Turkey, America, Fethullah Gulen, and the Incirlik air base

Although the present situation seems to have commenced less than 24 hours ago, I think it significant that nothing drastic has happened as yet; if the Turks were up to serious mischief, they wouldn’t have waited this long to make a move against the base itself, and if another “coup” is brewing, it has yet to show itself.

Going by several different sources, (some links below), “the move is a surprising action taken against an important U.S. strategic asset.” Turkey cut power to the base for almost a week after the recent coup attempt, requiring internal power generation. This will have been deeply worrying to the U.S. military, and Dr. Michael Rubin, a middle east expert at the American Enterprise Institute, is quoted by the Daily Caller as saying that “the Turkish government’s actions were akin to taking Incirlik airbase hostage” (1).

It has been suggested, very credibly it would seem, that “Turkey could condition future US access to the base on the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, Erdoğan’s long-time nemesis” (2). The two are arch-enemies, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Fethullah Gulen of organising the coup from the U.S. and is demanding his immediate extradition (3).

Erdoğan seems irrational and enraged, and if he does indeed decide to hold Incirlik and it’s U.S. personnel and nuclear weapons hostage, the consequences could be severe indeed.

Gulen, for his part, has accused Erdoğan of mounting the coup himself in order to consolidate his power over the military, which has taken control of Turkey several times to maintain secular power since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the Great War.

Additionally, Gulen has attracted serious attention in the United States with his massive network of “Turkish schools”, largely built using public funds, as recorded by the New York Times in 2011 (4). In commenting on that at the time, I had this to say:

“For a decade or more a world-wide Muslim sect known as Fethullah Gulen has been building a small empire in the United States by constructing and operating publicly-financed Charter Schools, or ‘Turkish schools’ as they have come to be known. There are now some 120 ‘Turkish schools’ in the U.S… The construction work is overwhelmingly given to Turkish-owned companies set up for that purpose regardless of open bidding, and thousands of Turkish nationals have been hired to work as teachers and at other jobs, often through the use of “H-1B” visas. Catering companies and a plethora of other suppliers are also overwhelmingly Turkish-staffed and owned… While we are told that the Fethullah Gulen sect is ‘moderate’, the fact is that a small number of Turkish professionals and businessmen have gone to the trouble of creating a multi-million dollar web of schools, construction industries and supply companies in just a few years. Why?… Is the ultimate purpose simply entrepreneurial, or is the machinery being set in place for something a lot more sinister and potentially dangerous to the traditional American way of life?”

Maybe it’s just as well for the U.S. that Fethullah Gulen and Erdoğan now hate each other…

Let’s see what happens next…

Jeff Goodall.

(1) – Read “US Base In Turkey On Lockdown, As Rumors Of Another Coup Swirl” (July 30th) here.

(2) – Read “More protests at Incirlik as US-Turkey tensions ratchet up” (July 29th) here.

(3) – Read “Alleged mastermind of attempted coup in Turkey is cleric living in Pennsylvania” here.

(4) – Read “Charter schools tied to Turkey grow in Texas” (June 6th, 2011) here.

See also “Turkey demands Germany extradite Gulen followers” (July 28th) here.