Dec 20, 2018

Trump signals Erdogan foe Gulen may have overstayed his welcome

Erdogan supporters hang an effigy of Gulen in the wake of the failed coup. Photo: Kursat Bayhan/Getty Images

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this week that President Trump has told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan he'll "take a look at" potentially extraditing Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen — the man Erdogan claims organized a coup attempt against him in 2016. Gulen has lived in the U.S. for two decades.

Between the lines: Soner Cagaptay, a fellow at the Washington Institute and author of The New Sultan, says it's unlikely Trump would be able to extradite Gulen without a court decision. Instead, Cagaptay says Trump's rhetoric, combined with the FBI's investigation into Gulen's network, seem intended instead to send a signal that "Gulen has overstayed his welcome."

  • He thinks the idea is to nudge Gulen to a third country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with Turkey.
  • According to Cagaptay, Gulen gains a certain amount of legitimacy by being protected by the most powerful country on earth, and Turkey's most important ally. That equation changes if he ends up somewhere else.

Worth noting: Cagaptay says Gulen is more than just "Erdogan's enemy" — his network once had millions of followers. He says there is now a widespread consensus against Gulen in Turkey: "Half of the country that loves Erdogan thinks Gulen tried to kill him, and the other half of the country that hates Erdogan hates Gulen" for empowering him earlier in his political career.

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