It’s happened before, most recently in 1997, and when it does it takes the form of a military backlash against rising Islamism. Erdogan has been pushing the country in that direction for years. Did he finally push too far, or is something else at stake?
Either way, something big is up.
Both of the main bridges in the Turkish city of Istanbul have been closed by security forces, reports say.
Traffic has been stopped from crossing both the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges, but no reasons have been given.
There are also reports of military aircraft flying over the capital Ankara, with gunshots heard.
I saw one report on Twitter of military personnel disarming civilian police.
There’s “significant military activity” in both Ankara and Istanbul, NBC is reporting. Boy, I’ll say: Watch this clip to see how low the jets are flying. Things are in motion. Stand by for updates.
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) July 15, 2016
Update: Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, is reportedly offline in Turkey.
Update: Rumors of an impending coup were so loud in March of this year that the Turkish military felt obliged to formally deny them. Here’s an interesting piece from around that same time wondering if the rumors were based on something or just disinformation pushed by Erdogan as a way of consolidating public support for his government. I … guess we know the answer now.
On the other hand, Erdogan has always seemed to have dictatorial ambitions. Is the coup aimed at him or was it orchestrated by him?
Update: Yep, it’s on.
Update: Another old piece worth reading now is this Journal story from mid-May about how the Turkish military has been growing in clout lately, raising fears of a coup as Erdogan tried to consolidate his own power:
Mr. Erdogan’s moves to sideline political opponents—he forced out his handpicked prime minister this month amid a power struggle—has cleared the way for Turkey’s generals to play a greater role in shaping Mr. Erdogan’s attempts to extend his global influence.
Turkish generals are tempering Mr. Erdogan’s push to send troops into Syria, managing a controversial military campaign against Kurdish insurgents, and protecting Turkey’s relations with Western allies who view the president with suspicion. By steering clear of politics, they re-emerged as a central player in national security decisions.
“The Turkish military is the only agent that wants to put on the brakes and create checks-and-balances against Erdogan,” said Metin Gurcan, a former Turkish military officer who now works as an Istanbul-based security analyst.
“The restoration of the Turkish army’s influence has resurrected concerns all the way up to the presidential palace that generals might try to topple Mr. Erdogan,” the Journal went on to say. And here we are.
As I write this, reports are circulating that the military has issued a statement claiming it’s now in control of Turkey.
Update: There are tanks at the airport. Here’s the statement from the Turkish military:
New: Turkey’s military releases statement saying they "have completely taken over the administration of the country" pic.twitter.com/xioSlrubrp
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 15, 2016
Update: Erdogan has been reduced to making a public statement on … FaceTime. His next stop: Germany?
NBC's reporting that a senior US military source says Erdogan was refused landing rights in Istanbul and may be seeking to land in Germany.
— Alexander Panetta (@Alex_Panetta) July 15, 2016
Insert your own joke about Merkel and Muslim refugees here.
Update: Turns out there are some refugees even Germany won’t take:
— maria lia calvo-ginsburg (@MariaLiaCalvo) July 15, 2016
Crazy but true: Erdogan may need political asylum abroad sooner than his neighbor, Bashar Assad.
Update: Secular Turks aren’t crying over the coup:
“The people tried to stand up against President Erdogan, but they couldn’t, they were crushed, so the military had no choice but to take over,” said Cem Yildiz, a taxi driver who said on Friday night that he would spend the rest of the night car-pooling to make sure people got home safely…
Like many Turks, he has blamed Turkey’s policy on Syria for the terror attacks. Early in the civil war there, Turkey supported rebel groups fighting against the Syrian government. Many of the fighters who traveled through Turkey to Syria joined the Islamic State, and critics have blamed Mr. Erdogan for enabling the group’s rise.
Update: As the kids like to say: It’s lit.
Erdogan from undisclosed location called on his supporters to take to the streets to defend him. Turkey coup
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) July 15, 2016
Update: At 7 p.m. ET, the word is that Erdogan wants asylum in Britain. Here’s a poem written about him by new British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. No joke:
“There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer.
“Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”
Update: The alleged spiritual leader of the military officers leading the coup, by the way, lives in … Pennsylvania:
The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blamed the coup attempt on the work of followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, and who once was an ally of Mr. Erdogan.
His movement promotes a version of Islam that embraces science, education and interfaith dialogue, which has earned him millions of followers but also drawn the suspicion of many in Turkey’s secular establishment.
His movement has been feared by some for its ability to mobilize considerable resources and for its influence among decision-makers.
Gulen’s group has condemned the coup in the last few minutes. So has the opposition party in Turkey. So has the White House. No major player that I know of has come out in favor yet. How long can a coup last without a base of support?
Update: A cryptic AP update at 7:45:
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkish national intelligence spokesman says coup attempt has been 'repelled"
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) July 15, 2016
A Pentagon source tells the Daily Beast that they too think the coup is doomed:
The Pentagon thinks the coup was attempted by a fairly small faction of the army, and was amateurishly executed, a senior U.S. military official told The Daily Beast. They expect it will be suppressed fairly quickly, but concede there’s still a lot that’s unknown about the mutineers. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak about the incident publicly.
If you disliked Erdogan before, wait until he retakes power and looks to tighten his grip.
Update: As of 8:30 ET, pro-Erdogan protesters have wrested back control of state TV from the coup forces. Erdogan himself is reportedly back in the country and on the ground in Istanbul.