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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

The White House is exploring options for expelling Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, in hopes that Erdogan lets up pressure on the Saudis over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, NBC News reports.

Between the lines: This is an explosive report — not only that the U.S. would consider expelling Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for almost two decades, but that they would do so to remove pressure on the Saudis even as the kingdom has failed to put forth a credible explanation for Khashoggi's death. It suggests the White House's priority, come what may, is to protect the Saudis and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. U.S. agencies declined to comment to NBC.

Details: Per NBC, Erdogan saw an opportunity after Khashoggi's murder to reissue a longstanding demand — that Gulen be extradited back to Turkey.

  • Erdogan has been at the heart of the international pressure on the Saudis in the weeks since Khashoggi's death, with evidence compiled by Turkey undermining Saudi explanations at every turn.
  • A Turkish official told NBC that they don't see a connection between the two issues: "We want to see action on the end of the United States in terms of the extradition of Gulen. And we're going to continue our investigation on behalf of the Khashoggi case."
  • However, "Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing" Gulen, NBC reports, adding that "career officials at the agencies pushed back on the White House requests."

Turkey has arrested hundreds of people for alleged links to Gulen. That was one of the charges against Andrew Brunson, the U.S. pastor who was at the center of a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Turkey until his release in October.

Go deeper...

Go deeper

58 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

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