Turkish government agencies are competing with each other to most ardently accuse Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of sowing chaos throughout Turkey’s infrastructure. The latest salvo in the contest comes from the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), which released a report this week claiming Gulen has forged ties with “intelligence agencies” that include the CIA.
Fethullah Gulen is the head of the Hizmet Islamic movement and runs a network of charter schools internationally, including dozens in the United States. Gulen resides in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen of orchestrating the failed coup against Erdogan in July 2016.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Tuesday that the MIT published a new report concluding that “the spying techniques used by Gülenists in collecting intelligence through illegal wiretapping and other secret means suggest they were operating with the cooperation of multiple secret services under strong foreign support.” Hurriyet notes that the MIT failed to positively identify any specific agencies that are conspiring with Gulen’s Hizmet movement (or, as Turkey calls it, the Fethullah Terrorist Organization – FETO), but insinuates that the CIA and Israeli officials are among the conspirators. The newspaper also mentions “Germany, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and some other European countries” as prime suspects, most on the same list of countries Erdogan condemned for not allowing rallies supporting him during this year’s national referendum on establishing a presidential system.
The report uses the fact that that former CIA officials Graham Fuller and George Fides “provided references to the self-exiled Islamic scholar” in their books as a sign that the CIA supports Gulen. It also reportedly mentions Gulen’s support for Israel during the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident as a sign that the government of Israel supports Gulen, despite the lack of concrete ties between Gulen’s movement and Israel.
The MIT report follows the publication of a parliamentary investigation into FETO that describes the MIT as “incompetent” in the face of an alleged national Gulen conspiracy to use force to remove Erdogan from power. The state-run Anadolu Agency reported last week that the parliamentary committee working on the investigation has 15 days to submit the full report, but revealed that it has so far found that FETO was definitively behind the coup. The report demands a deeper probe into “why the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) was incompetent and lacked prior information about any coup attempt in Turkey’s history of democracy” as well as calling for a “restructuring of the MIT.”
Resat Petek, the member of Parliament leading the inquiry, told reporters that the government must have “no space for hesitation” in acting against suspected Gulenists and preventing further “intelligence flaws.”
The Turkish government has arrested, fired, or detained over 100,000 people accused of having ties to Gulen’s followers, among them over 4,000 judges and prosecutors. Ankara recently announced it had concluded its purge within the judiciary, with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag asserting, “At this moment, there is no judge or prosecutor left that we have not screened.”
Despite the recent referendum victory that will soon greatly expand his power, Erdogan – recently back in Turkey following a largely unproductive meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington – accused his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) of “fatigue.” “There is a metal fatigue that we need to avoid. We have to get ready for the 2019 elections with more dynamic and hardworking teams,” he told party members in remarks Tuesday, the first since regaining his position as the head of the AKP.
Erdogan demanded Trump extradite Gulen to Turkey during his visit with Trump. The American president responded by demanding on multiple occasions that Erdogan release Pastor Andrew Brunson, a Christian arrested in Turkey for allegedly being a member of FETO. The Turkish government has never clarified how it believes Brunson, as a Christian clergyman, could also adhere to Gulen’s version of Islam.
Turkey recently invalidated Gulen’s passport, claiming him to be a terrorist threat. Gulen, in turn, has repeatedly condemned Erdogan as a would-be dictator that threatens to erode decades of institutional stability in the country. During Erdogan’s visit to Washington, the cleric published a column in the Washington Post accusing Erdogan of “doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent.” Gulen once again denies any involvement with the coup.