Hoping to ease Turkish pressure on Saudi Arabia following the death of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the United States is exploring legal options to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey, according to NBC News, which cited four sources, including two unnamed senior U.S. officials. The Trump administration reportedly directed federal law enforcement agencies to look into extraditing Gulen last month, but to no avail.
The report has set off a media firestorm in Turkey, which has accused Gulen of masterminding the 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of leading a global terrorist organization. A U.S. State Department spokesperson denied the report but stipulated that the U.S. continues to evaluate Turkey’s requests regarding the exiled cleric. Lost in the melodrama is that if the United States followed through on this extradition – which the executive branch cannot do unilaterally – problems in U.S.-Turkey relations will endure.