The Future Of Turkish-American Relationship by Ali Cinar

There's a whole new era in Washington, DC. Any minute ─with new breaking news or last minute headlines─ the United States enters a period that it isn’t accustomed to. The agenda of Washington, DC become a changing medium in a few hours only by a tweet from Trump.

The wrong decisions that were taken about Turkey at the end of President Obama period led the hope of opening a new page arose, when President Trump was elected instead of the Democrat President. However, the problems that Trump faced in internal policies, the promises ─that he gave during each visit to Turkey─ and its policy to let the military control some aspects made the relationships more stressed.

Turkish-American friendship ─started in the Korean War─ experienced a period of ups and downs until the 2000s. However, we witness that these relationships have become worse after the treacherous coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Although the coup leader Fethullah Gulen acted as the way he wants in US and Turkey handed all the evidence to the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the process is still not concluded yet. Although the US Justice Department declared that the files were examined, it is clear that there is a problem of trust in Turkish-US relations.

FETO members continue to their defamation efforts about Turkey in many aspects in the United States. Well, the important question is ‘What is their source of finance?’.

After the malicious coup attempt, the first few financial resources that comes to mind are the fund they leaked from Turkey to US, their method to provide financial resources by raising funds called ‘himmet’ as they do in other countries and obtaining fund via ‘Charter Schools’.

In 2017-2018, the official number of their schools in 27 states is 175. The states contain the largest number of schools are Texas with 62, Ohio with 17 and Florida with 13. They generate an educational network to earn income as the operation revenue by covering 80 million students and 80 million students. To give Texas as an example, Harmony and Riverwalk schools provide education for a total of 35,000 students. It is estimated that FETO has ‘sipped’ about $ 250 million through charter schools in the US until today. In this regard, apart from the front companies they established to administer the schools, it is revealed that in some schools they did irregularities by giving fake salaries to the teachers. Some American educators and American foundations are calling for the closure of the Gulen schools such as NAACP. In fact, Americans are using their own tax money to make FETO stronger and let it use the source that doesn’t belong to the education.

For instance, it is detected that 700,000 dollars were given by the Magnolia Schools in California in exchange of service contract with the Gulen-related company. Another example can be given from Ohio, where $ 3.1 million was paid to the property owner of the school and during the inspections, and it is revealed that the relationship between the school and the property owner is Gulen-related as well. Some articles and documentaries from the US media including the interviews with the teachers also clearly express that how the system was set up and the teachers were exploited. The purpose of giving teachers that came from Turkey the H1-B visa was to fill the gap in the labor pool of America with the workers that are skilled in specific areas. FETO seems like the most qualified institution that is able to use the H1B quota of US in educational institutions by bringing the teachers from Turkey. If we want to give examples from the past, 684 H1B visas were given to charter schools that affiliated to Gulen. 440 H1B visas were awarded to Google ─one of the most important companies in the world. With these examples we witness how well they use the system.

The FETO groups, which operate in many parts of the US, have established the Gulen Institute at Houston University. They own 100 small-scale associations across the US. They try to defame Turkey by establishing a lobby firm in Washington DC called ‘Washington Strategy’. Unfortunately, they bought some US politicians off and used them for their own interests and purposes. This situation affects the image of Turkey just like it damages the US-Turkish relations. This can only be considered as treachery.

We believe that US public hasn’t convinced about the FETO yet. It maintains a smear campaign by allying Anti-Turkey groups to its rank. The fact that the US is still not taking serious steps against FETO which has caused a disappointment in the Turkish society and the Turkish-American society.

According to the recent surveys that were conducted in Turkey ─OPTIMARK with 71.9%, AGS with 66% and A&G with 85% also to the survey conducted with the Kurdish citizens in Turkey with 82%─ most of the participants believe that United States isn’t a reliable partner. The main underlying reason of these results was YPG and FETO.

According to the Treaty of Injury of the Criminals ─signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1981─ the FETO leader must be detained or at least arrested. 

US officials indicate that the legal process is continuing and Turkey should be patient. Yet, if the situation is taken under consideration in scope of jurisprudence, it is a very natural reaction for Turkey to expect the arrest of the FETO leader according to the agreement. President Trump and his administration aren’t very enthusiastic and willing about Gulen. However, Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told US Secretary Mike Pompeo in early June that the FETO subject was on the agenda and FBI was conducting a special investigation. Likewise, in July, the Working Group consisting of Turkish-Americans will come together in Turkey to make discussions about justice and human rights. FETO is one of the subjects that will be on their agenda.

Frankly, I believe that the evidence that the Turkish Government offers to America through the Ministry of Justice, is strong. Turkey’s request ─prepared in detail and in a legitimate way─ about extradition of FETO, who caused a deep grief and sorrow, should be evaluated or at least Turkey should be informed about the process.

The FETO issue is not only problem of Turkey. This is the problem of the US and even many countries’. It has to be better explained to the US that its own education systems are used by FETO irrevocably. I do not think a US taxpayer will accept this corruption.

As a country that lost its 250 citizens during the July 15 treacherous coup attempt, no one should expect Turkey to keep its silence about this issue. For that reason, it would be a bad idea to expect the Turkish-US relations to return to normal until this issue is resolved.

In addition to the FETO, the problem of the US support to the PKK-linked YPG still continues. Existence of a common treaty about Menbic is very important, but this tension will continue as long as the US doesn’t give up YPG completely. We all know that Father Brunson in the US has problems about the cooperation of Turkey-Russia regarding the S400 subject. That is why it is necessary to establish a mutual dialogue and sincerity again.

As a country that has 40,000 citizens, soldier and police as martyrs, Turkey’s battle against PKK-YPG will continue internally and externally. If no one gives reaction when the United States does anything according to their plan by alleging that its national security is under threat, it would be ludicrous to expect Turkey to remain its silence when its national security it is threatened as well. As a powerful country, Turkey showed its determination in the fight against terrorism in Afrin Operation and now in Qandil Operation once again.

The US should appoint an ambassador to Ankara as soon as possible. The absence of this critical ambassador is also damaging the improvement of bilateral relations. There are many common areas ─including economy, education, energy, technology─ for the country to make investments. To consider this without perceiving it as a security relationship will be beneficial to the Turkish and US communities, which are close to each other.

US needs Turkey, especially in the region. For that reason, it is very important to solve problems immediately and to extradite FETO. Otherwise the West will lead Turkey to search for alternatives.