As part of a combative series of statements, the Turkish government has said that it will target opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan overseas — including the United States — reports NBC News.
There are several Americans being held in jail in Turkey, which has led to tensions between the two nations. Turkey has arrested well over 20 Turkish nationals living overseas who have –publicly, privately, or both — opposed Erdogan.
A spokesman for the government, Ibrahim Kalin, announced that the National Intelligence Organization would launch overseas “operations” against supporters of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is exiled in Pennsylvania and who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt from the United States.
“They will feel Turkey breathing down their neck,” said Kalin to gathered reporters in the Turkish capital.
Gulen has maintained that he had nothing to do with the attempted overthrow of the Erdogan government, but has been held up as an enemy of the state nonetheless. Turkish officials refer to his movement as the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO).
The announcement from the Turkish government will likely only prove to increase tensions between Turkey and the United States. Erdogan’s government has attempted to pressure the Trump administration to extradite Gulen, and people it suspects of supporting him, while operatives have detained his followers in other countries.
I urge all of Turkey's friends to take action against the terrorist organization FETÖ, whose members claimed the lives of 251 Turkish citizens on the night of July 15, 2016. #WorldIsBiggerThan5 pic.twitter.com/BoTQ51OGp6
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) September 25, 2018
One notable American opponent of Erdogan — who may be at risk of any potential retaliation from the Turkish president — is New York Knicks player Enes Kanter who has been subject to a Turkish international arrest warrant. Kanter wrote a piece for Time recently, speaking out against Erdogan, who has revoked his passport, saying “I am now stateless and pretty much can’t leave the United States.”
The United States has not given any approval to Turkey, a NATO ally, to conduct any operations in the country — and would certainly not give any approval that would target U.S. citizens. That would put Turkey not only at odds with the Trump administration but also with NATO, where it could risk expulsion after joining in the first group of enlargement in 1952.
While Turkey will almost certainly not get support from the U.S., it has been able to garner support from some allies. Seven teachers in Moldova were deported earlier this month, and six individuals in Kosovo were abducted by the Intelligence services — stunning the Kosovan Prime Minister. Another kidnapping was also performed in Azerbaijan, where Mustafa Ceyhan’s wife was taken to a Turkish prison.
Since the 2016 coup, Turkish authorities have arrested 80 people in 18 countries, with observers suspecting that the actual total is higher. The crackdown after the failed coup has created so many prisoners that the government is looking to build hundreds of new prisons. How many American nationals may be targeted to occupy those prisons remain to be seen.