Politico reports: Is President Barack Obama willing to damage America’s relationship with a critical NATO ally over the fate of an elderly Muslim man living in the Poconos?
Turkey is trying to find out.
Turkish leaders, already busy purging their own institutions of alleged enemies, are intensifying pressure on the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim spiritual leader Turkey blames for the recent attempted coup there. In op-eds, briefings and interviews with Western media, Turkish leaders are comparing the putsch to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying their desire to bring Gulen to justice is similar to America’s demand that Afghanistan hand over Osama bin Laden.
But while U.S. agency spokesmen are trying to be cautious in what they say, skepticism about Turkey’s claims that Gulen directed the plot are widespread in Washington. Last week, in comments that likely burned a few ears in Ankara, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told The Washington Post that he did not believe Turkey had yet offered enough proof to implicate Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for years.
At this stage, “the rhetoric has been ratcheted so high it’s almost impossible to find a suitable compromise,” said Joshua Walker, a former State Department official now with the German Marshall Fund. “Turkey is too strategically important to lose over Gulen … However, at the same time, the U.S. can’t be seen to be short-circuiting its own legal and due process.” [Continue reading…]