Turkey, Politics

FETO a worse threat than other terror groups: Historian

FETO members abused their positions and power to destroy their enemies, says Princeton University academic

FETO a worse threat than other terror groups: Historian


By Ilker Girit


The Fethullah Terrorist Group or FETO may pose a greater threat to Turkey than any other terrorist group, a prize-winning Princeton University historian argues in a new analysis.

“FETO, arguably, threatens the integrity of the Turkish state and the health of Turkish democracy more insidiously” than other terrorist groups, says Michael Reynolds, associate Professor at Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, in an article for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank, on FETO’s network and its July 15 defeated coup.

While terrorists commonly strike at the state from the outside in the hopes of disorienting and delegitimizing it, “FETO penetrated the state from the inside and managed to take control of law enforcement agencies, the judiciary branch, and revenue agencies, among others,” said Reynolds. 

“FETO members abused their positions and power in the state to destroy their enemies and any who would stand in their way,” he said, adding that before July 15 FETO bore no resemblance to any conventional terrorist organization. 

“[Up to then] It had not, to the best of my knowledge, employed violence as a means to affect or to sway public opinion along the lines of a typical terrorist organization,” Reynolds stated. 

Reynolds wrote that for nearly three years, the Turkish government has made crushing FETO its top priority, even above defeating the PKK or Daesh. 

He also claimed, “Ankara has yet to achieve a decisive victory, primarily” because Fetullah Gulen, the movement’s leader and center, lives safely in the U.S., although Turkey has dismissed, detained, and arrested many tens of thousands of FETO members, and shut down Gulen-affiliated schools, businesses, and organizations.

Reynolds also criticized the U.S.’ stance towards FETO’s coup attempt, saying, “It is surely a great irony – or tragedy – that the United States ... may actually have helped to subvert and to weaken the most important democracy in the Middle East.”

He added, “The rhetoric of U.S. and European officials and observers in the wake of the coup was, at best, inept,” quoting U.S. President Barack Obama during the coup attempt as urging “all sides to act within the rule of law.” 

“[It] did not merely sound hopelessly silly – imploring violent mutineers to obey the law! – but its neutrality and implicit recognition of the mutineers as a party no less legitimate than the elected government they were seeking to overthrow came across as mischievously sly, even sinister,” Reynolds wrote.

He also claimed that remarks by Central Command Chief Gen. Joe Votel and National Intelligence Director James Clapper saying that key American interlocutors in the Turkish military were among those purged or arrested after the failed coup “bolstered suspicions that indeed Washington did harbor sympathies for the putschists.” 

“They implicitly suggested that the preferences of American military and intelligence officials should take precedence over the physical security of the Turkish government and population,” the professor said. 

He also accused American policy makers, saying “they are guilty of negligence for not investigating and monitoring the activities of Gulen more thoroughly before and during his residence in the U.S.”

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