OPINION - Would US extradite members of FETO terrorist organization?

OPINION - Would US extradite members of FETO terrorist organization?

The one issue that FETO members seem to be worried about is Ankara’s growing diplomatic, intelligence, and military power

By Dr. Adam McConnel

- The author teaches Turkish history at Sabanci University in Istanbul. He holds an MA and Ph.D. in history from the same university.

ISTANBUL (AA) – Currently, no sign exists that the administration of President Joe Biden or the US government would be willing to even consider initiating an extradition case against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization’s leader, Fetullah Gulen, or any of the dozens of other FETO fugitives present in the US. Over seven years and three different administrations, two Democratic and one Republican, not a single step has been taken towards such an end. In the recent diplomatic interchanges between Ankara and Washington, Gulen did not come up as a subject, other than in the warnings from Turkish officials to treat FETO as a terrorist organization – warnings that have been repeated to American officials at regular intervals over the past seven years with no visible effect.

Added to this situation is the attitude in Congress, where strong anti-Ankara sentiment exists. As long as New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, progress seems unlikely. Menendez’s anti-Turkish stance clearly stems not only from his constituency but also from his prejudices. For that reason, Türkiye will have to essentially bow to whatever foreign policy preferences Menendez wants Ankara to pursue in order for him to vote “yea” rather than “nay” on several key policy matters related to Turkish-US relations. That is also a completely unrealistic expectation, so everyone has to wait until the November 2024 US elections to see who will occupy the White House and whether Menendez will once again head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [1] If the US political scene changes after those elections, maybe different decisions in regard to Turkish-US relations will then be possible from the White House and/or Congress.

But this reality is what makes the situation so disturbing. Why is the US government so determined to protect Gulen? The lack of a clear answer to this question is what forces the vast majority of Turkish citizens to assume that Gulen is a CIA asset or has some similar importance to US policy aims in Türkiye’s region. Similarly, a steadily increasing majority of Turkish citizens see US policy in Türkiye’s region as inimical to Ankara’s interests.

- Would EU’s new decision be affective?

Because identifying solid political results from the recent intense diplomatic activity between Türkiye and various Western governments is difficult, identifying some sort of change in Washington’s or Brussels’s attitude towards FETO is similarly difficult. Swedish and other NATO officials are finally more willing to enunciate “PKK” while speaking to the press and to append the term “terrorist” to the PKK, but “FETO” is essentially never heard from them.

FETO remains active in many EU societies, its members still operate freely there, and its anti-Türkiye social media activities continue unabated. The one issue that FETO members seem to be worried about is Ankara’s growing diplomatic, intelligence, and military power. They understand that in the mid- to long-term, Türkiye will gain greater ability to bring FETO members to justice, no matter where they are.

Conversely, the West’s continued refusal to regard FETO as a serious terrorist threat makes Turkish officials more determined to continue the international effort to thwart that violent cult’s ambitions. This is a long-term issue that will not lose importance for Ankara, and it is up to Western governments to understand that.

- FETO activities to be narrowed outside of Türkiye

FETO is not yet at a dead end simply because most EU governments and Washington have not taken the necessary steps to crack down on that terrorist organization. In Turkish society, FETO will never regain any sort of legitimacy, even if the cult’s remnants continue to hide and try to win new members. For the vast majority of Turkish citizens, FETO members are traitorous murderers and will never be anything else. Unfortunately, a segment of Turkish society, for political reasons, does not see the cult as a threat or even quietly sympathizes with them; this will remain a domestic political issue in the years to come. [2] The cult’s most powerful members are also apparently planning for its continuation after Fetullah Gulen’s impending death. [3]

Outside of Türkiye, FETO’s activities will continue to be narrowed by the increasing capabilities of the Turkish state, but FETO’s fundraising and operating capacity in many societies continues nearly unhindered. In the US, for example, FETO still maintains a large network of charter schools and other types of educational institutions, reportedly nearly 600 in total, [4] from which they glean funds and recruits. Türkiye’s relationship with the West will remain interest-based, and will continue to broaden and deepen, and as it does, Western awareness of why FETO is a terrorist organization will also grow. Concurrently, Turkish officials and Turkish citizens will continue to patiently explain to their Western interlocutors why FETO poses a threat to their societies as well.

[1] Menendez is once again under investigation for corruption, but he was acquitted of similar charges previously: A Senator’s New Wife and Her Old Friends Draw Prosecutors’ Attention - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[2] https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/nedim-sener/fetonun-ihanetini-unutmak-unutturmak-yok-42299852?utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=post

[3] https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/nedim-sener/moz-grubu-feto-elebasinin-yegenlerini-ihbar-ediyor-gulen-abdyi-terk-etmeye-hazirlaniyor-42310814

[4] FETO’nun ABD’deki okullari en buyuk finans kaynaklari arasinda - Son Dakika Haberleri (trthaber.com)

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.

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