by WorldTribune Staff, November 21, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama “failed to rise to the occasion” in Syria and his policies have helped create a major security threat on Turkey’s southern border, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with “60 Minutes”.
Erdogan claimed that U.S. policies have also contributed to the flood of nearly 3 million refugees that has inundated Turkey, twice the number that has entered Europe.
“We have addressed these issues, discussed them with President Obama and Vice President Biden. They failed to rise to the occasion and handle these issues seriously. This is quite upsetting for us,” Erdogan said.
“Let me be very frank in my remarks and I’ve been known for my candor. I wouldn’t speak the truth if I said I was not disillusioned. Because I am disillusioned,” the Turkish president said.
Many in Turkey are disillusioned with the Obama administration, which continues to refuse to extradite Turkish opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan said is responsible for the failed coup attempt on July 15.
“This man is the leader of a terrorist organization that has bombed my parliament,” Erdogan said. “We have extradited terrorists to the United States in the past. And we expect the same thing to be done by the United States.”
The Obama administration insists the extradition process must be handled through U.S. courts. The delay has created widespread suspicions in Turkey that the U.S. government is protecting Gulen, leading members of Erdogan’s government to suggest publicly that American intelligence agencies may have been involved or had advance knowledge of the coup. The U.S. denies it.
“I’m not going to blame the United States. But that’s what my people will think,” Erdogan said. “Why are you still keeping that man? So as long you harbor him there, I’m sorry, don’t get offended. But this is the – perception of the Turkish nation and the Turkish people.”
In the wake of the coup, Erdogan’s government detained more than 30,000 people including generals, judges, prosecutors, mayors, members of parliament, teachers and journalists. Another 100,000 people have been fired or suspended from government jobs. And 150 media outlets have been shut down.
“In Turkey, they attempted to destroy my state,” Erdogan said. “And of course, we could not remain silent. We could not remain indifferent. And these measures are being taken by prosecutors and judges in full accordance with the rule of law.”
Erdogan also criticized U.S. support for Kurdish groups fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria that Turkey considers enemies.
“You cannot defend another terrorist organization just because they are fighting ISIL as well,” he said. “You cannot make a distinction between a good terrorist organization and a bad terrorist organization. But this is something that we did not come to an agreement with the United States about.”
Erdogan is looking to the incoming Trump administration to restore strong relations between the NATO allies.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for National Security Advisor, criticized the Obama administration for undermining Turkey as a partner, saying that the new administration must start to understand that Turkey “is vital to U.S. interests” and a “source of stability in the region.”
Flynn has also said the U.S. should consider Turkey’s request for the extradition of Gulen.
In an Election Day op-ed for The Hill, Flynn wrote: “Gulen’s vast global network has all the right markings to fit the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network. From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden. We should not provide him safe haven.”