Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down on followers of his archrival, Fethullah Gulen, for years. Now he’s going after the US-based cleric himself, with unpredictable ramifications for Ankara’s already fraught relationship with Washington.
The Turkish Embassy in the United States hired British law firm Amsterdam and Partners in October to weigh legal action against Gulen, the brains behind more than 100 highly successful charter schools in the United States and thousands more around the world. The law firm filed suit on behalf of three Turkish defendants in a Pennsylvania court Dec. 7, alleging that the Muslim cleric ordered his followers in the Turkish judicial system to unlawfully arrest and detain members of a rival Islamic movement in 2009, according to Reuters.
The lawsuit appears aimed at getting the United States to send Gulen back to Turkey, where he stands accused of running a parallel state and seeking to topple the elected government. A Turkish court issued a warrant for his arrest earlier this month on charges of operating an armed terror group; the Turkish Embassy’s $50,000-per-month contract with Amsterdam explicitly calls on the firm to “provide legal advice and representation related to the extradition of persons from the United States to Turkey as required by treaty.”
The fight between Erdogan and Gulen, two former Islamist allies who had a falling out several years ago, now risks embroiling Congress and the Obama administration as well since the lobbying contract with Amsterdam “may also involve lobbying before state and/or federal government entities.“ Gulen’s supporters have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on more than 200 lavish trips to Turkey for US lawmakers and their staff and supporting presidential candidates or organizations they are tied to, notably donations to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s Clinton Foundation.
A month later, Turkey’s principal lobby shop, the Gephardt Group of former House Speaker Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., hired lobby shop Capitol Counsel for $32,000 per month to “educate and re-educate elected and appointed policymakers and opinion leaders about the Republic of Turkey.” The latest contracts are part of a $3 million-a-year lobbying operation that aims to improve bilateral relations and stave off US recognition of an Armenian “holocaust.”
The ramped-up lobby push comes as Erdogan’s crackdown on media and other critics seen as pro-Gulen has exacerbated tensions with the Obama administration and Congress. The United States has been reluctant to criticize its NATO ally too vocally, however, as it seeks to get Turkey to play a greater role in the fight against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria.
The new contracts are among several recent changes to Middle Eastern nations’ efforts to influence the US government, according to an Al-Monitor review of lobbying disclosure reports available through early December. Our constantly expanding, regularly updated series now includes links to all the lobbyists registered as foreign agents for Middle East governments.
Among other recent lobbying activity, the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court hired the Podesta Group, a lobbying powerhouse with close ties to the Democratic Party, for $200,000 in September for public relations services. And the kingdom’s General Investment Authority hired PR firm Edelman for a short-term contract to put the authority’s governor in touch with media and “key stakeholders” during his September visit to Washington.
See Al-Monitor’s lobbying series for the following updates:
- Algeria: Lobbying update for Holey Foag
- Bahrain: Lobbying update for DLA Piper
- Egypt: Lobbying update for Glover Park Group
- Iraq: Lobbying update for Podesta Group
- Israel: Lobbying updates for AIPAC and AIEF
- Jordan: No recent lobbying updates
- Kurdistan Regional Government: Lobbying updates for Dentons US, Greenberg Traurig and Qorvis (MSLGROUP)
- Kuwait: Lobbying update for Lewis Baach
- Lebanon: No recent lobbying updates
- Libya: Lobbying updates for Greenberg Traurig
- Morocco: Lobbying updates for Moroccan American Center for Policy, The Gabriel Company, Mayer Brown, LeClairRyan and Western Hemisphere Strategies. Backdated entries for Vision Americas
- Palestine: No recent lobbying updates
- Qatar: No recent lobbying updates
- Saudi Arabia: New entry for Podesta/Saudi Royal Court. Lobbying updates for DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Qorvis (MSLGROUP)
- Turkey: New lobbying registrations for Amsterdam & Partners and Capitol Counsel. Lobbying updates for Gephardt Group, Dickstein Shapiro, Brian Forni, Greenberg Traurig, Lydia Borland and Ferah Ozbek
- United Arab Emirates: Lobbying updates for Akin Gump, DLA Piper and The Harbour Group
- Western Sahara: Lobbying update for Independent Diplomat
(Graphic by Moyen-Orient/Randy Miller Design)