Turkey has long been a major NATO member and a strategic ally of the United States. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey contributed immensely to the West's security and prosperity by acting as a solid bulwark against Communism. The end of the Cold War has only increased the value and importance of Turkey to the West. It has been an island of stability in a larger sea of instability in its neighbourhood, protecting Europe's doorstep both in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Turkey never abandoned its responsibilities, shouldering its share of the burden in the Balkans, Middle East, Caucasia and Africa. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the nature of terrorist threats became more severe and terrorism came to dominate the international agenda, but Turkey stood firm with its allies. It was swift to show solidarity with the United States in the aftermath of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks. Common threats, common values, and a belief in a better world have underpinned the enduring Turkish-American alliance.
To give the full picture, on his first official state visit to Turkey in 2009, US President Barack Obama described Turkey as a "strong, vibrant, secular democracy." Every single word in this description was true then and is true now. It is exactly these qualities that were at risk on the night of 15 July. The failed coup attempt perpetrated by the FETO terror cult aimed at destroying Turkey's democracy, the principle of secularism and the vibrancy of its society. The bravery and resilience of the Turkish people defeated a well-planned and cruelly executed terror campaign-style coup attempt.
The leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was crucial in defeating the coup. This is why people of all political stripes rallied around Turkey's first popularly elected democratic president. On this night and in its hour of need, Turkey expected solidarity and support from its allies, but to no avail. The prevalent feeling within Turkish society is that messages of support from the West came only when it became clear that this heinous attempt was destined to failure.
As it is underpinned by common values, the Turkish-American relationship isn't solely confined to certain elites. It has a social ownership, which needs to be maintained. Given the fact that it has been over a month since the failed coup and Turkey still hasn't received any heads of state doesn't help the cause of our alliance or the social ownership of our relationship.
This perception needs to be reversed and the Turkish-American alliance should once again be put on a solid foundation. For this to happen, our American friends should understand what we have been through and what kind of a terrorist group we are facing. The Turkish parliament, presidential complex, intelligence headquarters, and the headquarters of the Special Forces were bombed by this FETO terror cult. To put it into perspective, the United States equivalent of what has taken place in Turkey would be as follows: cultish rogue elements nestling within the state with a particular concentration in the Pentagon bombing Congress, the White House, the CIA headquarters, and special forces headquarters and killing more than 240 people and injuring over 2,000 on orders coming from the leader of terror cult who resides in a faraway country.
Turkey is seeking to do what American would have done under these circumstances: exact justice. Justice, and our alliance, requires that the US government extradite coup leader Fethullah Gulen, who resides in Pennsylvania. America should seek to understand the trauma and political psychology of the Turkish people in the aftermath of this bloody coup attempt.
In this respect, though belated, Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Turkey nevertheless presents opportunities to repair and reinvigorate the ties between our two countries. The US understands the extradition of Gulen as being just one issue among many in Turkish-American relations. Any such reading runs the risk of underestimating the importance of this issue to Turkey. This extradition case has become the most serious issue in our relations. We shall not let the leader of a terror cult hold the future of our relations hostage. As forward-looking relations premised on shared values, Turkish-American relations should weather this storm by Americans handing over the coup attempt leader to Turkey to face justice.
We live in a volatile world and an even more volatile region. The MENA region is undergoing a historic transformation. Country after country is collapsing. The Mediterranean is both the source of new opportunities as well as threats. Cross-border and transnational terrorism, human and drug trafficking have become the order of the day. Our fight against Daesh and like-minded organisations needs to be vigorous and persistent. Moreover, we are no longer living in either a uni- or bi-polar world. Instead, we are living in a multi-polar world.
New centres of powers are emerging. Some of them share our values, others don't. Against this background, the rationale and necessity for our fateful alliance has never been greater. As the chairman of the Turkish-American Friendship Society in the Turkish parliament, I can assure you that we are committed to this alliance. But our commitment is neither uncritical nor unconditional. This alliance requires solidarity and responsibility. Extraditing the leader of this terror cult to Turkey will prove that the American commitment to this alliance is a bedrock: this is an assurance that Turkey's society and political class at large needs to receive.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.