Tim Kaine congratulates Gülenists in a letter

Published 03.11.2016 01:04

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine sent a congratulatory letter to a top Gülen-linked organization in Washington in apparent disregard of Turkish concerns.

Kaine, also a Democratic senator from Virginia, has had extensive relations with Gülen's disciples through multiple organizations and spoke in support of Gülen-run networking events.

His latest letter, dated Oct. 20, was addressed to the Washington-based Rumi Forum, whose honorary chairman is Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), leading the failed coup in Turkey on July 15 through his followers.

"I'm pleased to send greetings to you and congratulate the Rumi Forum on its Annual Peace and Dialogue dinner," the letter reads.

Kaine is not a stranger to Gülenist networking and lobbying efforts in Washington. Kaine was a speaker at the Gülen-linked American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) in 2013 and last year attended the annual convention of the Turkic American Alliance (TAA), Gülen's business arm whose main purpose is to influence congressmen.

A senior Turkish diplomat said he was not surprised by the fact that Kaine signed such a letter. "Many of the Gülenists are residents of Virginia. They have institutions, associations and a mosque in northern Virginia," he said. One source close to Senator Kaine said the letter most probably was prepared by a staffer that is not familiar with Gülenists.

A Turkish diplomat disagrees: "Maybe before the coup it was possible to say that Kaine's office didn't know. But this time it is different."

The Hillary Clinton campaign has been at the center of allegations over Gülen ties over the last couple for months. The campaign didn't respond to Daily Sabah inquiries about substantial donations and a Gülenist presence on the national finance committee.

Recep Özkan, the former head of the Gülen-linked Turkish Cultural Center in New York, donated between $500,000 and $1,000,000 to the Clinton Foundation in 2015, according to the foundation's official website. The Daily Caller reported that Özkan also served as a national finance co-chair for a pro-Clinton political action committee called Ready PAC in 2014.

Özkan's involvement in Ready PAC became more scandalous when USA Today revealed that Adil Oksüz, the Gülenist theologian who orchestrated the military takeover at Akıncı Air Base in Ankara during the night of the attempted coup, made a $5,000 donation to Ready Pac in 2014 through a fictitious company he created.

Özkan, also listed on the TCC's website as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, donated between $25,000 and $50,000 to the charity.

Most recently the Gülen-run Alliance for Shared Values hired the Podesta Group to lobby Congress. The firm was co-founded by John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman who also had substantial interactions with the Gülenist business association TUSKON.

This is why Senator Kaine's letter to a Gülenist non-governmental organization has more significance than it seems. It shows that Washington is still very much blind to Gülen's activities.

For example, a senior State Department official told AP on November 1 that the charity and educational organizations run by Gülen has a suspicious structure and financing and looks "a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up of folks who are trying to hide money for money laundering" rather than a "benign religious movement."

The official also said that Turkey's case against Gülen and his followers' involvement in the coup has merit.

This is why Turkish people prefer Republican nominee Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton. The new president will have to deal with this issue swiftly, and the Clinton campaign should put more thoughts into their ties with Gülen.

But there is a great possibility that the Clinton campaign will become more vocal about the Gülen issue once the elections are done. "You get wiser once you wear the crown," as Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said last week in Washington.

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