President Trump recently placed a telephone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in large part to discuss future steps toward Middle East stability. The call — both the act and any promises made — may turn out to provide something more vital and imperative: a critical rebound in the crucial relationship between the United States and longtime friend and ally Turkey.
There are many top-shelf issues to discuss yet the one that may become the avenue for renewed cooperation sits in a small corner of Pennsylvania, a state that Trump carried easily and has provided him with continued political support for his unique agenda. That focal point is Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen – who resides in Pennsylvania – the head of a group of followers known as FETO by the Turkish government.
The Turks want him sent back to Turkey, calling him the key protagonist in the 2016 failed coup against Erdogan. The Trump administration is thinking about it. And while it deliberates, there are signs of increasing pressure from federal authorities on Gulen’s network of charter schools across the United States, how they function and, more where the money they raise flows.
“Like mobsters, they are being watched very carefully” by the Justice Department and others, waiting for the misstep, one longtime Turkish analyst said.
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