The Turkish Factor in the US Presidential Campaign and Trump Foreign Policy
Not everyone may remember that on Aug. 24, at one of the many turbulent moments of the US presidential campaign, Donald Trump claimed in two consecutive tweets that he had obtained evidence to prove that 13 high-ranking CIA officers had helped Turkey’s “Failed Coup” and that Obama’s “failed leadership” caused this “stupid mistake” which put US interests in the Middle East at risk.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources single this quote out as the first intimation of the Turkish factor’s central role in the presidential campaign and its importance to Trump’s future plans for the Middle East.
In the first instance, the exiled Turkish politician Muhammed Fethullah Gulen was the key.
Born in 1941, this Turkish preacher, former imam and political figure, founded a movement in his name and became the spiritual leader of the larger Alliance of Shared Values movement. From his place of exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Gulen became active in the societal debate on the future of Turkey and Islam in the modern world.
Western media designated him an advocate of a tolerant Islam and one of the world’s most important Muslim figures.
But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused him of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt to oust and kill him, and has never stopped clamoring for Gulen’s extradition from the United States along with his alleged co-conspirators.
Erdogan’s suspicions were shared by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, one of Trumps’ closest strategic advisers,
who served, until a year ago, as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence agency. He saw the Obama administration as counting on the coup replacing Erdogan in Ankara with a “moderate Muslim regime” that would be pro-American.
The coup’s success was intended, as Flynn saw it, to give the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton a major international boost in her bid for the presidency. It would moreover prove that the Obama-Clinton drive to promote moderate Muslim movements’ takeovers from authoritarian Arab regimes in the Middle East, as epitomized in the 2011 Arab Spring, was not a flop, as many in America and the West maintained, especially after Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s government was overthrown in 2014.
Trump’s aides also discovered that thousands of Gulen adherents in the Turkish expatriate community were enlisted to the Clinton campaign.
Russia featured conspicuously in this maelstrom when Obama and Clinton constantly accused Moscow of meddling in the race on behalf of Trump.
One side effect of their allegations was to push Moscow and Ankara into close proximity against their shared adversaries, the Obama administration and the Democratic candidate for president.
That Trump found common cause with this duo led to another unforeseen development: Bashar Assad found himself strengthened in power in Damascus by the new shift in power alliances and his army brought in line for a prominent role in the fight against ISIS.
It should come as no surprise when, after taking office, the Trump administration extradites the exiled Gulen and his senior adherents to Turkey.