ATC President Beasey: Most of the Americans Don’t Know Who the Gulen is
Turkishny.com – Buse Ünal
Howard G. Beasey, President and CEO of the American-Turkish Council answered the questions of Turkish NY news portal.
Turkish NY: First of all I would like to thank you for accepting our interview request. Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Howard G. Beasey: I have been the Head of the Turkish American Council since February 2015. When I was 19 years old I joined the US Marine Corps and I spent almost 22 years in US Marine. That brought me to my journey with Turkey. Between 2003 and 2010 I was in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2006 I did grad program, which focused on training military officers with cultural and linguistic understanding. I was assigned to Europe as a broad region and Turkey was my specific country. In 2006 I started to engage and work with Turkey. I did go to a language school in 2008. During my grad program of course I had more chances to learn about Turkey in terms of the modern republic, how they join the NATO and all other things that make Turkey such a unique country. For last 8 years of my career, I spent time working on US-Turkey military relations. I lived in Ankara, in 2008-2009 and then in 2010 I was diplomat for Afghanistan. After all I returned to Washington DC. Between 2011-2014 I was working in the Pentagon in European Countries’ Relations, which also included Turkey. Then I retired in 2014, I came to New York, spent 3 months with Goldman Sachs and they asked me move to Chicago, so I did. When I was in Chicago I got a call from American Turkish Council, notifying me about an upcoming position. After I look into it, that was where I wanted to land, not the private sector but the international engagement.
Turkish NY: So far what are your thoughts about Turkish people?
Howard G. Beasey: It is a common story, for anybody who spent time in Turkey it is such a beautiful country. It is famous for its geographical location and so diverse. I believe the diversity is what makes Turkey such a unique country. Also I was fortunate to travel in Turkey to every region. It was such a diverse culture. Also as we all know Turks are famous with their hospitality, cuisine.
Turkish NY: Can you give us some general information about ATC; also as a fact, Board members of the ATC are both American and Turkish, which is not so common in US for the organizations, which are dealing with US-Turkey Relations. Can you also provide some information about that too?
Howard G. Beasey: Organization is around almost for 40 years and it is unique by combining two nations. Every staff member some how spend some time in Turkey and States. We have really diverse board. In terms of service to our members that are both Turkish and American, we are trying to reflect and have the representatives from both sides. We are representing nearly 50 sectors and it gives us a really unique perspective. Our focus is exclusively economical investment relations but of course you cannot ignore political or diplomatic relations. Between 2009, 2012 there was a big improvement in economical aspect between two countries. Between 2013, 2015 I believe due to some regional political reasons; it was a back period for both counties’ economic relations. US and Turkey is having a really important relationship in the number of ways. They need to put more effort for deal with the challenges, deal with the political issues and find opportunities for cooperation.
Turkish NY: Could you also share some information with our readers about the upcoming 35th Annual Conference on US-Turkey relation event?
Howard G. Beasey: It is an event that we did historically with the organization named TAIK. It is a great referendum every year; it talks about the diplomatic and political space, economic investment, and also strategic military.
Turkish NY: As we all know the military coup was an illegitimate attempt at harming Turkish democracy and the failed coup attempt had a tectonic affect on Turkey-domestically and in terms of foreign relations. Especially during this period US and Turkey’s relations become so sensitive and important, as a result of Fetullah Gülens residency in Pennsylvania. How do you think the economic relationship between two countries will shape in near future?
Howard G. Beasey: When we had discussions with the companies in economic perspective, there is a perception that Turkey is dangerous, violence, hostile and most recently there is also some concerns in American businesses about where the Turkish government is going with the crack down of the Gulen movement. For the security aspect, I should sadly say that everywhere in the world is in the same situation. Paris is not safer than Turkey. Turkey is economically a very vibrant climate. We are trying to fill that perception gap. Also there is a perception in Turks nowadays that somehow US was involved in the most recent events but as we all know US pull back from the region in many ways. In that environment there is a growing anti Americanism which is concerning to both Turkish and American companies to do business. Actually when I was in Turkey we had a conference with 25 companies who have businesses in both sides, so we need to work on that too.
Turkish NY: What are your thoughts about what’s happening in Syria and the Syrian refugee problems that affect Turkey and Europe mostly?
Howard G. Beasey: It is a human tragedy what is going on Syria. Also from the business stand point we should think how that affects the labor markets in Turkey who took 3 million refugees. How are they going to assimilate? I believe the real challenge is, right now it is sort of treating the symptom but at the end of the day you cannot treat the symptom without treating the illness. Also as what happened in Iraq, it was not easy to treat but anyhow Northern Iraq is doing well. United Nations is also focused on Syrian refugee issue this year and President Obama was asking for especially Private Sector to step out and provide more resources, but it is more a question of engagement and treating the illness.
Turkish NY: What are your thoughts about current Turkish Cerablus Operation?
Howard G. Beasey: I think Turkey no longer allow to have terrorism on its southern border and more. Turkey faced more than 11 attacks last year. It is a way to show that Turkish Armed Forces are still viable and functioning in the region and in the Turkey. Turkey felt like they cannot wait no longer and they need to act.
Turkish NY: For the coup attempt, it is very difficult for Westerners to grasp the notion that there was a clandestine organization that infiltrated the state infrastructures and had sleeper cells who were activated at a moment like this. There are examples of this in movies but not in recent European history. I imagine this complicates your efforts in explaining what happened to the outside world. People that I have spoken to find it difficult to believe that Gulenists were able to hide their identity all these years. How all those things can be explained to the people who are living outside of the Turkey?
Howard G. Beasey: Most of the Americans don’t know who the Gulen is or the Hizmet movement. Fetullah Gulen came here many years ago. He was leaving Turkey at that time because some how he felt pressure and needed to get outside of Turkey. I know that a great deal of evidence transferred to US and of course it is a long process and it is important for US government to keep the process clear. It is of course hard to understand and explain, but we are doing our best especially in terms of business.
Turkish NY: How do you think US government will respond to return request?
Howard G. Beasey: Of course the evidence should be presented clearly and of course there are also other things prior to coup attempt. Also the government was building a list. The ones who made the coup attempt of course believed that they would be successful. But whether you agree or not President Erdogan has a charisma and political power. Much of his success is also economically. As long as the economy is keep on going it always seems okay. Especially in 2008, economic problems that had been going on in US didn’t seem to appear in Turkey. I didn’t see them in Turkey and I was living in Turkey. Of course Turkey has a lot of room to grow, through good policy and aggressiveness.
Turkish NY: Thank you again for accepting the interview request.