Train, equip and persecute?

Ali Halit Aslan
Ali Halit Aslan


Date posted: January 23, 2015

It’s never easy to find diplomats who speak publicly without beating around the bush and concealing facts, even if they are retired. Exceptions make especially us journalists happy. Former United States Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone is one of them.

Ambassador Ricciardone does not occasionally refrain from speaking without self-censorship, despite the fact that he recently left his post in Turkey. Thanks to the ambassador’s latest revelations, we have learned a lot about the US stance on Turkey and the Hizmet movement.

The ambassador’s speech at a full-day conference held by the Transatlantic Academy last Wednesday was indicative of how the American side is frustrated and fed up with Ankara’s obsession with Hizmet and Fethullah Gülen. Here is what Ricciardone said to Turkish government officials who beat a path to his door claiming that Hizmet has formed a state within the state and asked the US to go after them: “All right, but where is the crime? In your terms, or in our terms.”

It’s evident from the seasoned ambassador’s remarks that Americans have been patiently listening to the Turkish government’s persistent requests for the sake of alliance and doing their best to help, but Ankara failed to offer any evidence.

“Show me any evidence of crimes in your law or in ours. Are you suggesting any violence anywhere? Any violent crime or another crime? Money laundering, people trafficking, visa problem, anything?” Ricciardone would say to them, but “they certainly never suggest [one].”

Recalling the open-door policy of the embassy towards all law-abiding citizens of Turkey, Ricciardone told the head of various agencies in Turkey: “Look, I see these people. They come to me. Are they criminals? … Are you saying these Turkish citizens are criminals that should not be coming to my country or my home? No? Then we are going to keep seeing them.”

Hizmet is no terrorist

It seems Ankara, which views the Hizmet movement as a “national security threat,” has relied on its alliance with US, hoping its allegations will be taken seriously, but they were disappointed. “It’s hard for us intellectually to see how a movement, a religious movement that we respect as doing good things for Turkish-American relations heretofore, how could that be a threat to the state?” the ambassador said.

Even if the movement has “penetrated” the state in one way or another, this alone does not constitute a crime, he argues. As for efforts to link Hizmet with terrorism, Ricciardone echoes Washington’s position in a clear manner: “The US government does not regard the Hizmet movement as violent terrorists. Period. We don’t.”

Ambassador Ricciardone does not necessarily think the Hizmet movement is perfect. For example, he has criticized the movement’s attitude during the Sledgehammer coup case against military officers and alleged influence in the judiciary. On the other hand, he rules out that the US would comply with the Turkish government’s unlawful demands.

In an interview with the pro-government Sabah newspaper, current US Ambassador John Bass depicted allegations about Hizmet as “serious.” Those who want to capitalize on that are wrong. In line with diplomatic customs, acting ambassadors usually do not publicly say things that might be deemed offensive to host governments.

On the contrary, most of the time they try to please them. Of course, Ambassador Bass was not going to say, “Stop keeping us busy with this nonsense” to the microphone. I think his remarks in official meetings are not much different from those of his predecessor, since this is the position of the Barack Obama administration, not the personal views of the ambassadors.

Ambassador Ricciardone made some other important points on Turkey. In sum, he believes the Turkish-American relations are not based on “shared values,” given the latest negative developments on democracy and freedoms. On the other hand, he also explained why the US would try to establish a “reasonable” dialogue even with coup-maker generals. (So they can live with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well.) He also said Turkey and the US are “stuck” with each other. His explanation for the lack of high-level US government reaction to an increasing threat to media freedoms: to “stay engaged” with people in the Turkish government. We actually owe a big thanks to Mr. Ricciardone for helping us see the parameters of US policy vis-à-vis Turkey so clearly.

Interests-driven policy

So my analysis and projections based on what I’ve heard from Ambassador Ricciardone along with other sources in Washington is that US hopes for democracy in Turkey are very dim. It doesn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel under the current political and social conditions. It thinks Turkey might lose the next five or even 10 years due to the authoritarianism of the ruling party and incompetence of the opposition.

It prefers to pursue an interest-driven policy rather than increasing the tension in bilateral relations with a values-based policy. A weakened democracy will have a toll on Turkey’s added value, but its strategic importance will not diminish. In short, the US will not serve as an instrument for the repressive regime in the works, but it will not stand against it either.

Civic America will, of course, continue to press official America to defend democracy in Turkey. However, one should not dismiss Ankara’s ability to turn down Washington’s noise with strategic bribes. For example, the Obama administration is nowadays happy that Turkey will host a train-equip program for opponents of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Our guys in Ankara most probably think equipping and donating more will earn them new licenses to persecute.

To sum up, as long as Turkey stays a strategic mine, the oppressed should not expect strong support from the US. In a way, it would be better if local dynamics outweigh foreign dynamics in the fight for democracy. At least you wouldn’t be indebted to anyone.

Source: Today's Zaman , January 21, 2015


Related News

Gülen extends condolences to coal mine victims

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has extended condolences for victims of the coal mine blast in western Turkish town of Soma, wishing speedy recovery for injured workers.

Gov’t tries to frame Hizmet with secret statements from shady sources

The alleged government-plot against members of the faith-based Hizmet movement, disclosed in June by former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, was further instigated with questionable testimonies obtained from secret witnesses, informants and anonymous complainants leading to criminal prosecutions apparently orchestrated by political authorities.

Turkey’s greatest service to the Muslim world

Turkey was a shining star during the years that it implemented democratic reforms internally and improved relations with other countries, particularly its neighbors. Both the West and the Muslim world were watching Turkey’s progress intently and its economic success and democratic transformation would be referred to as exemplary.

Gülen’s lawyer files libel suit against Interior Minister Ala

Albayrak stated in the petition that unrealistic allegations and imputations, intended to defame his client Gülen, were made by Ala during his speech in Erzurum. Albayrak stated: “The expressions used by Ala cannot be considered within the scope of freedom of expression as they clearly violate the personal rights of Gülen.”

Minister: Turkey confiscated $4 bln worth of Gülenist property

Some TL 12 billion (about $4 billion) in property has been transferred to the Treasury as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, said Minister for Environment and Urbanization Mehmet Özhaseki on Thursday. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement without credible evidence.

The Gulen Movement has become Turkey’s most significant export

The Gulen movement has become a global movement. In other words, it is Turkey’s most important export. When you cross boundaries, you have to watch the balance. His statement on the flotilla incident was both domestic and international. However, we must not forget that Gulen does not recommend that people fight those in authority. His statements disturbed both the government and the conservatives in Turkey.

Latest News

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

In Case You Missed It

Separate state and religion

Cartoonists put Refugees’ Plight on Canvas

Head of Turkish Olympiads committee: The Nobel Foundation cannot overlook us

New Zealand politicians attend iftar dinner of Turkish foundation despite embassy’s warning

Faith Compatible with Science

Al Gore’s daughter fasted for the first time for Peace Islands Institute’s iftar dinner

Gülen extends condolences over death of Saudi King

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News