If the United States agrees to return Fethullah Gülen – the US-based Islamic cleric and leader of the global Gülen movement – to Turkey, it could be the start of a whole new offensive in the war against terrorism.
One of the major advantages that militants have is their fallback on gaining harbour in other countries. As more nations realise that this offer of refuge finally turns rabid and causes them more acute and deadly problems in the long run, they may be more prepared to hand over terrorists to countries that have accused them of being behind violent plots.
The United States, now, faces an acid test. If it does not return Gülen to Ankara seeing as how all extradition requests by Washington have been conceded by Turkey, it could be losing its strategic ally. Despite all its civil rights protections, the US will consider its foreign policy priorities very seriously indeed and Secretary of State John Kerry has already hinted that if Turkey follows the right procedures, extradition would be on the cards. The US is a tough nation to pull someone out from if they are legally on their soil but the stakes are now getting stiff and Obama cannot blink.
For President Obama, it would be tough not to give up a man who is suspected of having masterminded a coup against a democratically-elected government and a Nato ally. This is not some Saturday night despot being overthrown, this is America’s ‘east-west’ buddy. And the coup was blocked by civilians who stood in front of guns and tanks and said, no. What greater custodians of democratic principles?
Can President of Turkey Erdogan prove that his erstwhile ally is the mastermind? Merely loathing Gülen is not sufficient and evidence of conspiracy will have to be found.
Off the books, the US will probably help Erdogan formulate the appeal and request and guide him on how to proceed so that the legal parameters are maintained. Although there will be a certain concern about the ‘silent’ uproar in over three million Gülen followers and their very strong and highly-placed global network the US will have to bite that bullet.
If they do not accede to the demand made (and it is not a request), they will establish a very strong base for future asylum seekers and make a mockery of being the custodians of the free world. It will also be a free pass to other nations to open their doors and invite in their enemy’s enemies.
If the US does allow the Turks to take him home and can absorb the repercussions, it might start a new chapter in anti-terror activity. If there is no place to hide and nations, sick and tired of being targeted, begin to place economic sanctions on those who give such refuge and the will to do something manifests itself we might see a slowing down in terror attacks.
Chritpher Dobson and Ronald Payne wrote a book called Fightback as far back as 1979 on the need to see extradition as a weapon. It didn’t fly during those limited Red Army and IRA and Baader Meinhoff days because terror was still seen as a fringe activity and particular to specific countries.
Today, Fightback would mean a clear move from extraction by the powerful over less powerful (bin Laden assault, removal of Noriega) to extradition by international fiat. As things stand, extradition treaties are softened by cumbersome procedures and the fear that a return might endanger the life of the individual.
A simple add-on step would call for a UN committee with assistance from the Interpol or one under the International Court comprising a certain number of nations on a rotational basis. If a host nation refused the request it would be sent to the committee and a simple majority vote would suffice.
This would protect the innocent while locking the door on those seeking shelter.
It is not as difficult as it sounds. There just has to be a collective will to do it and hobble the common enemy of mankind.