The U.S.-based NBC News' Thursday report that the Donald Trump administration asked the FBI, the Department of Justice and the State Department to examine legal ways to extradite Fetullah Gülen, a self-exiled terrorist cult leader in Pennsylvania, hit headlines in Turkish media.It was a simple but significant news article that some found credible, and others claimed was released by media to lead the way for a possible bargain with Turkey. Following the report, U.S. officials immediately denied it; yet, it was the first instance a big move in the years-long issue between Washington and Ankara. The crisis between the two parties over Gülen and his secretive group, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), has peaked since Dec. 17, 2013, when Gülen's men in the Turkish legal system staged a coup through false cases in the country. Three years later, FETÖ members in the military perpetrated a bloody armed coup, killing some 250 people while wounding thousands others on the night of July 15. The United States' unwilling stance to extradite Gülen, the ringleader of the coup, to Turkey escalated the crisis, and the ties between the two "strategic allies" hit rock bottom. Although the U.S. made promises regarding the matter, it did not take long to see that they didn't keep their word.
It was former President Barack Obama's years in the White House when bilateral relations deteriorated. His successor, Donald Trump, also deepened the crisis by following Obama's policy of ignoring Turkey's rightful demands on Gülen's and his henchmen's extradition processes.
There is no doubt that Gülen's group was an old U.S. project and an intelligence structure for U.S. operatives in many other countries around the world. That's why they have so far done nothing against the bloody actions and operations of FETÖ.
At such a time, what is the reason behind NBC News releasing the report? Its answer and consequences are likely to have an impact on Turkey's role and future in the region. Let's be fair. Although the news article was refuted by U.S. officials, it was reflecting a kind of truth and can be perceived as a message sent by the U.S. administration to FETÖ leader Gülen.
The message should be evaluated with the results of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, the U.S. putting bounties on three PKK executive members – Cemil Bayık, Murat Karayılan and Duran Kalkan – and Turkey's strong Syria policy, because all of them are intensely correlated and are the problematic points in the Turkish-U.S. partnership.The United States has recently been stuck throughout the entire region with its controversial and baseless campaign on terrorist groups and legal regional players, trying to find a way to save itself.
Therefore, the article on Gülen or the official reward for the heads of the outlawed PKK can be solution-seeking attempts by Washington. For that purpose, the U.S. may now be planning to practice its traditional action: Leaving its "friends" in the lurch. Its moves on the PKK and FETÖ are just a warning for now.No matter what, NBC's report already seems to signal tough days ahead for the 40-year project of FETÖ, and this is precisely due to Turkey's success. FETÖ members have surely entered into panic mode with the U.S. warning.