Last week US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between US President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia exposed yet another clandestine link to the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
On March 27 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detained and questioned London-based American businessman Ted Malloch, who describes himself as having been an informal Trump campaign adviser in 2016. He was slapped by a subpoena upon arrival at Boston’s Logan Airport and is due to appear before a grand jury on April 13. Malloch was rumored to be in line to become US ambassador to the EU, but it turned out that was not true and he was not being considered for the post in the first place. He has close ties to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim far-right politician Nigel Farage, the architect of Brexit and former leader of the UK Independence Party.
Interestingly enough, Malloch also has ties to Turkish President Erdoğan and his associates. Appearing on his own weekly TV program on public broadcaster TRT on Feb. 21, 2017 Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Yiğit Bulut, revealed why he was wearing a ring with an Ottoman insignia upon questions from viewers. He said he had dinner with Malloch the day before and that Ali Köse, an advisor to the Prime Ministry who works in the protocol department, bought the ring as a present for Malloch and gave another one to him as well. On Feb. 20, Malloch also appeared for an interview on the pro-government NTV, which is owned by businessman Ferit Şahenk, who long ago turned his media outlet into a mouthpiece for Erdoğan in exchange for protecting and expanding his business interests in other sectors.
Malloch appears to know well how to strike a chord with Turkey’s autocrat, who has been trying to extradite his chief critic, Fethullah Gülen, from the United States ever since the Turkish president was incriminated in major corruption investigations in December 2013. During the interview, Malloch said exactly what Erdoğan wanted to hear: The Turkish government must renew its extradition request with the Trump administration and in his opinion Gülen must be handed over immediately. He said Trump and Erdoğan had similar characters and claimed constructive dialogue had already been taking place. Malloch’s appearance earned him favors with Erdoğan after his remarks were later covered in the print media. He was featured exclusively on the Erdogan-family-owned A Haber news network on Oct. 20, 2017 and repeated the same points.
As expected, on Nov. 23, 2017 Malloch was extended a special invitation to attend a conference in Turkey’s resort city of Antalya. The event, conveniently devoted to “Gülen as an international threat,” was jointly organized by the Police Academy, a government-controlled institution, and a little-known think tank called UTGAM. He was among the keynote speakers at the opening and delivered a speech that basically repeated the Turkish government’s talking points on Gülen. He criticized the US justice and state departments for moving slowly on the extradition request, blaming the failure on what he called the “deep state” in the US. He also lashed out at former US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, who he accused of damaging ties and not being loyal to Trump and his administration’s policies. “For us, Erdoğan is a very good partner,” he claimed.
Just like an anti-Gülen op-ed article by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to FBI investigators about a $600,000 contract in August 2016 while Flynn was advising Trump’s presidential campaign, Malloch also wrote a smear article for WorldNetDaily in October 2017 about Gülen titled “US in grave danger of losing friendship, influence in Turkey.” He slammed the US for failing to meet Turkey’s “reasonable” demand on the extradition of Gülen. “Turkey has a treaty with the US and has itself extradited numerous assailants to the US over the years,” Malloch said. He also claimed that then-outgoing US Ambassador Bass disliked Erdoğan personally and blamed the envoy for what he called “horrible fallout” between the two countries.
Many of the talking points in Malloch’s article resemble what Flynn wrote and were nothing but a rehash of what we have been hearing from Erdoğan and his associates for years. It would not be surprising to see Malloch getting paid in cash or in favors by Turkish government proxies just like Flynn, who was paid half a million dollars by Erdoğan operative Ekim Alptekin for a smear article and production of a video to discredit Gülen, according to a story in The New Yorker published on March 16, 2017. Who knows, following in the footsteps of Flynn, he may also cut a deal with Mueller to spill the beans on his ties to the Turkish government and how he unlawfully tried to influence US policy without proper registration under US law.
Malloch’s private dinner with Erdoğan’s chief aide Bulut is worth pondering further. Bulut is a key operative planted in the office of President Erdoğan by a pro-Russia neo-nationalist group led by Dogu Perinçek, who advocates breaking off ties with NATO and the transatlantic alliance and replacing them with enhanced cooperation with Russia and Iran. Speaking on behalf of Erdoğan, his aide Bulut often raises this viewpoint and defends distancing Turkey from the European Union accession talks. Russian Eurasian strategist Alexander Dugin, who calls for Turkey’s severing of ties with the West and NATO, was introduced to Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by the Perinçek group.
While Malloch was delivering his speech in Antalya last year, Nedim Şener, a government propagandist and another neo-nationalist who is known for his anti-Gülen views, was sitting in the audience. He wrote about the program in an op-ed piece on Nov. 24, 2017 that was published in the pro-government Posta daily. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but Şener was among key contacts who were interviewed for the unfinished film that was produced by the Flynn Intel Group as part of the lobbying efforts of Turkish businessman Alptekin. Although the film was not made public, it reportedly involves a scene with Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kian and the former head of Turkish military intelligence meeting in a hotel room.
According to David Enders, a former VICE News correspondent hired to work on the project, Flynn Intel Group hired professionals such as Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor, to shoot the documentary and then worked to conceal its role in producing the film. Bakhtiar told The Wall Street Journal that she was misled by Kian about the true intentions of the film, which she said was focused on attacking Gülen. She said she thought the work would produce an objective, investigatory documentary about Turkey and Gülen. For the documentary, Bakhtiar interviewed İsmail Hakki Pekin, a convicted Turkish general who once served as head of Turkey’s military intelligence branch, and Şener, also indicted for his secret ties to a clandestine group nested in the military and government. The interviews took place in a hotel room in Washington. Bakhtiar told The Journal that the producer never said “We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gülen.” I never would have done it, she said if she had known.
With Mueller’s probe digging deeper and implicating not only Flynn and Alptekin but now also Malloch, more shady ties of the Erdoğan government in the US are being exposed. Let’s remember how far Erdogan is willing to push to get what he wants even if that means breaking US law and international rules. An alleged plan that involved Flynn forcibly and illegally removing Gülen in return for millions of dollars is also being investigated by Mueller according to a report by The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 10, 2017. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City.
The alleged meeting to discuss the kidnapping of Gülen followed another meeting in September in New York between Flynn and Berat Albayrak, energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the attendance of former CIA director James Woolsey, who described the proposal to The Wall Street Journal as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
All this suggests that Turkey, under the rule of this Islamist thug, has become a rogue state which is neither dependable nor trustworthy as an ally or partner. Erdoğan is managing his international affairs with mafia-style tactics, snatching his critics from other countries and investing in armed groups in other countries. His government spokesperson and deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ admitted on April 5, 2018 that Turkey has abducted 80 members of the Gülen movement from 18 countries so far, with some remaining secret and others made public. The last illegal operation took place in Kosovo, where five teachers and one doctor were kidnapped and returned to Turkey, promoting Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to sack the interior minister and the head of intelligence over the scandal. It is clear that Erdoğan has become a menace to the international order and a threat to regional stability, and he must be dealt with accordingly.