An intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s top military adviser, was recently hired as a lobbyist by an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey’s government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a Washington-based news portal reported.
The story, penned by Chuck Ross in The Daily Caller and published on Friday, said Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who is expected to be given a seat in Trump’s cabinet as either secretary of defense or national security advisor, founded the Flynn Intel Group Inc. in October 2014.
“[Flynn’s company] was recently hired to lobby Congress by a Dutch company called Inovo BV that was founded by a Turkish businessman who holds a top position on Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board,” the report said.
Flynn wrote an op-ed for the Washington-based The Hill on Tuesday, just hours before Trump was declared president-elect, in which he repeatedly praised Erdoğan and called on the next president of the US to extradite US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey as Erdoğan accuses him of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.
Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, was the mastermind behind the violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others, while Gülen strongly denies any involvement.
The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup. More than 110,000 have been dismissed from state jobs, close to 73,000 detained and over 32,000 arrested by Turkey over links to Gülen.
While Erdoğan and the Turkish government have demanded Gülen’s extradition from the US and shut down schools linked with the movement, US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have several times said that it is the US courts that will decide on Gülen’s extradition if a case is filed against him with concrete evidence that demonstrates his involvement in a crime.
Ross also mentioned that a review of records shows that the Dutch company was founded by Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Erdoğan’s and also chairman of the Turkish American Business Council (DEIK/TAIK), a non-profit arm of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board. Members of the board are chosen by Turkey’s general assembly and its minister of economy. In that role, Alptekin helped coordinate Erdoğan’s visit to the US earlier this year.
The Daily Caller report also said that Inovo BV’s address was filed with Congress in a lobbying disclosure report but failed to list anyone affiliated with the company. But the website “tracked down Dutch business registration records that show Alptekin founded the company in 2005. The financial consulting firm, which Alptekin does not acknowledge on his bio, also has an affiliate, Inovo Turkije.“
In a statement to The Daily Caller, Gülen’s lawyers said they hoped that Flynn’s op-ed is not indicative of the Trump administration’s position towards the cleric.
“We hope that Mr. Flynn’s op-ed on Mr. Gülen and Turkish-American relations, published before the results of the election were known, is not a statement of policy for President-Elect Trump,” Gülen’s legal team at the Washington, D.C., firm Steptoe & Johnson said.
‘Intelligence exists that shows Erdoğan supports ISIL, Al-Qaeda affiliates’
Underlining that Flynn is getting Erdoğan’s policies wrong, Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, criticized Flynn’s op-ed in a post on the think tank’s website on Thursday.
According to Rubin Flynn gets Erdoğan wrong, whitewashes recent Turkish behavior, fails the logic test, and proposes a policy prescription that would make matters worse.
He asserted that “regardless of what Erdoğan says publicly,” intelligence exists which shows that Erdoğan supports the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda affiliates operating inside Syria.
“That makes Turkey a source of instability in the region, not its remedy,” Rubin writes, also noting that Erdoğan has embraced leaders of the terrorist group Hamas.
The Daily Caller also underlined that Flynn’s recent op-ed appears to be at odds about Turkey and its role in the war against ISIL. In the op-ed Flynn refers to the Islamic nation (Turkey), which is a member of NATO, is vital to US interests and is the US’s strongest ally against ISIL.
“But he told journalist Seymour Hersh for an article published earlier this year that Turkey was doing little to stop foreign fighters and weapons from crossing the border into Syria,” The Daily Caller said.
On Gülen’s extradition, Rubin said: “Should Gülen he be extradited? If Turkey can provide proof of his involvement in the events of July 15, then yes,” and added, “But almost four months after the coup, Turkish authorities have failed to provide the United States with anything other than accusations and demands.”
In responding to Flynn on terrorism accusations against Gülen followers, Rubin opposed Flynn on the assumption that Erdoğan is fine with moderate Muslims but intolerant of radical Muslims, saying: “If that’s the case, perhaps Gen. Flynn can explain why Erdoğan has not only hosted Hamas, but embraced its most militant leadership. Or why Erdoğan has welcomed genocidal Sudanese dictator Oman al-Bashir despite outstanding war crimes indictments?”
“Critics—myself included—have criticized Gülen for a number of reasons, but terrorism is not one of them,” Rubin said.