Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday met in the White House to discuss ways to strengthen the Turkish-American cooperation against global terrorism – which, predictably, brought up the sore point regarding Fethullah Gülen, Erdogan’s arch nemesis who currently lives in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
“…I have been frankly communicating our expectations with regard to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which we have notified our friends of their involvement in the failed coup of July the 15th in Turkey,” Erdogan told Trump during their joint press conference, pointing out the obvious quid pro quo: you deliver my arch nemesis to me, “and we have taken into consideration the joint steps that we can take forward in Syria and Iraq.”
Gülen was Erdogan’s ally until 2013, but the alliance was destroyed by the 2013 corruption investigations in Turkey, which exposed the first successful Muslim politician in the history of the modern Turkish state as being Sultan-like in the scope of his crookedness. Erdogan believed Gülen had been behind the investigations, which was how the popular Muslim teacher found himself on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list, and discovered he was now the leader of the Gülenist Terror Organization (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, or FETÖ).
A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen, and Turkey has been demanding Gülen’s extradition from the US. Before President Trump’s 2016 election, the Justice Dept. did not believe Gülen was associated with any terrorist activity, requesting the Turkish Government substantiate the allegations in its extradition warrant request with evidence.
Both Presidents spoke of the need for their two countries to cooperate against terror organizations in the Middle East, but while Trump had more conventional targets in mind, such as ISIS, his guest said, “There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region,” adding that these organizations should also include “YPG and PYD in the region – taking them into consideration in the region […] And we should never allow those groups to manipulate the religious structure and the ethnic structure of the region making terrorism as a pretext or an excuse.”
YPG, The People’s Protection Units, is a Kurdish militia in Syria and the primary component of Rojava’s Syrian Democratic Forces. The YPG is made up mostly of ethnic Kurds, but it also includes Arabs, foreign volunteers, and the Syriac Military Council, a militia of Assyrian Christians.
It is possibly the most pro-Western rebel group operating inside Syria today, and the fact that President Trump and his advisers had nothing to say about Erdogan’s lumping them together with terror organizations is outright shameful – especially considering the fact that the US has been arming and otherwise supporting the YPG as part of its efforts to unseat President Assad.
The Turks are afraid of any show of Kurdish might, because they are in the midst of a campaign to repress their own Kurdish citizens.
PYD is The Democratic Union Party, is a left-wing Kurdish political party established in 2003 in northern Syria. It is a founder member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, and is described by the Carnegie Middle East Center as “one of the most important Kurdish opposition parties in Syria.” It is the leading political party in the Federation of Northern Syria, and a staunch foe of the Assad regime.
If a future Syria has any hope of ever establishing a constitutional democracy, PYD will necessarily be a major partner in that endeavor. Yet a hostile neighbor, who recently endowed himself with Sultan-like political power, is declaring this group as terrorists on the White House lawn.
And President Trump, in response, says the following: We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups.”
PKK, The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has waged an armed struggle against the Turkish state for equal rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey – who comprise an estimated 25% of the population. The PKK is, indeed, listed as a terrorist organization by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States and the European Union. However, in August 2015, the PKK announced they would accept a ceasefire with Turkey with US mediation. But Trump, like President Obama before him, is hearing none of this.
It has been established that Turkey has been focusing a lot more of its fire power on fighting the Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, than against ISIS. In fact, the Kurdish leadership accused Erdogan of deliberately engineering the breakdown of a two-year ceasefire, reawakening a wave of PKK terror in Ankara and Istanbul.
Incidentally, the US may still be supporting the PKK clandestinely, via the Blackwater Worldwide group. At least that’s what the Turks have said in the past, which the US has denied.