Michael Rubin: Trump Team’s First Ethics Scandal

By Michael Rubin On 11/16/16 at 12:10 AM

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

It’s only been a few days, but already it seems Donald Trump’s presumptive foreign policy and national security team could be weathering its first scandal.

I have written about General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and an important Trump adviser, and his sudden about-face on Turkey in both his assessment of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s helpfulness in the war against terror and with regard to exiled Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen. Gülen is a onetime ally of Erdogan’s whose exile and perhaps execution the Turkish president now demands.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director and Donald Trump adviser Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on “Worldwide Threats” on February 4, 2014. Michael Rubin writes that he sees a ethics scandal regarding Flynn and his sudden about-face on Turkey in both his assessment of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s helpfulness in the war against terror and with regard to exiled Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen, whose exile and perhaps execution Erdogan now demands. Gary Cameron/reuters

What raised so many eyebrows was how sharply the op-ed diverged from Flynn’s previous positions and how it appeared to be in complete conformity with the Turkish government’s positions.

Now it appears there is more to the story. From The Daily Caller:

An intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s top military adviser, was recently hired as a lobbyist by an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey’s government and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan….

The piece does not include a disclosure that Flynn Intel Group, the consulting firm that Flynn founded in Oct. 2014, just after leaving DIA, was recently hired to lobby Congress by a Dutch company called Inovo BV that was founded by a Turkish businessman who holds a top position on Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board.

A review of Dutch records shows that the company was founded by Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan’s who is director of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, a non-profit arm of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board.

Members of the Foreign Economic Relations Board are chosen by Turkey’s general assembly and its minister of economy. In the role, Alptekin helped coordinate Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. earlier this year.

Certainly, any sort of disclosure means an ethics omission. This comes on top of Flynn’s attendance at the RT gala in Moscow and his leading chants of “Lock her up” at the Republican National Convention. All should raise broader questions about his judgment.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.

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WHAT İS FETHULLA GÜLEN?, by F. William Engdahl, for NEO Bakalım bunu okuyup, anlayan olacak mı?


by F. William Engdahl, for NEO

Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey of July 15 there has been much speculation in western media that it in fact was all engineered by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to provide him with the pretext to impose emergency rule and to jail any and all opposition to his rule. At this point evidence still suggests that that was not at all the case. Rather, as I wrote at the time when it was clear the coup attempt was collapsing, it was a coup initiated by the CIA acting through their primary asset inside Turkey, the networks of their fugitive Turkish asset Fethullah Gülen. When we examine more closely “what” is Fethullah Gülen he is anything but the grandfatherly image of a 75-year-old soft-spoken Islamic moderate, scholar and Imam. His networks have been called the most dangerous in Germany by Islamic experts and have been banned in several Central Asian countries. Now, too, in Turkey. What’s becoming clear is that the failed coup was in fact a dry-run, a dress rehearsal by Gülen’s controllers in Langley to see how Erdogan would react, in order to recalibrate and prepare for a more serious attempt in the future. Washington was not at all happy with the foreign policy turn of Erdoğan turning to reconcile with Russia and possibly also with Syria’s Assad.

Fethullah Gülen is not a “who” but, rather, it is a “what.” The what is one of the most extensive and elaborate surrogate warfare networks ever created by the United States intelligence community, spanning countless nations including the United States and Germany, as well as the historic Turkic regions of Central Asia from Turkey up to the Uyghur peoples of China’s oil-rich Xinjiang Autonomous Province.

Fethullah Gülen’s Spider Web

The following draws on research for my book, The Lost Hegemon: Whom the gods would destroy. I begin with a quote from a Gülen speech to his followers when he was still in Turkey in the 1990’s:

“You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers…You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it…You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power…in Turkey…Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch.” Imam Fetullah Gülen, in a sermon to followers in Turkey

As they were deploying Osama bin Laden’s Arab Mujahideen “holy warriors” into Chechnya and the Caucasus during the 1990s, the CIA, working with a network of self-styled “neo-conservatives” in Washington, began to build their most ambitious political Islam project ever.

It was called the Fethullah Gülen Movement, also known in Turkish as Cemaat, or “The Society.” Their focus was Hizmet, or what they defined as the “duty of Service” to the Islamic community. Curiously enough, the Turkish movement was based out of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. There, its key figure, the reclusive Fethullah Gülen, was allegedly busy building a global network of Islam schools, businesses, and foundations, all with untraceable funds. His Gülen Movement, or Cemaat, has no main address, no mailbox, no official organizational registration, no central bank account, nothing. His followers never demonstrated for Sharia or Jihad—their operations were all hidden from view.

In 2008, US Government court filings estimated the global value of Gülen’s empire at anywhere between $25 and $50 billion. No one could prove how large as there were no independent audits. In a US Court testimony during the hearing on Gülen’s petition for a special US Green Card permanent residence status, one loyal Cemaat journalist described the nominal extent of Gülen’s empire:

The projects sponsored by Gülen-inspired followers today number in the thousands, span international borders and…include over 2000 schools and seven universities in more than ninety countries in five continents, two modern hospitals, the Zaman newspaper (now in both a Turkish and English edition), a television channel (Samanyolu), a radio channel (Burc FM), CHA (a major Turkish news agency), Aksiyon (a leading weekly news magazine), national and international Gülen conferences, Ramadan interfaith dinners, interfaith dialog trips to Turkey from countries around the globe and the many programs sponsored by the Journalists and Writers Foundation. In addition, the Isik insurance company and Bank Asya, an Islamic bank, are affiliated with the Gülen community.

Bank Asya was listed among the Top 500 Banks in the world by London’s Banker magazine. It had joint-venture banking across Muslim Africa, from Senegal to Mali in a strategic cooperation agreement with the Islamic Development Bank’s Senegal-based Tamweel Africa Holding SA. Zaman, which also owns the English-language Today’s Zaman, is the largest daily paper in Turkey.

By the late 1990s, Gülen’s movement had attracted the alarm and attention of an anti-NATO nationalist wing of the Turkish military and of the Ankara government.

After leading a series of brilliant military campaigns in the 1920s to win the Independence War after World War I, Kemal Ataturk established the modern Turkish state. He launched a series of political, economic, and cultural reforms aimed at transforming the religiously-based Ottoman Caliphate into a modern, secular, and democratic nation-state. He built thousands of new schools, made primary education free and compulsory, and gave women equal civil and political rights, and reduced the burden of taxation on peasants.

Gülen and his movement aim at nothing less than to roll-back the remains of that modern, secular Kemalism in Turkey, and return to the Caliphate of yore. In one of his writings to members, he declared, “With the patience of a spider we lay our net until people get caught in it.”

In 1998, Gülen defected to the US shortly before a treasonous speech he had made to his followers at a private gathering was made public. He had been recorded calling on his supporters to “work patiently and to creep silently into the institutions in order to seize power in the state,” treason by the Ataturk constitution of Turkey.

‘Islamic Opus Dei’

In 1999, Turkish television aired footage of Gülen delivering a sermon to a crowd of followers in which he revealed his aspirations for an Islamist Turkey ruled by Sharia (Islamic law), as well as the specific methods that should be used to attain that goal. In the secret sermon, Gülen said,

You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers…until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this…You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it…You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey…Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch. It would be like killing the chick inside… Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence…trusting your loyalty and secrecy.”

When Gülen fled to Pennsylvania, Turkish prosecutors demanded a ten-year sentence against him for having “founded an organization that sought to destroy the secular apparatus of state and establish a theocratic state.”

Gülen never left the United States after that, curiously enough, even though the Islamist Erdoğan courts later cleared him in 2006 of all charges. His refusal to return, even after being cleared by a then-friendly Erdoğan Islamist AKP government, heightened the conviction among opponents in Turkey about his close CIA ties.

Gülen was charged in 2000 by the then secular Turkish courts of having committed treason. Claiming diabetes as a medical reason, Fethullah Gülen had managed to escape to a permanent exile in the United States, with the help of some very powerful CIA and State Department friends before his indictment was handed down. Some suspected he was forewarned.

CIA Gives Wolf Sheep’s Clothing

Unlike the CIA’s Mujahideen Jihadists, like Hekmatyar in Afghanistan or Naser Orić in Bosnia, the CIA decided to give Fethullah Gülen a radically different image. No blood-curdling, head-severing, human-heart-eating Jihadist, Fethullah Gülen was presented to the world as a man of “peace, love and brotherhood,” even managing to grab a photo op with Pope John Paul II, which Gülen featured prominently on his website.

Gülen and the late Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1998, posing as a man of peace and ecumenical harmony.

Once in the US, the Gülen organization hired one of Washington’s highest-paid Public Relations image experts, George W. Bush’s former campaign director, Karen Hughes, to massage his “moderate” Islam image.

The CIAs Gülen project centered on the creation of a New Ottoman Caliphate, retracing the vast Eurasian domain of the former Ottoman Turkic Caliphates.

When Gülen fled Turkey to avoid prosecution for treason in 1999, he chose the United States. He did so with the help of the CIA. At the time he US Government’s Department of Homeland Security and the US State Department both opposed Gülen’s application for what was called a “preference visa as an alien of extraordinary ability in the field of education.” They presented argument demonstrating that the fifth-grade dropout, Fethullah Gülen, should not be granted a preference visa. They argued that his background,

…contains overwhelming evidence that plaintiff is not an expert in the field of education, is not an educator, and is certainly not one of a small percentage of experts in the field of education who have risen to the very top of that field. Further, the record contains overwhelming evidence that plaintiff is primarily the leader of a large and influential religious and political movement with immense commercial holdings.”

Until an open clash in 2013, Fetullah Gülen (left) was the éminence grise behind Recep Erdoğan’s AK Party; Gülen is widely branded in Turkey as a CIA asset

However, over the objections of the FBI, of the US State Department, and of the US Department of Homeland Security, three former CIA operatives intervened and managed to secure a Green Card and permanent US residency for Gülen. In their court argument opposing the Visa, US State Department attorneys had notably argued, “Because of the large amount of money that Gülen’s movement uses to finance his projects, there are claims that he has secret agreements with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkic governments. There are suspicions that the CIA is a co-payer in financing these projects.”

The three CIA people supporting Gülen’s Green Card application in 2007 were former US Ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, CIA official George Fidas and Graham E. Fuller. George Fidas had worked thirty-one years at the CIA dealing, among other things, with the Balkans. Morton Abramowitz, reportedly also with the CIA, if “informally,” had been named US Ambassador to Turkey in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush. Sibel Edmonds, former FBI Turkish translator and “whistleblower,” named Abramowitz, along with Graham E. Fuller, as part of a dark cabal within the US Government that she discovered were using networks out of Turkey to advance a criminal, “deep state” agenda across the Turkic world, from Istanbul into China. The network reportedly included significant involvement in heroin trafficking out of Afghanistan.

On leaving the State Department, Abramowitz served on the board of the US Congress-financed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and was a cofounder, along with George Soros, of the International Crisis Group. Both the NED and International Crisis Group were implicated in various US “Color Revolutions” since the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union.

Graham E. Fuller, the third CIA “friend” of Fethullah Gülen, had played a key role in the CIA’s steering Mujahideen and other political Islamic organizations since the 1980s. He spent 20 years as CIA operations officer in Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan and was one of the CIA’s early advocates of using the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist organizations to advance US foreign policy.

In 1982, Graham Fuller had been appointed the National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia at CIA, responsible for Afghanistan, where he had served as CIA Station Chief, for Central Asia, and for Turkey. In 1986 Fuller became Vice-Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, with overall responsibility for national level strategic forecasting.

Fuller, author of The Future of Political Islam, was also the key CIA figure to convince the Reagan Administration to tip the balance in the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war by using Israel to illegally channel weapons to Iran in what became the Iran-Contra Affair.

In 1988, as the Afghan Mujahideen war would down, Fuller “retired” from the CIA with rank as Deputy Director of the CIA’s National Council on Intelligence, to go over to the RAND Corporation, presumably to avoid embarrassment around his role in the Iran-Contra scandal for then Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, Fuller’s former boss at CIA.

RAND was a Pentagon- and CIA-linked neoconservative Washington think tank. Indications are that Fuller’s work at RAND was instrumental in developing the CIA strategy for building the Gülen Movement as a geopolitical force to penetrate former Soviet Central Asia. Among his RAND papers, Fuller wrote studies on Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Algeria, the “survivability” of Iraq, and the “New Geopolitics of Central Asia” after the fall of the USSR, where Fethullah Gülen’s cadre were sent to establish Gülen schools and Madrassas.

In 1999, while at RAND, Fuller advocated using Muslim forces to further US interests in Central Asia against both China and Russia. He stated, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Russians. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.” By all evidence, Fuller and his associates intended their man, Fethullah Gülen, to play perhaps the major role, in their operations to “destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”

CIA career man Graham E. Fuller was a key backer of Fetullah Gülen and architect of the CIA Islam strategy since Afghanistan’s Mujahideen.

In 2008, shortly after he wrote a letter of recommendation to the US Government asking to give Gülen the special US residence visa, Fuller wrote a book titled The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World. At the center of the book was praise for Gülen and his “moderate” Islamic Gülen Movement in Turkey:

Gülen’s charismatic personality makes him the number one Islamic figure of Turkey. The Gülen Movement has the largest and most powerful infrastructure and financial resources of any movement in the country… The movement has also become international by virtue of its far-flung system of schools…in more than a dozen countries including the Muslim countries of the former Soviet Union, Russia, France and the United States.

CIA and Gülen in Central Asia

During the 1990s Gülen’s global political Islam Cemaat spread across the Caucasus and into the heart of Central Asia all the way to Xinjiang Province in western China, doing precisely what Fuller had called for in his 1999 statement: …destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”

Gülen’s organization had been active in that destabilizing with help from the CIA almost the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, when the nominally Muslim Central Asian former Soviet republics declared their independence from Moscow. Gülen was named by one former FBI authoritative source as “one of the main CIA operation figures in Central Asia and the Caucasus.”

By the mid-1990s, more than seventy-five Gülen schools had spread to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and even to Dagestan and Tatarstan in Russia amid the chaos of the post-Soviet Yeltsin era. In 2011, Osman Nuri Gündeş, former head of Foreign Intelligence for the Turkish MIT, the “Turkish CIA,” and chief intelligence adviser in the mid-1990s to Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, published a book that was only released in Turkish. Gündeş, then 85 and retired revealed that, during the 1990s, the Gülen schools then growing up across Eurasia were providing a base for hundreds of CIA agents under cover of being “native-speaking English teachers.” According to Gündeş, the Gülen movement “sheltered 130 CIA agents” at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone. More revealing, all the American “English teachers” had been issued US Diplomatic passports, hardly standard fare for normal English teachers.

Today Gülen’s spider web of control via infiltration of the Turkish national police, military and judiciary as well as education is being challenged by Erdogan as never before. It remains to be seen of the CIA will be successful in a second coup attempt. If the model of Brazil is any clue, it will likely come after a series of financial attacks on the Lira and the fragile Turkish economy, something already begun by the rating agency S&P.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer. He holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics.

Gönderen ZEKERİYA TÜMER zaman: 01:52

Turkey’s Intra-Islamist Struggle for Power

by Burak Bekdil

Originally published under the title “Coup Lessons.”

Exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen (left) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, once allies, have turned on each other with a vengeance.

Every piece of evidence emerging after the failed putsch on July 15 indicates that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the victim of a failed Gülenist coup d’état. But to get the picture right we must ask ourselves, perhaps ironically, what the victim and the perpetrator have in common. The answer is many years of staunch alliance and the same ideology: political Islam.

Mr. Erdoğan now accuses the Gülenist movement of “having infiltrated into the state system over the past 40 years.” He must accuse himself first. He was the man who paved the way for the Gülenist infiltration during the years he was in power, from 2002 to 2013, when he broke up with the “terrorist.” In his own words: “Whatever you asked for, we gave it to you.” In short, Mr. Erdoğan was a devoted Gülen ally during 37.5 years of the “terrorist’s” 40-year quest to capture the Turkish state.

What brought them together? What, essentially, do Messrs. Erdoğan and Gülen have in common, ideologically speaking? The desire to Islamize. Did they break up because of deep ideological divergences? No. Over methodology in reaching a common goal? Perhaps. Because of greed for political power? Probably. But not because one of them decided to abandon political Islam.

The failed Gülenist putsch offers lessons that Turkish Islamists will probably never learn: Islam the religion or Islamism the political ideology will never forge a wonder alliance or achieve your end goals just because Islamism the political ideology brings together a small or big bunch of like-minded conservative Muslims sharing an ideology that aims to “conquer” Muslim lands first (by imposing Islamism on secular Muslims) and then “conquer” infidel lands (by imposing Islamism on non-Muslim nations).

Turkey experienced a coup attempt by Islamists disguised as officers against Islamists who are not disguised.

“Conservatism as a glue” and “he is a good fellow who prays five times a day, has his wedding ring on his right hand, has a particular type of moustache” are foolish indicators upon which to forge enduring political alliances. Being conservative Muslims isn’t enough to make a strong bond. If President Erdoğan’s narrative of the July 15 coup attempt is right, what we see here is basically a coup attempt by Islamists disguised as officers against Islamists who are not disguised. In short, an Islamist coup against an Islamist government.

Will the Turkish Islamists in power ever understand that piety or non-piety is not a good basis to establish friends from foes? No. For several years they feared a putsch from their ideological nemesis, the secularists. In a bitter irony, the secular officers helped them suppress the Islamist coup attempt within the army ranks.

The Islamists in power must now purge tens of thousands of Islamist government officials, including senior judges, military and police officers, academics, and their former allies. They must close down thousands of Islamist schools, NGOs, and foundations and engage in a witch-hunt in a country ruled under a state of emergency; Islamists running after Islamists. Funny, more women with the Islamic headscarf are now being arrested than under the oppressive secularist regime of the late 1990s.

Sadly, the Erdoğanist-Gülenist (political) amorous affair produced millions of pages of (political) love letters (just Google it and see material as recent as even 2013) but ended up in the courtroom after domestic violence. Now there will be new Islamist-to-Islamist alliances, with new sects competing to emerge, just because the pious can only trust the pious. And then the headlines on another dreadful day will be bad déjà vu.

A minor note to my former “sparring partner,” column neighbor Mustafa Akyol, who wrote that “the government is trying to wipe out a cult that has secretly infiltrated the state, in order to impose its own agenda by using every dirty method against its enemies.” That is wrong. The government is trying to wipe out a cult that has not-so-secretly infiltrated the state as its best ally in order to advance a common ideological goal, and by using every dirty method against their then-common enemies.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Is Fethullah Gülen behind Turkey’s coup? (with update)/ PULAT TACAR

Dani Rodrik

Unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization

July 23, 2016

Is Fethullah Gülen behind Turkey’s coup? (with update)

If what Erdogan said on TV today is correct, there is no longer much doubt about the answer to this question. According to Erdogan, the officers who detained the chief of general staff, Hulusi Akar, on July 15 offered to put Akar in contact with Gulen. As of this writing, Akar has not made any statements confirming this. (See update on this at the end of this entry.) But if he does, it will be manifest that responsibility for the coup attempt reaches all the way to Pennsylvania. It will be very difficult for the U.S not to extradite Gulen, subject, of course, to (some huge) fair trial concerns back in Turkey.

What evidence, other than Erdogan’s word, is there that Gulen is behind the coup attempt?

Years ago when my wife Pinar Dogan and I first began to investigate the bogus documents in the Sledgehammer case, we were stuck by how quick many observers were at assigning blame: “it’s the Gulenists’ work of course,” they would say, “this is the kind of thing they do.” We did not know much about the Gulen movement at the time. So we hesitated, and in our early writings we listed Gulenist involvement as only one of the possibilities.

Over time, we learned a lot. The evidence that Gulenists were heavily involved in – and quite likely stage managed – Sledgehammer and many other similar sham trials accumulated. By now it should be clear to any objective observer that the Gulen movement goes much beyond the schools, charities, and inter-faith activities with which it presents itself to the world: it also has a dark underbelly engaged in covert activities such as evidence fabrication, wiretapping, disinformation, blackmail, and judicial manipulation.

In late 2013 the fight between Erdogan and the Gulen movement became public. Ever since, the AKP has purged suspected Gulenists from many state institutions and closed down their largest media and business operations. There was one state institution which had remained immune from these purges: the army. Perhaps because the top brass were reluctant to relive a trauma similar to the Ergenekon-Sledgehammer, none of the suspected Gulenists in the military had been touched.

But that was about to change. In the run-up to the July 15 coup attempt, a few officers were detained for allegedly fabricating evidence in the infamous Izmir espionage case. There were indications that a much larger sweep was being readied. And rumors were flying that in August’s Supreme Military Council meeting a large number of Gulenists would be finally be discharged.

Traditionally, Turkish coups are produced by Kemalist secularists. But hardline secularists have lost their control of the military thanks to the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials during 2008-2011, which led to their imprisonment and discharge. Their ranks had been filled by officers more pliant to Erdogan (and, in all likelihood, to Gulen himself). An analysis by Hurriyet’s Sedat Ergin found that a disproportionate number of the new appointees were involved in the July 15 coup attempt.

It is possible that many remaining Kemalist officers below the very top ranks still harbored considerable animosity towards Erdogan. But another consequence of Ergenekon and Sledgehammer was that these trials shattered any sense of secularist solidarity and esprit de corps in the military. They sowed fear and suspicion among the ranks: you couldn’t tell who was informing on whom and had to watch your back. I find it inconceivable that a cabal of Kemalists would have been foolhardy enough to get together to plan a coup, and even if they did, that they would not have been found out by Gulenists hiding among them.

And in any case, there was no reason for Kemalists to act now or to rush into what was clearly an ill-planned coup. The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer verdicts had been reversed and Erdogan had long distanced himself from these trials, explicitly acknowledging they were plots against the military. Erdogan was also reversing many of his foreign policy actions that must have grated on the military: he had just reconciled with Russia and Israel and was pulling back on Syrian adventurism. Before the coup, there was not the slightest hint of tension between the government and the military establishment.

For its part, the Gulen movement has a long history, going back to the 1980s, of trying to place its sympathizers in the military ranks. And while the high command systematically tried to purge them, it is quite likely that the Gulenists were able to outwit them. To evade suspicion, Gulen is said to have instructed his sympathizers to go to great lengths, including not letting their wives wear the headscarf – a telltale sign of religiosity in Turkey – and even to drink alcohol. The steady stream of document leaks that enabled the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, as well as the mysterious way in which investigations of these leaks have been blocked, also suggests the presence of a large number of Gulenists in the military.

All of this points to the Gulen movement as the immediate culprit behind the coup attempt. Gulenists had both the capability and the motive to launch the coup. The timing – just after military officers began to be detained and before a major sweep – also supports this theory. Many have suggested that the Gulenists decided to move early and quickly because they learned that the impending sweep had been moved forward. This is plausible, and also helps explain why the coup attempt seemed rushed and poorly planned. Under this theory, the botched coup was a last-gasp, desperate attempt to reclaim their one final remaining institutional bastion and ensure their survival in Turkey.

My best guess is that the coup was planned and organized by Gulenists but that they were joined by quite a few others as well. The joiners may have had diverse motives: personal ambition, hatred of Erdogan, or simply the belief that they were obeying orders from the higher-ups.

One of the curious aspects of the coup attempt is that it had no public face or apparent leader. I know of no coup attempt, in Turkey or elsewhere, successful or otherwise, where a clear leader was not obvious or did not emerge very quickly. In Turkey, the clearest instances of failed coup took place in the early 1960s, and these attempts were spearheaded by a well-known renegade, Colonel Talat Aydemir.

This lack of a public face is a lot less anomalous from the standpoint of Gulenist modus operandi. Gulenists always prefer to operate in the shadows, behind the scenes, and never take direct ownership of operations they launch and control. They have never formed (or explicitly joined) political organizations or parties, even though they clearly have political aims, choosing to operate within existing political parties instead. In Ergenekon and Sledgehammer, the bogus documents that led to the trials were first leaked to a “liberal” newspaper (Taraf), which thereafter acted as a front. When public support for the trials waned, leading Gulenists kept arguing that it was Erdogan who pushed for the prosecutions.

Similarly, it looks like Gulenists were hoping to remain behind the scenes and have others appear as leaders if the coup were to succeed. The putchists asked chief of general staff Hulusi Akar to lead the coup before they detained him (he refused). The declaration they drafted and that was read on state TV has a definite Kemalist tone, which suggests they wanted to make it look like the typical secularist coup. They might have hoped to be the power behind the throne once the coup succeeded, just as they shaped a large part of Erdogan’s agenda during 2007-2012.

Some of the evidence that has emerged since the coup also points to Gulenist involvement. Akar’s aide-de-camp, who was among the putschists, has confessed to being a closet Gulenist. His testimony is tainted by the fact that he was apparently badly beaten after being captured, but it is quite detailed, names names, and rings true. One of the soldiers who tried to capture Erdogan in the hotel he was vacationing had a hand-written note on him with religious invocations attributed to “H.E.” (an acronym for “Hoca Efendi,” the appellation Gulen’s disciples use for him). A police officer who had previously been removed on suspicions of being a Gulenist sympathizer was captured in one of the putschists’ tanks, wearing military camouflage.

None of these pieces of evidence (or others presented by the pro-government media) is completely dispositive on its own – especially with respect to Gulen’s own culpability. There is always the possibility that this was a rogue, pre-emptive operation by a number of Gulenists along with others, carried out without the knowledge or blessing of Gulen. Gareth Jenkins, who knows the Turkish military perhaps even better than it knows itself, is inclined to think so and is skeptical that this was a Gulenist operation planned from the top.

Erdogan’s claim about putschists’ attempt to put Akar in touch with Gulen, if true, would of course belie this scenario. But beyond that, it is well known that the Gulen movement is a highly hierarchical organization. People who have followed it closely over the years (such as Hanefi Avci or Rusen Cakir) report that very few important decision take place without Gulen’s blessing. There is certainly no tradition of autonomous, independent decision-making or dissent in the movement. It would be surprising if Gulenist officers had planned this on their own, without seeking at least the assent of their spiritual leader.

Then there is the objection that a violent military coup lies outside the modus operandi of the Gulen movement. This is true, and it is one of the things that made me cautious early on about Gulenist responsibility. Gulenists have engaged in a wide range of dirty tricks, but they have been rarely accused of armed action of explicit violence. Firing on unarmed civilians and bombing the parliament seems not the kind of thing that they would do. But then again, it is the first time that their sympathizers in the military have been called into action.

Gulenists may have eschewed assassinations in the past, but their past operations have not lacked ruthlessness. They have a disturbing record of targeting, slandering, harassing, imprisoning their perceived opponents – military officers, journalists, police commissioners, politicians — leading on a few of occasions to their deaths.

The case against Gulen is not shut and dried. There are many things about the coup attempt that remain unclear and mysterious. If the government has serious evidence beyond what I have discussed here, it has been very coy about releasing it and sharing it with the public.

At present, the argument that Gulen was the mastermind behind the coup attempt rests mostly on circumstantial evidence. But among all the scenarios that one could come up with, it remains the only one that makes at least some sense.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, a journalist close to the AKP claimed that the officer who proposed to put Akar in contact with Gulen was General Hakan Evrim, commander of the air base that apparently served as the headquarters of the putschists. And newspapers have now published images of Akar’s complete testimony to the prosecutors, in which Akar describes what happened when putschists descended upon his office. The relevant part of the testimony reads: “…upon which, Hakan Evrim said something along the lines of ‘if you’d like we can put you in touch with our opinion leader [kanaat onderi] Gulen’. I rebuffed him by saying I wouldn’t talk to anyone.”

In Turkey, any and all kind of documentary evidence can be forged, and it is possible that these images are doctored as well. But they look real to me. And even though Akar is clearly beholden to Erdogan at this point, I doubt that the government would choose to put such words in his mouth. In all, the statement greatly strengthens the possibility of a direct link between putschists and Gulen.

Posted at 02:21 PM | Permalink


The argumentation seems solid, but I’m missing one instance: the Turkish Secret Service. They must be heavily infiltrated in the army. Is it there information about plan for a coup that led to the move forward of the impending sweep. Provoking an ill-prepared coup. That make the coup a co-production of Gulenist and Erdogan’s executives. It explains why the other parts of the Army did not intervene directly against the coup, but only prepared the way for Erdogan as the Hero. The other side had a better strategy at hand than the putschists.

Posted by: Tefrisaloi | July 23, 2016 at 03:32 PM

Sorry: 3 sentence should be: Is it their info…. ?

Posted by: Tefrisaloi | July 23, 2016 at 03:35 PM

Two points.
1) It’s a bit unfair to say that “Traditionally, Turkish coups are produced by Kemalist secularists.” Before 2002 that was the only ideology around. The coups in my view were caused by the failure of civilian institutions. The ideology of justified intevention was retrospectively exoaded for protection, The Gulenist/Islamist (and Ernest Gellner’s) which just shows the military intervening to fight Islamism doesn’t really fit the facts of the 1960 or 1971 coups.
2) Is a coup by Gulenists really so surprising?
“a violent military coup lies outside the modus operandi of the Gulen movement.” Yes but as a Sunni movement they are certainly not pacificists. Their rhetoric against Erdogan in Turkish (as manifest in their Internet voice Fuat Avni)) is bellicose and full of implicit violence There have been reports of Gulenist infiltration of the armed forces since 1986. Their ‘moderation’ and pro-Western attitude seems to be tactics rather than principle.

Posted by: Tyro | July 23, 2016 at 11:15 PM

for ‘exoaded’ read ‘invented’

Posted by: Tyro | July 23, 2016 at 11:17 PM

The very fact that there’s no solid evidence for Gulen being the ringleader (other than people sympathizing with him) should give pause to the theory that Gulen is directing. Posting from Greece, the Balkans are full of such conspiracy theories. Here in Greece they think the CIA rules the world…if only the CIA was that competent I tell them, but nobody believes it. Truth is geographically determined.

Posted by: raylopez99 | July 24, 2016 at 02:34 PM

Thank you for your detailed and informative comments

Posted by: pschaeffer | July 24, 2016 at 11:36 PM

As you yourself are forced to admit, this blog does not contain a shred of evidence one could even dignify as circumstantial. It is entirely based on suppositions and tenuous plausibility speculations.

Until someone produces some independently verifiable “facts”, any false-flag operation (Erdogan against all his opponents, the Gülenists, the Kemalists, the CIA, army secularists, the Russian FSB) is practically equally possible on Bayesian a priori grounds. It’s a house of mirrors.

After all, to this day we don’t even know with any certainty who set the Reichstag Fire in 1933, the consequences of which were frighteningly similar to the current Turkish purges.

Posted by: Silverberg-on-meltdown-economics.blogspot.com | July 25, 2016 at 04:48 AM

Mister Rodrik, I found this article today and I must say it relieved some of the unease I have felt over the last couple of days. As a person who disapproves 95% of what the current government does, it has been incredibly sad to see the very-shallow “Erdogan faked the coup” news and opinions all over the foreign press over the last week. Even here, in the comments of this article, the same thought persists. People who have never been exposed to the depth of contemporary Turkish politics, choose to put the blame on the only person who they think could pull this off – Erdogan. But as you explain in this article, anyone with a basic understanding of the Gulenist movement knows how this is mainly their doing (with support from other parties). This is why in Turkey, a country so divided in the middle in terms politics (literally 50% of the votes go to Erdogan, the other 50% would do anything to see him fail), almost everyone unanimously agrees that this was Gulen’s doing without even giving it a second thought. I can assure anyone reading the comments that there are many people in Turkey who wish this was Erdogan’s doing so he’d be done for good. But it’s simply not. Today, for the first time in many years, the opposition leaders of all parties gathered together with Erdogan to show solidarity. One of these political leaders, Kilicdaroglu, is the antithesis of Erdogan – a man who won’t even shake Erdogan’s hand under normal circumstances. No one was pressuring him to do visit Erdogan, either.

I already feel like Turkey has lost the media war outside the country (there’s obviously no opposition media in the country anyways) and it makes me sad to see this as a citizen. I hope your very objective, informative and truthful article gets shared more so at least some level-headed people have a real understanding of what’s going on. As a famous general never said: “We might have lost the war but we might win a few battles.”

PS: It’s hard change people’s opinions once it’s set. Let me preemptively try to answer some of the questions readers might have:

– Yes, Erdogan is a power-hungry, authoritarian leader. I get anxious writing that sentence on the web, that should be proof enough.
– No, he didn’t need this “fake coup” to seize more power. He doesn’t need more power. He already has all the power. This is not 2007.
– Yes, Erdogan’s AKP has been in a symbiotic relationship with the Gulenist movement until 2013. So did pretty much every major party since 1980s.
– Yes, Erdogan will probably never answer the question “you knew the Gulenists infiltrated the government, but you never attempted to stop them when they were supporting you, why?”
– By the way, this decades long relationship is also why they already had lists of 10,000 people the day after the events of 2013 and July 15th 2016. It’s not like this organization or most of these people are a secret. Anyone who thinks they foiled Erdogan’s fake coup attempt because they figured he put together a long list of names after such a short time, is being naive.
– Yes, I know I said all the political leaders were with Erdogan when the Kurdish party HDP wasn’t invited. That’s whole new article for another time. I’m not saying I support the decision to not invite them, I’m saying it’s understandable in today’s Turkey. Kurdish issue runs deeper than the Gulenist issue.
– No, there is no way a fair trial is possible for Gulen if he comes back. But then, a fair trial would probably result in a similar fashion as an unfair one.
– Yes, there are still questions that need to be answered, details that need to be made public regarding that night.

But make no mistake: none of the above justifies the shooting of civilians by their own army; the deaths of over 200 civilians; the bombing of the Turkish Parliament by Turkish planes. This is the most sinister terrorist organization Turkey has ever seen by far.

Thank you for the article Mr. Rodrik.

Posted by: Arif | July 25, 2016 at 06:08 PM

Thanks for an excellent article. There are a number of allegations of US involvement in the coup (more or less rendering Gülen a pawn, if nothing less) that is not included your article that I would like to have Mr Rodriks comment on. What about US Commander Campbell, Graham Fuller, Henri J. Barkey? If those rumors are true just a little bit it’s hard to believe that repercussions will be immense of where Turkey will stand geopolitically, especially given an already anti-american sentiment in the public opinion of Turkey. Any insights to share?

Posted by: PehrMartens | July 26, 2016 at 03:20 PM

For anyone interested in further reading, here’s another article that tries to explain how deep the waters run, using a fictitious US analogy. It may sound too complicated or far fetched to be real. But it’s as real as it gets. That is Turkish politics for you.


Posted by: Arif | July 27, 2016 at 04:21 PM

Brilliant literary analogy by Karabekir Akkoyunlu! Hope he is right, that no imperalist state is pulling the strings. It’s always this problem in analyzing strive for power. Either it is reduced to one or the other thing, the evil power maniac or some conspiracy. Trying to put Turkey situation in a broader context perhaps need an other explanatory framework. It was indeed a great read that made me thnk in new ways, I’m very grateful.

Posted by: PehrMartens | July 28, 2016 at 03:11 AM

Don’t you think that Hulusi Akar naming as responsible in his interrogation the one person who has attained something of a demoniac status in Turkish politics is a little too simplistic? Almost too Gulenist of a move, considering the overall quality of the cases brought against the accused in Sledgehammer and etc? Last but not least, why would coupists name that one person who would offend Akar the most, especially at a time when they need the services of the latter the most?

Posted by: Samael_aziz | July 30, 2016 at 12:08 PM

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7 January 2015

Enough! No more Turkish experts. No more lying politicians. No more cheating and stealing. No more talk of the obscene palace wherein resides the source of all of it. No more rancid, pompous rhetoric from the president of this stinking country. No more television discussion panels. No more Turkish language for it has died from murderous abuse. Shame covers Turkey like gas from a swamp. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe, you Turks!

You, the Turkish people, have so diligently supported your terrorist government. What didn’t you understand? What clouded your minds? Islam? Please be serious. What clouded your minds was money. Bribes. Jobs. Big construction contracts. Unnecessary bridges. Irrelevant airports. Polluting power plants. Coal in bags. You were cheated there, too. Coal and stones. Can you tell coal from stone? Shit from shoe polish? The government couldn’t even give you a “pure” bribe. Such is its cheating, thieving nature. Thefts. Nothing could prevent you from supporting a criminal for prime minister who grew to become a criminal as president. And nothing could prevent you from supporting the treasonous opposition parties who collaborate with the terrorist government and foreign powers intent on your destruction. Bow down, Turks! Stoop and bathe in the blood of innocents! Let it run up to the elbows! Stoop! Stoop! Bow to your boss!

It was all in front of your noses, this stink. This rotten game played with Syria. This disgusting, double-faced game known as being-a-friend-of-Erdogan. And so the weapons and bestial volunteers flowed through Turkey. And so rose ISIS! And Hatay was destroyed. Erdogan, the big shot friend of America. Erdogan, the expert on the Middle East. Erdogan, a man whose venality defies description, indeed a scowling metaphor of venality. And the corruption continued to flow. Arms to terrorists under the cover name of Free Syrian Army. Moderate Islamic “folks” trying to overthrow a duly constituted, sovereign nation—Syria! He is the source of the evil, of the beheadings, the slaughters, the rapes, the genocide of the Syrian Diaspora. And all the thefts from the moderate Islamic killers flowed back into Turkey. How eager were these Turks to buy cheap gasoline, stolen whisky, stolen cars. Isn’t god great? What a bargain! Cheap gas for the lives of innocent Syrians. Good job!  Eat! Eat! Eat, you Turks!

The blood of the innocents in Paris is on the Turkish government’s hands. Erdogan, this most unnatural creature, has already destroyed his own country. And 53% of the Turks think that this is a good idea, if they are thinking at all. This Erdogan was America’s main man. A hard guy who could make it all happen. America loves guys like this. They make movies about them. But this hard guy had another agenda, and it wasn’t moderate. His ego was as big as all outdoors. Look at his house. Can you understand, you 53% of the Turks who are the equivalent of war criminals?  You aiders and abettors of terrorism and murder! And you of the remainder, the 47% who think your ideas are the only important ideas and delay and discuss while the fascists prepare the end of Turkey as a nation. Talk! Talk! Talk! And then the back of your skull suddenly splinters like all the others.

The weapons in Paris arose in Syria through Turkish hospitality. The road to hell leads through Turkey. And so does the road to Paris. And so do these others, these big shots who think they know something. These are the ones who have helped Erdogan’s Turkey become a terrorist state. Their guilt is vast. And is no mystery to normal, ordinary people. And a complaint was filed with the International Criminal Court on 6 October 2014.

I have the honor to file with you and the International Criminal Court (ICC) this Criminal Complaint against

U.S. citizens Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Forbes Kerry,John Owen Brennan, Michael Joseph Morell, David Howell Petraeus, and Leon Edward Panetta;

Turkish citizens Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Hakan Fidan;

Saudi Arabian citizens King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Prince Saud al-Faisal; 

Qatari citizens Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa and Al Thani Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani;

Jordanian citizens Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein and Abdullah Ensour;

Croatian citizens Ivo Josipović and Zoran Milanović;

Belgian citizen Elio Di Rupo;

Bulgarian citizens Boyko Borisov, Marin Raykov Nikolov and Plamen Vasilev Oresharski;

French citizen François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande;

Great Britain citizen David William Donald Cameron;

Romanian citizens Traian Băsescu and Victor-Viorel Ponta; 

for their criminal policy planning, subsequent crimes against humanity and ongoing crime of aggression in Syria.

I accuse the above listed individuals of planning, preparing, initiating and executing an act of criminal aggression resulting in the commission of grievous crimes against humanity. These crimes are both “widespread” and “systematic” within the meaning of Rome Statute article 7(1). Therefore the Accused have committed the “Crime of Aggression” by supporting and arming brutal and bestial mercenaries in violation of Rome Statute articles 8(2)(a), 8(2)(b), 8(2)(d), 8(2)f) and 8(2)(g). Furthermore, the Accused have committed numerous “Crimes against Humanity” in flagrant, repeated and longstanding violation of Rome Statute articles 5(1)(b), 7(1)(a), 7(1)(b), 7(1)(d), 7(1)(e), 7(1)(f), 7(1)(g), 7(1)(h), 7(1)(i), and 7(1)(k). Finally, the Accused’s Rome Statute Crimes Against Humanity as specified above constitutes ongoing criminal activity that continues today. 

Read the details below. It won’t take long. These are the ones that should be arrested immediately.

But first, Hollande! Then Erdogan!


James (Cem) Ryan
7 January 2015