March 19, 2013 § 2 Comments
I am back from two weeks in Turkey, and it was easily two of the best weeks that I have spent anywhere. The meetings were nearly all informative, the speakers engaging, and it was wonderful to spend so much intense time with a great group of friends. Not to mention that Turkish cuisine is my favorite type of food, spring in Istanbul cannot be beat, and I barely had to pay a dime for anything. There was so much to digest that one blog post is never going to cover all of it, but there were some larger themes that repeatedly emerged, however, and some big picture thoughts that crossed my mind, so here goes.
I have written before about the corrosive and long lasting effects of military intervention on political institutions, and I have of course spent countless hours of my life thinking about this issue with regard to Turkey, but in the context of conversations over the past couple of weeks, it occurred to me that Turkish groups and institutions are still subconsciously operating under the shadow of this history despite the widespread belief that military coups are a thing of the past. I noted last week at how open and straightforward individual Turkish politicians were when speaking with us, but there was a stark contrast between individual forthrightness and general organizational or institutional forthrightness. The institutions that govern Turkey or that are influential in Turkish society are unusually opaque, with uncertainty over their true goals and motives. For instance, I spent a lot of time debating with my Turkish friends about the AKP and whether it is an Islamist party or not. As readers of this blog are well aware by now, I don’t think that the AKP is an Islamist political party, but rather is a political party run by Islamists, and that the focus should be on the AKP’s authoritarianism rather than its alleged Islamism. One particularly smart Turk and I argued over this point repeatedly, with my challenging her to point to any policy that the AKP has put forth in over a decade of rule that can be deemed Islamist, and her just as adamant that the AKP only does not advance Islamist policies because it doesn’t have the backing for it, but that once it transforms society it will rule as openly Islamist. We went back and forth, but the heart of the problem is that nobody can satisfactorily answer this question because we just have no way of knowing. Given AKP leaders’ past statements and history, they might be playing a long game, or they might actually be what they seem, which is a pro-growth socially conservative party with authoritarian tendencies but not harboring ambitions of Islamist rule. Because the AKP keeps things deliberately ambiguous, there is simply no way to say one way or the other.
Similarly, I had lots of conversations with trip participants, journalists, outside friends, and acquaintances about the Gülen movement and what precisely the Gülenists are up to. It is evident that the movement’s activities in Turkey are different from its activities elsewhere, with my best guess being that in Turkey it is engaged in revenge against its former antagonists and in the U.S. it is trying to bring Turks into the country on work visas and make as much money as possible. Nevertheless, I can’t say for sure, and neither can anyone else. The Gülen movement cages its intentions and motivations so that it can be difficult, if not actually impossible, to ascertain what it really wants or what the end game is. One organization we met with while in Turkey seemed to have the hallmarks of a Gülenist group in some ways, but then one of its representatives was railing against religion and the Gülen movement in a side conversation, all of which made for a great guessing game later on that day. Another group we met with portrayed itself as a straightforward economic and trade organization, and then over the course of an hour of questioning made it clear that it actually had a seriously political and religious agenda, which you would never know from the group’s official website, pamphlets, or statements. I should also point out that none of these organizations can be deemed underground, and in fact are all very close to the corridors of official power in Turkey, and yet they feel the need to hide the ball.
All of this got me reflecting on why this might be, and I think the answer has to lie in Turkey’s history of military interventions in civilian politics. Irrespective of how eviscerated the army might now be, when it has a history of executing and jailing politicians, activists, journalists, and anyone else who ran afoul of its prerogatives, that is an extremely difficult thing for any of its potential opponents to overcome. The AKP now rules the country virtually unopposed, but its members have a history with the military. The same goes for the Gülenists, and many other religious groups. Organizations have an incentive to hide their true motives in order to give themselves plausible deniability since the specter of military rule still haunts Turkey, even if the possibility of a coup has been consigned to the dustbin of history. It is a remarkable thing to see powerful groups feel the need to stay closed to the outside world, and it is yet another reminder of how political patterns are incredibly resistant to change and how institutions can remain affected by past events long into the future.
Next, the one issue that was brought up time and time again by politicians and business leaders was Turkey’s energy consumption and the difficulty of meeting the country’s energy needs. Turkey’s current account deficit can almost entirely be attributed to its imports of natural gas from Russian and Iran, and it is not in a position to do anything about it because it has no natural resources with which to create domestic energy supply of its own and is locked into extremely onerous contracts with its foreign suppliers. Nobody we spoke to had a good solution for fixing this problem, and while nuclear power might do the trick, my friend Aaron Stein has convincingly demonstrated that this is not in the cards any time soon. I don’t know what the answer is, but there is a lot of money to be made in figuring out a way for Turkey to meet its explosive energy demands while reducing its reliance on Russian natural gas.
Finally, let me make a plea on behalf of the Young Turkey Young America program. Because of the sequester, the State Department is unlikely to fund YTYA next year, which will be a huge loss. The U.S. and Turkey need each other for a host of reasons, and this program forges bonds and relationships between future leaders in both countries that will withstand the test of time. It is also a force multiplier, because everyone in the program is now engaged in promoting the bilateral relationship in one way or another, whether it be through civil society projects, op-ed writing, educational initiatives, or cultural events, and in so doing spreads the message of the importance of ties between the U.S. and Turkey and a greater understanding of each other’s politics, society, and culture. If this enormously valuable and important program is to continue past this year with a new crop of participants, some other source of funding has to be located. So if you are reading this and you have any interest at all in ensuring that U.S.-Turkey ties remain strong going forward and you work for an organization that has the means to help out in sponsoring the program in the future, please get in touch with me.
P.S. For those of you who have asked for my thoughts on the new Israeli government, I may get to it later this week or next, but do not feel an overwhelming need to write about it given that everyone seems to think that the new coalition will not last long, which I predicted on election day two months ago. As things have turned out as I expected (including the makeup of the coalition) I don’t feel the need to rehash things. As for President Obama’s visit, the market for analysis on this is so oversaturated with predictions, advice for the president, advice for Israelis, and general peace process commentary that there’s nothing left to be said about a visit that is not going to have much of an effect on anything. The executive summary is, don’t expect any big pronouncements from either side, and count on Obama and Netanyahu pretending to have smoothed over any differences between them.
January 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There were a couple of extremely consequential stories out of Turkey toward the end of last week that I didn’t get a chance to write about with the Israeli elections going on, but I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity now to highlight them and comment. First was the Turkish cabinet shuffle, with the big move being the replacement of Interior Minister Idris Şahin with Muammer Güler. Şahin is about as hardline on the Kurdish issue as any Turkish government official – he referred in May to the civilians killed in December 2011′s Uludere air strike as “PKK extras” – and his sacking is important for two reasons. First, it signals that the Ocalan talks and Imralı process might actually be a real reorientation of the government’s policy and not just a ploy at running out of the clock or buying more time. Getting rid of the minister overseeing the terrorism fight who was absolutely despised by Kurdish politicians and ordinary Turkish Kurds and replacing him with someone who is likely to be a little more open to Kurdish sensitivities is an important step, and while there are concerns about Güler given his actions while governor of Istanbul, literally anyone will be an improvement over Şahin.
Furthermore, replacing Şahin with a new face in the Interior Ministry is important inasmuch as it signals a tacit admission on the government’s part that its strategy of pounding the PKK without making a real effort on the political front has been a mistake. The Imralı process also fits into this idea as well, and a new interior minister communicates a fresh start and that the old approach was not working. Prime Minister Erdoğan rarely if ever publicly admits that he was wrong, but this is as close to a public admission as you’ll see. The optics of this are important by themselves divorced from what ever actual policy emerges. By the same token, putting Ömer Çelik in the cabinet as Culture and Tourism Minister is important too as he is one of Erdoğan’s two or three closest advisers and has advocated a much more conciliatory approach than the government has adopted in the past. I expect him to be influential in the new Kurdish policy as well despite his portfolio, and his elevation to a cabinet position now is also a signal that the government has erred and that it needs to find a different formula if it wants to be successful.
The other noteworthy development last week was Erdoğan’s full about-face on the government’s assault on the military as embodied by the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) prosecutions and widespread imprisonment of officers. After crowing for years about the defanging of the armed forces and how Turkey is now coup-proof, Erdoğan acknowledged over the weekend that things have gotten out of hand and said that the detention of generals is negatively impacting the fight against terrorism. As an example of just how dire the situation is, the Turkish navy now has no full admirals left after the resignation of Admiral Nusret Güner in protest over the fact that the officers under his command have mostly been arrested. There is literally nobody to fill the positions of Navy chief and fleet commander, since all that remain are vice-admirals, and there is never any way of knowing when those officers will be arrested either. While the situation is the worst in the navy, the other services are not in great shape either and have been decimated by arrests. Erdoğan now seems to realize just how out of control things have gotten, but the damage has already been done and there is no quick fix for the low army morale or the military’s readiness level. Like with the Kurdish issue, however, this is a very public admission that policy needs to change, and like the moves on the Kurdish front, this should be applauded.
While both of these developments were undoubtedly positive ones, there is some political maneuvering involved as well. As I wrote last week, the backtrack on the Kurdish policy has to be seen in context of Erdoğan’s desire to get his new constitution through the Grand National Assembly, and it seems even more clear now that he is going to turn to the BDP for support. The cabinet shuffle is all part of this longer view, and so the nakedly political angle to all of this should not be ignored. On the military issue, it’s difficult for me not to view it partially as a broadside against the Gülenists, who have lately turned on Erdoğan and the AKP. The military prosecutions have been driven by Gülenist prosecutors and judges, and when Erdoğan calls on the courts to either hand down verdicts or release the imprisoned officers, and even casts doubts on whether the accused were ever part of a conspiracy at all, you have to consider why he has suddenly decided that the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations are a net negative rather than a net positive. There is little doubt in my mind that Erdoğan’s new position is the correct one as a matter of policy, since the government cannot be in the business of holding people on trumped up charges indefinitely – not to mention the side effect of making it far more difficult for the Turkish military to operate – but there is also an element of score settling here, with Erdoğan laying the groundwork for a possible public push against the Gülenists and the cemaat down the road. Whatever the case, it looks like from a policy perspective, 2013 is going to look a lot different than 2012 did in Turkey.
January 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There is some very strange stuff going on in Turkey and I don’t quite know what to make of it just yet, so I thought I’d do some speculative musing out loud in the hopes of sparking a discussion. In September, Prime Minister Erdoğan completely out of the blue fired his head of security and many of his bodyguards en masse and replaced them with new people. In October, his office went through a complete root and branch renovation. These moves led to speculation that Erdoğan was concerned that he’d been spied on, since they seemed like unusual steps to take absent some evidence of outside parties listening in and monitoring the prime minister’s private communications. Then in December, Erdoğan revealed that his home office had been bugged, and more bugs were found in his parliamentary office and his car. Erdoğan initially blamed the deep state, and then later essentially said he wanted to just put the whole thing behind him, although the MIT (Turkish intelligence) is investigating. Erdoğan also issued special “crypto phones” to all Turkish ministers in order to prevent their communications from being intercepted as well.
A couple of things here are particularly odd to me. First, why did Erdoğan decide in December to publicly reveal that he’d been spied on? The rumors were flying for months, but it seems like a very strange thing to confirm since the benefit of doing so is not readily appreciable. It relays a sense of governmental incompetence, particularly given the scope of devices that were allegedly found, and does not inspire confidence in Erdoğan and his team. The announcement was also not made in an effort to be as transparent and informative as possible, since neither of these things are exactly hallmarks of the current Turkish government. Erdoğan is also a guy who almost never admits he was wrong about anything, and while having your office bugged and phones tapped is not an error on Erdoğan’s part, his letting everyone know that it happened is an unusual admission that something went wrong somewhere.
Second, why did Erdoğan rush to blame the usual suspects in the deep state and then offer to drop the subject entirely? It’s almost as if he geared up for another fight with the military and other deep state actors, and then was somehow frightened off. Certainly it is very much out of character for Erdoğan to publicly back down on anything, and even more out of character to offer not to pursue someone who has spied on him. It leaves the impression that either something or someone spooked him, or that his initial conjecture about the responsible parties was wrong. I can’t recall another instance of Erdoğan giving off the impression that he is ready for battle and then bowing out.
Here are some completely unfounded ideas as to what may be going on here. Taking all of this together, I think that things in Turkey are about to get a lot more unpleasant, with a new round of arrests, prosecutions, and trials. If Erdoğan did not intend to go after someone or something, there would have been no reason for him to announce that his office was bugged. Letting the public know is an effort to get on the right side of public opinion before whatever comes next, much like exposing coup plots, whether real or imagined, was necessary before prosecuting hundreds of military officers. Erdoğan revealing that he is being spied on signaled to me the beginning of a renewed campaign of Ergenekon redux.
The weird part then is his backtracking, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Does whoever bugged his office have information being used to blackmail Erdoğan? Is this whole thing an exercise in paranoid delusion? I have no clue at all. The other question is, who was Erdoğan preparing to go after? It could be the military, which would make sense given his initial blaming the deep state. On the other hand, there are rumors that the party responsible for the bugs is the Gülenists. To my mind, if Erdoğan is preparing to go after someone, it is Gülenists rather than the military, since the growing split between the prime minister and his former cheerleaders has been a long time coming. There is irony in Gülenists banding together with Erdoğan in using shadowy tactics and accusations to bring down the military, to now have Erdoğan turn around and use the same playbook on the Gülen movement. As I said, this is complete conjecture on my part, but something is definitely going on behind the scenes and I think it’s about to get messy. If anyone can shed any more light on this whole strange affair, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
August 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
SEE BELOW FOR UPDATE
Over the weekend, the news emerged that an Israeli delegation of Shas MKs, European Haredi rabbis, and Bar-Ilan University professor of Arabic and Islam Moti Kedar made a secret visit to Turkey last week. According to the reports in the Israeli press, the group was led by Shas MK and deputy finance minister Yitzhak Cohen and had approval from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, although it appears that the Foreign Ministry was not on board with the trip and even tried to sway Cohen from attending some of the meetings. It also appears as if the group was invited to Turkey by “local interfaith organizations” and met with Turkish parliamentarians, including some from the AKP.
There are a number of strange things going on here. First, I can’t find any mention of this secret visit in the Turkish press. As of last night there were zero references to it in either the English language Hürriyet Daily News or Today’s Zaman, or in the Turkish language Hürriyet, Zaman, or Radikal. The Turkish press might not be reporting the story because the government does not want it to get out that members of the AKP have been meeting with Israeli officials, or it might be that the Turkish press finds this to be a non-story, but it’s odd to me that nobody in Turkey has any original reporting on this and that the Turkish papers haven’t even picked up the story from the Israel press.
Second, I’d love to know the identity of the unnamed interfaith groups that invited the Israeli delegation to Turkey and presumably set up meetings for them with Turkish MPs. The first group that comes to mind, of course, is the Gülen movement, and Gülenists certainly have the sway to set up meetings between Cohen and AKP officials, but then we run into the problem that the Gülenist newspapers – Today’s Zaman and Zaman – have been completely silent about the trip. One would think that if the Gülenists had arranged the trip, their press outlets would be touting it. It’s also a strange mix of people that the unnamed interfaith groups invited, with its combination of Israeli Haredi Knesset members, non-Israeli European rabbis, and Moti Kedar, who is a rightwing academic known for his willingness to tangle with al-Jazeera hosts in Arabic but to my knowledge is not an expert on Turkey. The Shas MKs would certainly have a reason to talk to the AKP and try to improve official ties between Israel and Turkey, but the Europeans and Kedar have no purpose for being there in this regard, and so it almost looks like the point of the trip was indeed about some sort of interfaith dialogue and that any political meetings Cohen had were entire ancillary to the whole thing.
Third, the reported disagreement between Netanyahu’s office and the Foreign Ministry is intriguing. Avigdor Lieberman is a vocal hardliner when it comes to Turkey, and reiterated that Israel has no intention of apologizing to Turkey during his meetings with Turkish journalists in Israel last month. That the Foreign Ministry under Lieberman would not want Israeli MKs traveling to Turkey and meeting with the AKP with no strings attached and without embassy supervision is not at all surprising. This incident might signal a real split between Netanyahu and Lieberman over repairing the relationship with Turkey. In this light, the fact that Shas members are the ones who went to Turkey takes on greater significance, since there is outright hostility between Shas and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, and between Lieberman and Shas head (and Interior Minister) Eli Yishai. If there is any party that would have no hesitation at all over crossing Lieberman and going against the wishes of the Foreign Ministry, it would be Shas. On the other hand, if this was a delegation explicitly sent by Netanyahu, it would strange to send Cohen and Nissim Zeev rather than Likud MKs or even one of Bibi’s personal advisers. Shas is not known for its expertise or even interest in foreign affairs, and using Shas MKs to act as diplomats would be highly unusual.
So in sum, something about this whole thing seems off to me. It doesn’t seem like it was orchestrated or initiated by Netanyahu even though he seems to have had no problem with it, and the veil of secrecy also makes little sense if it was not a delegation empowered to do much of anything. There would be no reason for the cloak and dagger routine over an attempt at interfaith dialogue, but there would also be no reason to have European rabbis and Kedar on the trip if it were anything but that. If the trip was actually planned as an interfaith dialogue but Cohen and Zeev were instructed to carry out a side mission of talking to the Turkish government, then the secrecy surrounding the trip was even more ill-conceived since once the story leaked it would ruin any efforts at plausible deniability. Basically, I can’t quite figure out what is going on here. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Somehow I missed that Today’s Zaman ran a short piece yesterday quoting Ynet on the Shas visit to Turkey (thanks to Claire Berlinski for alerting me to that), but after I wrote this post last night, the Turkish language dailies this morning ran with the story of the Israeli delegation’s visit, so ignore my speculation above on why the Israeli press had this story but the Turkish press didn’t. The Turkish press did make a big contribution to our knowledge though by reporting that the Israeli delegation met with, among others, the notorious Adnan Oktar (otherwise known by the honorific Adnan Hoca or by his
real assumed name, Harun Yahya), who was presumably the “local interfaith organization” that invited Cohen and his cohort to Turkey. If you’ve never heard of Oktar, take ten minutes and read this right now, and you will have gotten your fill of daily entertainment. For those who want the short version, Oktar is a Turkish televangelist known for being a Holocaust denier and for keeping what is literally a harem. He has also been charged with a bevy of crimes including rape, blackmail, theft, and cocaine possession. He is currently popular with the Israeli rabbinical crowd as he has denounced his former views on Jews and the Holocaust and defends Jews as vigorously as he used to denounce them. He has in the past scored a meeting with Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and has a long-standing relationship with Kedar, which explains how Shas MKs would be coming to Turkey at his invitation but does not even come close to explaining why Israeli rabbis and officials are granting Oktar any shred of legitimacy. Is Israel really so desperate for a friendly face that it can’t find anyone with a more stable background than Oktar? It also sheds some new light on why the Foreign Ministry, which is presumably more familiar with Oktar’s exploits than the prime minister’s office, might have had reservations about the whole thing.
May 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
Another Monday, another post about 60 Minutes. Last night’s segment of interest was on Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement, and centered on the growing number of Gülen charter schools in the U.S. The gist of the report was that Gülen is himself a secretive figure whose true motivations cannot be entirely ascertained, but that he preaches a tolerant brand of Islam focused on education and social mobility and that his Harmony Charter Schools are by all accounts doing great work while at the same time stirring up controversy by appearing to skirt immigration laws. On the whole, the segment’s tone was a positive one, and in a lot of ways it painted Gülen as a cleric who fits in well with the general American creed of hard work, education, and capitalist ethos leading to success. The Gülenists, who can be notoriously thin-skinned, have to be happy with 60 Minutes for portraying them in a good light.
Far more interesting to me is not what 60 Minutes reported but what it didn’t report. All Turks of every political stripe would find it inconceivable that a major American network did a profile on Gülen and his followers without one mention of either Prime Minister Erdoğan or the AKP. In fact, someone with no prior knowledge of Gülenists at all would have thought after watching the report that the Gülen movement has little role in Turkish politics and is nothing more than a somewhat shadowy business conglomerate. The reality is that the Gülenists and the AKP have long been intertwined in many ways with their twin rises coinciding with each other, and the AKP’s decade in power has led to Gülenists now filling many high posts in Turkey’s judiciary and police. Gülen and his followers are not easily separated from politics and their many business interests are not the only part of the story. Gülen media organs, such as Zaman, championed Erdoğan’s rise and now consistently back him, and it has been alleged that the Ergenekon investigation is a reward to the Gülenists as a way for them to get back at the military that oppressed them during the 1980s. While recently there have been rumblings of a power struggle between the Gülen movement and the AKP, the fact remains that it is difficult to discuss one without discussing the other, yet this is the very feat that CBS managed to pull off. For someone who studies Turkey, it came off as a very strange omission.
One thing to give 60 Minutes credit for is that it did not give undeserved airtime to those arguing that the Gülen schools represent a secret plot to introduce creeping Islamization or sharia into American society. To begin with, while the Gülenists are controversial in Turkey because they often come off as a personality cult, there is little question that Gülen preaches tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and a distinctly non-confontational brand of Islam. The folks who rail against Gülen and his schools on ideological grounds have a problem with Islam in general and not with anything that Gülen is saying. There is also the inconvenient fact that the schools are all public charters, which means that like any other public school in this country, there is no religious instruction or school-supported religious activity of any kind. Opening a group of public charter schools would be a pretty boneheaded way of trying to carry out a program of religious indoctrination given that there is literally zero space or opportunity for religion to be pushed, and whatever else people may think of Gülen and his followers, stupid is one of the last words that comes to mind.
Most people who saw the 60 Minutes report probably came away with the impression that Gülen is a secretive guy who genuinely believes in promoting math and science education and whose followers are looking for creative ways to come to the U.S. and carry out this message while simultaneously making money. I don’t think this is a bad read on the situation at all, but given the fact that Lesley Stahl went to Turkey to see what was going on for herself, the absence (aside from a few seconds from Andrew Finkel) of any reporting related to the movement’s political activities in Turkey and the intense controversy that it has stirred up surrounding the prosecution of the military and its critics – no doubt Ahmet Şık would have had something interesting to say on the matter – was odd to say the least. Does this mean that CBS and 60 Minutes are naive or guilty of sloppy reporting once again, or is this more fodder for those who conspiratorially proclaim the awesome and secretive power of the cemaat to silence its accusers? Given what we saw from 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, I’d vote for the former, but no doubt the latter explanation will quickly gain currency among those who see Gülen’s hand in everything that goes on related to Turkey.
April 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Fethullah Gülen and his followers are a source of controversy and mystery in Turkey. Gülenists are accused of being a cult-like group that holds sway over Erdoğan and the AKP, and there is plenty of evidence that Gülenists in the judiciary and police force are responsible for the Ergenekon investigation, among other things. Much like with the power of Turkey’s deep state, I am of the view that the reality is a mixture of truth and legend, which benefits both sides since the Gülenists get the benefit of being feared and awed while their opponents can chalk up much of their misfortune to shadowy figures with unfathomable behind-the-scenes power.
While Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, his followers have not been much of an issue in the U.S. until recently. The New York Times last summer ran a series of articles on Gülenist charter schools in Texas that raised questions about immigration law violations and misuse of tax dollars. Yesterday, Tennessee’s legislature passed a law aimed at Gülenist schools that limits the number of foreign teachers a charter school may employ, which is bound to draw increased scrutiny of Gülen’s aims. Then today, the International Herald Tribune published a long front page article on Gülenists in Turkey that rehashed many of the claims about them and included the following sentences: ‘‘We are troubled by the secretive nature of the Gulen movement, all the smoke and mirrors,” said a senior American official, who requested anonymity to avoid breaching diplomatic protocol. “It is clear they want influence and power. We are concerned there is a hidden agenda to challenge secular Turkey and guide the country in a more Islamic direction.” Strangely, the article is nowhere to be found on the IHT website, despite it appearing on the front page of the print edition.
I am not entirely sure what is going on here – possibly it is a simple oversight, possibly the story was retracted for one reason or another, or possibly the Times was threatened with legal action after last summer’s investigatory journalism and thinks that keeping the story in print rather than digital form will not raise any red flags with Gülenists. The bigger issue here is what implications will follow from this “senior American official” calling out the Gülen movement so forcefully and publicly. Nobody questions that Gülenists are powerful in Turkey, and while there is evidence that Erdoğan has begun to push back against their more overt displays of power, the AKP and the Gülenists have a tacit alliance. If the Obama administration actually views Gülen and his acolytes as such a big problem – and to my ears, the quote is a strange one that sounds more like something a House GOPer would say – and it raises the issue with Turkey, there is bound to be some pushback. This is all very mysterious for now, but it definitely bears some close watching down the road.