A big winner in President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to the position of National Security Adviser seems to be Turkey. While other NATO members have been publicly very concerned about Trump’s comments on the alliance, which Flynn echoes, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly cheered Trump’s election, and has reason to cheer all the louder with Flynn’s appointment.
That’s because on election night, Flynn penned a major opinion piece for The Hill praising Erdogan, touting Turkey as a vital ally, and faulting the media for its reporting on Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown on dissent. The main focus of the article, however, was pushing to “help” Turkey by extraditing cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey has sought Gulen’s extradition since the failed coup, accusing him of having “masterminded” it from Pennsylvania. Flynn never offers any corroboration of these allegations, instead focusing his argument for extradition on a narrative of Gulen being a “radical Muslim.” Flynn further compares Gulen within the article to Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden.
Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup, and Obama Administration officials have repeatedly said that the extradition paperwork from Turkey doesn’t offer any serious evidence of him being involved, which prompted Obama to send the FBI to Turkey to try to find evidence themselves.
Flynn’s support for the extradition, and hostility toward Gulen, was obviously welcome to Turkey’s government, but to the point that Turkish-American Business Council head Ekim Alpekin felt the need to publicly insist that Flynn wasn’t directly paid by the Erdogan government for the opinion piece.
That’s of particular importance because, after retiring in 2014, Flynn founded the Flynn Intel Group, which has subsequently registered as lobbyists on behalf of Turkey. Alpekin argued the lobbying contract was relatively small, and he isn’t sure any lobbying ever happened, but insisted the article itself wasn’t explicitly solicited.