Turkish president’s spokesman threatens operations against opponents on U.S. soil

A top aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey may conduct operations against opponents on U.S. soil, according to the news website the Daily Caller.

Ibrahim Kalın, Erdoğan’s spokesman, made the comments ahead of a trip the president is making to United States this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

“Our relevant units and institutions will continue their operations in the countries FETÖ operates in whether it be the U.S. or some other country,” Kalın said, using the term FETÖ to refer to the Gülen movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation and says organised a failed coup in 2016 in Turkey.

“Rest assured that they will feel Turkey breathing down their neck,” he said.

The Gülen movement, led by a Fethullah Gülen a Turkish Muslim cleric who has lived in the United States for decades, once worked closely with successive Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments, headed by Erdoğan. But the two fell out acrimoniously in 2013. 

Following the failed coup attempt, Turkey has tried to dismantle the movement both at home, where an ongoing purge has resulted in thousands being jailed and many more losing their jobs, and abroad where, in addition to diplomatic efforts, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) has conducted several operations to kidnap suspected members of the movement and bring them back to Turkey.

Similar operations have yet to be carried out in the United States, though in 2016 a businessman with close links to Turkey’s government allegedly discussed kidnapping Gülen and returning him to Turkey with Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump.

Kalın’s remarks constitute a “clear violation” of international law, according to Alp Aslandoğan, executive director of the Gülen-linked Alliance for Shared Values. “Rather than being ashamed of such operations,” he told the Daily Caller, “They are boasting about them. Any actual efforts should be met swiftly with the full force of the United States government.” 

“Turkey is no longer a stable country that one would be able to predict what its leaders would do,” said Emre Uslu, a former editor of the now defunct Gülenist newspaper Zaman. “There is a possibility that operatives who wanted to further deteriorate the U.S.-Turkey relations would attempt to carry (out) operations in the U.S..”

Aydoğan Vatandaş, a journalist who also worked at Zaman suggested Kalın’s comments should not be taken at face value as Turkey could not risk further damaging its already-frayed relationship with the United States. 

“Mr. Kalın actually aims to frighten the opponents for potential demonstrations while Erdoğan is in New York next week for United Nations summit,” Vatandaş said. “Turkish Intelligence is capable of carrying out this kind of activities in the U.S. There is no doubt about this.”