Institutions and Competition

From Kismet to Hizmet

February 16, 2017

Turkish-born preacher Fethullah Gulen has been broadcasting his brand of Islamism from a protected enclave in the United States since 1999.


Even before going into exile on Main Street, the ex Imam maintained what some might call a relationship of spiritual and political condependence with populist politician Recip Tayyip Erdogan that dates back to 1995, when the former semi-professional soccer player became mayor of Istanbul as the candidate of the Islamist Welfare Party.


A rancorous split between the two men took place in 2014, which some western experts suggest may have been triggered by corruption spotlighted by Gulenist supporters who, along with some media assets, linked the improper activties to the party of then-prime minister Erdogan, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).  As president of Turkey, Erdogan, last year, accused Gulen and his Hizmet movement of fomenting a coup to topple his government.


Some major powers, and western media assets and "spin doctors" suggested at the time (June-July 2016) that Erdogan not use the failed effort as an excuse for his regime to conduct a repressive housecleaning to remove the “enemy within”... namely the idea that the president and his inner circle and their international friends believe that Gulen's movement, unofficially known as Hizmet (translation=the duty, or the service) has infiltrated the police, the legal system, and the intelligence and securty apparat and other elements that comprise "government" or "governance"  and "civil society."  


The report of the Rubin Center in Herzliya offers an excellent background and analysis about "the split."


Efforts by Erdogan's regime  to facilitate the extradition of Gulen from his "self imposed" exile in the United States to Turkey, so far, have been unsuccessful. 


Thanks to social media, Erdogan's "crackdown" against alleged "coup  plotters" and those who fit those profiles and other "anti-government" profiles developed by loyal elements of the sercurity services (and some casual collateral sharing by some neighbor nations)  has become democratic Turkey's equivalent of  the Soviet-era Doctors Plot, on steroids.


Among nations comprising the world of Islam, so far Erdogan's counterterrorism and "anti-coup" operations lacks the finesse that was the hallmark of those operations conducted by the legendary "Toufik" that kept Algeria from falling into the hands of extremists.


Recently, during a four-day state visit to East Africa, Erdogan warned the leaders of Mozambique, Zambia and Madagascar, that Gulen and his followers are actively seeking to control the region, and its sea lanes, which are vital to global energy security and the world economic order.


Erdogan's economic policy projects Turkey as a growing business partner in Eastern Africa, which, may help roll back the Gulenist "threat" spotlighted by Erdogan  to the region.  


According to US data and Islamic sources none of the Eastern Africa nations nor Madagascar have more than 25 percent of their populations listed as followers of Islam.  Mozambique, for exnample, is just 17.9 percent.  In Zambia  the Muslim population in this "Christian nation" is less than 2 percent.  In Madagascar where Muslims represent 7 percent of the poulation, there is an effort on to "re-Islamicize" tribal populations. This "re-Isamicization" (winback) is an area of strength globally among the "Gulenistas." Thus it is no wonder that Erdogan has promised to set up Turkish cultural and educational centers throughout East Africa.  


Erdogan's strategy of outreach in East Africa comes a bit late in the game. Because of strategic commerce, and energy security related to shipping lanes India has maintained an ELINT (electronic listening post) on Madagascar for nearly a decade.  


Increased piracy and anti-piracy operations in the Madagascar channel and along the Mozambican coast means more defense driven growth among major and  regional powers.


Late in January, a constitutional reform passed by Congress will give Erdogan extraordinary powers and contains language that effectively makes him president for life, at least until 2029.  By that time, Gulen, who is known to have health problems, will be 88 years old. Erdogan will be 76 years old. 


Ironically there are some similarities between the operational styles of the Unification Church founded by North Korean born Sun Myung Moon with its ties to U.S. interests, and Gulen's  Alliance for Shared Values. These include encouraging free market business practices, and the use of social and cultural groups and foundations as front organizations.


According to the alt-right news source Breitbart covering the visit of Trump's new CIA director Mike Pompeo to Ankara, Erdogan continues to demand the extradition of the "terrorist" preacher Gulen from the United States to Turkey.  


The question western analysts, pundits and media personalities are failing to ask, meanwhile, is how much longer will the internecine conflicts inside the Trump White House undermine the tenor and decorum of Washington's national security policy.


U.S. intelligence bases in Erdogan's Turkey are closer to the Syrian border than Manhattan is to Atlantic City, where the current U.S. president -- known back in the day to some of his schoolboy pals as "Donnie" Trump-- bankrupted his Taj Mahal casino, and still made millions.  


For president Trump, luck is still on his side.  For preacher Gulen, luck, along with time, may be running out.


President Erdogan, who seems to be coming out on top in his brinkmanship battle with the EU, threatening to "open the floodgates" and allow more "refugees" into the EU if Turkey is not made a "full member" seems to have forgotten  "Vegas Rule #1" ... "a good winner makes a better loser."

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