US and Europe need to ‘cleanse’ their own Gülenist structures

US and Europe need to ‘cleanse’ their own Gülenist structures

Anti-Americanism and Western skepticism are common phenomena among Turks. It is not limited to certain segments of the society. One would be surprised to see the intensity of anti-Americanısm and Euroskepticism among the educated elites, even the Western educated ones.

When it comes to Turkish diplomats, they have their share of suspicion against the West; some more, some less.

Spending a couple of days in Ankara last week, I was surprised by the level of anger and frustration felt against first Americans and then Europeans, even among those I have known to have the most rational views on the West. 

Some are convinced that part of the U.S.’ deep establishment or some extensions or instruments of it were behind the failed coup. And those who are more distanced from the views on the U.S.’ “role” in the coup are shocked and angry because of the reaction shown by the U.S. administration to both the coup attempt and Turkey’s accusations against Fethullah Gülen, who is residing in America. 

If the Americans and Europeans who were given dossiers by the Turkish government on Gülen were to reply, “Due to our differences in our democratic culture and approach to fundamental liberties, the evidence that you provided does not make a legally convincing case,” that would have been one thing.

But it was this initial reaction that reflected not skepticism but genuine disbelief (that Gülen was responsible) that angers the Turkish side. Their underestimation of the threat to that Turkish democracy survived adds to that anger. 

The initial reaction of the West should have been one that reflected the solidarity and empathy of an ally. It should have been along the lines of:

1) We are in full solidarity with the Turkish government which has survived a bloody coup attempt.

2) We are ready to provide any support to the Turkish government to help it get through this terrible ordeal.

And only after voicing these two points, an additional two points should have come after:

1)      We will deliver on anything you want, staying within the limits of rule of law.

2)      In anything you do, don’t distance yourself from the rule of law and the fundamental principles of human rights.

Far from that, what we have seen was a lack of empathy and solidarity. Why is that? There are several factors one can think of.

One is the (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan factor. We now know for sure that he is disliked by the West. 

Another factor is the lack of visionary leadership in the West. The NATO alliance’s former leadership would have not let their personal dislike impair their vision on Turkey. Poor leadership has been detrimental at home as well, as we have seen in Brexit or Donald Trump’s candidacy in the U.S. presidential race.

An additional factor is the web of networks the Gülenists have forged in Western capitals. It is no secret that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments made ample use of this network, until its alliance with the Gülenists broke. 

The Gülenist propaganda machine has worked so well, especially in Europe, that when we tried for instance to talk about the question marks on the legal cases against the military, our views fell on deaf ears in the European capitals. 

The Gülenists, like Gladio, are a remnant of the Cold War, Prof. Güven Sak told me in Ankara, alluding to the U.S. containment strategy against communists by having a green belt along the arc of Islam.

Just as the Gülen movement was on the payroll of some foreign “elements,” I have no doubt that it has grown so strong and capable that some “foreign elements” have also come onto its payroll too. 

It is therefore high time for the West, the United States as well as the European capitals, to get their act together, to cleanse, discredit, distance, severe its links to pro-Gülen elements within its own domestic official or unofficial quarters. They need to reset their approach to this whole ordeal. That does not mean the U.S. should extradite Gülen without asking for evidence or that European capitals should remain silent to human rights violations during the purge against Gülenists. But they need to gain Turkey’s trust by making sure that they are standing next to it in its fight against Gülenists.

And they have to set aside their dislike of Erdoğan. Turkey is not just Erdoğan and Turkey’s role in regional issues is so important that they cannot afford to have a continuous crisis fueled by distrust.