We’re very much in the “what’s it all about” phase of the post-coup Turkey analysis, although we haven’t totally moved out of the “what the hell just happened” phase quite yet. For people who would like a condensed and hopefully both informative and funny rundown of what seemed clear as of Saturday afternoon, I had the distinction of being the first repeat guest on the Chapo Trap House podcast, and that episode was just released this morning, available on SoundCloud or iTunes.
For those who don’t like funny and informative things, or who don’t like me but are reading this nonetheless for some reason, here are some quick hits on the latest developments and analysis:
- The former commander of the Turkish air force, General Akın Öztürk, has reportedly confessed to planning the attempted coup. In other news, the former commander of the Turkish air force, General Akın Öztürk, has reportedly not confessed to planning the attempted coup, despite what you may have heard from other sources like such as the sentence before this one. State-run media (always something you see in a well-functioning democratic republic that respects basic freedoms) reported that the general had confessed, then had to retract that report. He is in custody, though, so we’ll see if Tayyip Erdoğan’s interrogators can
beat a confession out of himgently encourage him to come clean, or whatever.
- Apart from Öztürk, thousands of people from the Turkish military and judiciary have been arrested since the plot fizzled out, including dozens of flag officers. It remains to be seen just how badly all these arrests will hamstring the Turkish military, at a time when the US still wants it to play a greater role in combating ISIS. I just did an interview with Turkey expert Ömer Taşpınar for LobeLog that will hopefully go live tomorrow, but his view is that the number flag officers implicated here suggests that the coup plot must have gone quite a ways beyond the small cadre of officers thought to have ties to the Gülenist movement, which is the favored suspect of the Turkish government at this point. (UPDATE: estimates now put the total number of arrested, suspended, and/or fired government officials at around 20,000, so this is shaping up to be a pretty epic purge.)
- However, it seems likely that the Gülenists were at least involved, and in fact it may have been fears that a government investigation into Gülenist influence in the military was about to produce some arrests that prompted the coup plotters to go ahead with their attempt despite clearly not being ready to really pull it off.
- In addition to reports, as yet unsubstantiated beyond what Erdoğan has said as far as I can tell, that the Turkish President’s vacation hotel in Marmaris was “attacked”–either bombed or assaulted–just “minutes” after he left it, there are now reports that rebel F-16s had a lock on Erdoğan’s plane but didn’t fire for some reason. These harrowing stories of Erdoğan’s inexplicable survival despite the direst of odds are, in addition to puffing up his public image, going to lend credence to people who are suggesting that the whole attempted coup was staged by Erdoğan himself (or that, at the very least, he knew about the coup attempt before it happened and allowed it to proceed) in order to give him an excuse to consolidate his power over the Turkish state. I am not one of those people, but I could be convinced. Only so many things that could have just happened to break perfectly for Erdoğan before it becomes too good to be true.
- One of the people who says Erdoğan staged the coup attempt is, of course, Fethullah Gülen, the erstwhile Erdoğan ally whose falling out with the Turkish president has defined a lot of the past decade of Turkish politics. Erdoğan wants the US to extradite Gülen, who was behind the coup according to Erdoğan. One of Erdoğan‘s cabinet members, Labor Minister Süleyman Soylu, has just gone ahead and accused the US of involvement in the coup plot. US Secretary of State John Kerry would be willing to consider an extradition request if Turkey can produce evidence linking Gulen to the coup plot (extradition being a legal matter, some evidence would have to be produced to make it happen), while also getting a little testy over Soylu’s ill-advised remarks. So US-Turkey relations are in good shape, if you were wondering.
- Longer term, there are reasons to think that the coup attempt could have repercussions for Turkey’s hopes for membership in the EU and maybe even its actual membership in NATO (though that would really be a huge development and it’s probably not going to get to that point), particularly if, as seems increasingly likely, Erdoğan avails himself of the opportunity now afforded him to really purge the Turkish political scene of any opposition and to try to secure his long-running goal of amending the Turkish constitution to implement a presidential system of governance.
- There is a certain…irony in the fact that Erdoğan‘s ability to resist the coup was facilitated by the same social media that he’s tried so hard to control when it’s been used by his political opponents. I’ll just leave it at that.