I’ve heard the rumors already about how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan staged the coup himself to solidify his power. While I suppose anything is possible in an infinite universe, this sounds like it falls somewhere off the end of the bell curve in terms of conspiracy theories. Still, Erdogan is no fool and he seems to be a follower of the American political maxim of never letting a perfectly good crisis go to waste. Already known as an authoritarian with strong man tendencies, observers were wondering if this attempted coup might provide the Turkish president with the perfect cover to tighten his iron grip on the nation. The Washington Post immediately jumped out to warn him against such a move.
Having been backed by Turkey’s democrats after a faction of the nationalist military turned on him, Mr. Erdogan ought to respond by backing away from his own drive to neuter or destroy peaceful opponents, critical media and independent judges. Sadly, few close observers of the Turkish leader expect such a reversal. On the contrary, the coup may leave a more unstable and less liberal NATO member on the border of Iraq and Syria, headed by a Putinesque strongman whose paranoia and intolerance have been redoubled.
The WaPo’s editorial board was right to doubt that Erdogan would be heeding their advice. Before the coup was even fully squashed, the enemies list was being expanded and people were disappearing into government custody in Turkey.
A sweeping campaign to arrest renegade military officers, soldiers and other suspects linked to a failed coup plot in Turkey showed signs on Sunday of turning into a nationwide crackdown against opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. The country’s justice minister confirmed that as many as 6,000 people, ranging from commanders to civil servants, have been detained over the incident.
Authorities early Sunday detained more than 50 senior army officers in connection with the attempted putsch that began late Friday and was swiftly quelled by supporters of the Turkish leader, the country’s Anadolu news agency reported.
Erdogan isn’t just consolidating his power on the home front, either. He’s got plenty of international leverage to wield in terms of being a key player in the war against ISIS and he’s not afraid to use it. One of his first claims was that the coup was orchestrated by exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen who is currently residing in Pennsylvania. With that in mind, Erdogan would like the United States to turn him over for “questioning” back in Turkey and, amazingly, our Secretary of State said he was open to the idea. (Associated Press)
In a televised speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States should extradite Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan said Turkey had never turned back any extradition request for “terrorists” by the United States and stressed Turkey’s joint role with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. “I say if we are strategic partners then you should bring about our request,” he said.
This is turning into a sticky situation in more places than just Turkey. You can read this Daily Caller piece which reviews the convoluted ties between Gulen and the Clintons, Kerry and Obama, all of which seem to be in direct conflict with the administration’s defense of the “democratically elected government” of Erdogan. There are also ties between Gulen’s people and Huma Abedin which have been coming under scrutiny over the past few years. Assuming the media pays any attention to these items at all it’s going to make for some uncomfortable times for the Democrats this summer. Meanwhile, critics of Erdogan back in Turkey will likely be disappearing quickly.
As I’ve written here before, Erdogan is a sketchy ally at the best of times, but he’s the only one we have in that pivotal location. One has to wonder if we would be treating him so graciously if not for the ongoing battle with ISIS and the European immigration debacle.