project for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline. Sofia was forced under pressure from Washington, London and Brussels to abandon this cooperation with Russia.

Turkey, being an important country in the Middle East and maintaining its membership in NATO, has begun to pursue a more nationally oriented foreign policy since the early 2000s under the rule of Recep Erdogan. In particular, by developing mutually beneficial relations of regional partnership with Russia and no less promising economic cooperation with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, and by considering the ambitious strategy of neo-Ottomanism and neo-Pan-Turkism in order to change the status of the country from a regional state in favor of a power with the prospect of joining the club of leading world actors. This independence of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is increasingly being met with a negative attitude from the US, regardless of the ruling administration, be it the Democrats or the Republicans.

America, as in the years of the Cold War, is interested in maintaining allied relations with Turkey as a controlled and ruled country. First of all, using its favorable geographical position and its leaning towards the Turkic world against Russia, Iran and China, and forming some kind of “Turkic arc” as a dividing strategic corridor between Russia, on the one hand, and Iran and China, on the other. However, the United States (as well as the UK) is not interested in Turkey’s excessive independence, which can turn it into one of the world’s main centers based on the newly formed Turkic countries of the post-Soviet space.

At the same time, Turkey has been waiting for the patronage of the United States for quite a long time on the way to European integration. Since the signing of the Ankara Agreement with the European Economic Community (the predecessor of the EU) in 1963, Turkey has been standing at the door of the European home for almost 60 years, according to R. Erdogan. Despite the reforms of national legislation carried out by Ankara at the request of Brussels, Turkey has remained outside the EU threshold. All this led to the fact that, without officially abandoning the idea of European integration, on October 1, 2017, at the opening of the parliamentary session of the Grand National Assembly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared: “We no longer need membership in the European Union… We will continue to go our own way.”

Of course, such a statement by Erdogan can be considered to be another political declaration pursuing the practical interests of changing the attitude of Brussels and Washington towards Turkey’s role in European affairs. However, the Turkish leader began to sharply criticize the policies of several EU countries for their patronage of Kurdish separatists, insufficient economic attention to the Turkish market (especially in light of the growth of spontaneous migration from Afghanistan, Syria and several other countries of the Arab East) and, despite the protestations of the United States, made a deal with Russia on the acquisition of its S-400 air defense systems.

Turkey, using the European interest in alternative sources of gas bypassing Russia, since the early 2000s, implemented several important projects for the construction of trans-Anatolian and trans-Adriatic pipelines through its own territory. And interacting quite efficiently with Russia, Turkey supplemented the Blue Stream gas pipeline along the bottom of the Black Sea with the TurkStream gas pipeline. Turkey’s participation in the Syrian crisis, along with the task of localizing the Kurdish threat on its southern borders, has the goal of pursuing an interest in the export of Qatari gas. In other words, the pragmatic and independent energy policy of Recep Erdogan’s administration allowed Turkey to become a powerful factor in the way of gas supplies from Russia, Azerbaijan, the Middle East, the countries of the Mediterranean basin, and in the future possibly Central Asia to Europe. Taking into account the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the EU sanctions imposed on Russia at the behest of the United States, Turkey is increasing its influence on the energy security of continental Europe.

That is why President Erdogan, in his New Year’s address to the nation, declared that Ankara’s main goal in 2023 – the year of the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic – was the transformation of Turkey into one of the world leaders in the political and economic spheres. At the same time, Turkey intends to become a hub of energy supplies to Europe.

Such a policy of Erdogan was met with outward irritation in the US. It is no coincidence that Erdogan accused his political opponent Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, and, indirectly, the US secret services (including for Washington’s refusal to extradite the above-mentioned religious and political figure to Turkey) of the attempted military coup in July 2016. The forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey in June 2023 will once again accentuate the confrontation between the authorities and the opposition, which does not exclude external interference from the forces interested in overthrowing the Erdogan regime.

The founder and leader of the Sufi political movement Hizmet, F. Gülen actually stands for moderate Islam and the preservation of secular power in Turkey with a strict focus on the United States. Gülen, thanks to his talent as a preacher and his organizational qualities, with strong external support, actually created one of the largest Turkish multi-layer echeloned organizations (including with units of its own intelligence and counterintelligence) with secret branches of Sufi structures both in Turkey and in almost all Turkic countries and states with Turkic populations. Despite Erdogan’s tough fight against Hizmet using the state mechanism of suppression (law enforcement and special services), it can hardly be argued that Gülen’s followers are completely deprived of the opportunity to carry out subversive actions against the ruling regime of AKP and its leader.

In 1990, with the revelations of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, the world learned about a secret operation codenamed Gladio (Short Sword), carried out with the leading participation of US clandestine agencies in NATO countries against the coming to power of pro-communist forces. At the same time, the Italian judge Felice Casson proved that the main perpetrator of the well-known terrorist attack in Peteano in 1972 (the explosion of a car) was a member of the neo-fascist organization Gladio, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, and not activists of the extreme left group “Red Brigades.” This is how they revealed the complicity of Italian secret services in the carrying out of a terrorist attack by a certain “covert army” under the control of NATO with a network in Europe.

The name “Gladio” was used in relation to operations in Italy, in all other countries of Europe and Turkey, similar operations had different names, but came from the same center. In 1990, the European Parliament adopted a special resolution on Gladio, which noted the complicity of secret service officers of several states in carrying out terrorist attacks in European countries, allegedly without the knowledge of their leadership. It is obvious that the political crisis in European countries (Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, etc.) after the revelations of the Italian Prime Minister and the judicial investigation was so large scaled that the European Parliament was forced to adopt such a “spineless resolution.” Secret service professionals, regardless of their index, are quite aware that if there are any “rebels” in the ranks of their employees, then their life, as a rule, is short. Operations of the Gladio type require a high degree of conspiracy, planning and organization, which cannot be achieved without clearance from the secret service leadership and the political leadership.

In turn, the former director of the CIA, William Colby acknowledged operation Gladio as “an extremely important program.” This means that the United States tightly controls the politics and ruling regimes in allied countries in order to exclude an internal split in NATO and threats to American strategy on the world stage. In relation to Turkey, the well-known “counter-guerrilla” operations in the second half of the 20th century were mainly carried out with the participation of radical forces under the control of local and American secret service agencies against left-wing pro-communist forces (politicians and journalists) and Kurdish resistance (threats of domestic ethnic separatism).

Given the presence in Turkey of a huge army of Gülen supporters (according to some sources, from 3 to 6 million people), including secret sympathizers in the government and the administration, which was not without the participation of the CIA (according to revelations by Sibel Edmonds, an employee fired from the FBI), we can assume another threat of a struggle between Erdogan and Gülen in June 2023.

It is known that after Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Islamic Refah party, became Prime Minister in 1997, F. Gülen offered him some kind of cooperation. Erbakan’s rejection of the Hizmet leader’s proposal largely predetermined his resignation and the dissolution of the Refah bloc, on whose ruins the Justice and Development Party (AKP), headed by R. Erdogan, emerged. Many experts rightly believe that the ascent of the former mayor of Istanbul R. Erdogan to the heights of power in Turkey was not least associated with his cooperation with F. Gülen.

In this regard, based on the Azerbaijani pro-government website, Sibel Edmonds in her revelations in 2014 noted: “Gülen is just a symbol. After 1997, the CIA got hold of him … The CIA took him to the United States and “by chance” stationed him in a citadel near its headquarters in Pennsylvania. He has lived in the US for 15 years and controls a network worth $25 billion. This was the “Gladio A” plan… Schools, mosques and madrasahs opened by Gülen together with the CIA outside the United States were closed one after another, since the countries in which these institutions were located considered the Gülen ideology dangerous for their own national interests. F. Gülen’s network was used in operations jointly with the CIA… But the Gülen-CIA alliance, not satisfied with this, created a large media network in Turkey, and Gülen’s movement strengthened its position in the police, justice and defense sectors. And this “power” network, i.e. the CIA along with the Gülen movement, unexpectedly discovered Erdogan and propelled him to power… With the consolidation of Erdogan’s power and the growth of his popularity, his faith in himself increased. He began to believe that he could no longer bow his head to the imam and obey him, but build his own power.”

However, the main reason for the divergence between Erdogan and Gülen is not the cult of personality and not just the independent course of the Turkish leader. It is the strategic partnership between Turkey and Russia which implies maintaining stability in Eurasia and stands against the redrawing of the “Greater Middle East” political map according to the American “Peters map” model.

In the context of sanctions of the collective West against Russia due to the Ukraine crisis and Moscow’s policy of strengthening its sovereignty, the Russian-Turkish strategic partnership under Erdogan’s rule may acquire new contours in energy policy to control the export of world gas to the European market. Accordingly, the stakes in this “Great Game” with the participation of R. Erdogan and V. Putin are taking on new meaning and threaten the strategy of US global hegemony. That is why the possibility that CIA repeats its clandestine operation “Gladio B” against the independent Erdogan cannot be ruled out in the foreseeable future.

Assuming the possibility of such an operation to physically eliminate an undesirable candidate, the organizers of the operation, in search of cover, can, of course, use the Kurdish flag (armed suppression of the Kurdish movement in Turkey and militant resistance in Syria, repression against the leaders of the main Kurdish organizations – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party of Abdullah Ocalan and the Peoples’ Democratic Party of Selahattin Demirtas, as well as the prominent human rights activist Osman Kavala). However, the Kurdish theme in the domestic political struggle for power in Turkey is unlikely to be appropriate, since in this case Turkish society will not accept a new leader.

Obviously, the use of a retired military man who unreasonably suffered from the repressions by R. Erdogan and acts under the banner of conservative Kemalism would be the best option for the performer of “Gladio B” on the eve of, during or after the 2023 presidential election. It should not be hard to find such a candidate in the CIA’s filing cabinet. And “Gladio B” could be carried out”:

a) on the eve of the election in case of the imminent defeat of all opposition candidates running against the incumbent president;


b) during the second round of voting in order to block the use of administrative resources in favor of R. Erdogan;


c) under conditions of widespread political destabilization with the cancellation of election and the declaration of a state of emergency in the country under the guise of fighting the Kurds or aggravating the situation on the border with Syria or Greece;


d) after announcing election results in favor of the leader of the AKP on the eve or on the day of inauguration of the president.

Naturally, all the options noted remain the opinion of one author and one must bear in mind that happenstance can change any forecast. On our part, we wish peace and stability to the people of Turkey in order to independently choose their leader and determine the subsequent course of their country.

Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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