The visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Turkey on Wednesday comes at a complicated moment in the bilateral relationship. While the U.S. government has been sharply critical of Turkey, most Turkish citizens harbor resentment toward a perceived lack of support from Washington during the coup – and, most importantly, their ability to cooperate on the requested extradition of coup plotter Fethullah Gulen.
The US-Turkey bilateral relationship is a strategic partnership based on shared national security interests, which is why it is distressing to see the United States risk this important alliance, says former prosecutor Ilhan Cihaner in an interview with Bloomberg.
Cihaner is a former provincial chief prosecutor whose journey from power to jail and back again has tracked Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tumultuous relationship with Gulen’s organization, which the Turkish president accuses of trying to topple and even kill him.
“There were times I would ask myself, am I crazy? Am I just obsessed with Gulenists?” said Cihaner, 48, now a legislator with the opposition Republican People’s Party in Turkey’s parliament.
Cihaner said he was sympathetic to U.S. confusion over an organization that Turkey once pressed foreign governments to accept as a modernizing force for Islam but now describes as a terrorist organization. Because Gulen’s followers concealed their beliefs and loyalties to infiltrate the state, proving that they are behind any given action can be frustrating, he said. “Now I think the West is in the same position I was,” said Cihaner.