Landis: Last Week’s Failed Coup Could Undermine U.S.-Turkey Relations

Jul 23, 2016

A week after the beginning of a failed coup in Turkey, there are still so many unanswered questions about who was behind it and what’s next for the country that’s long walked a tightrope between religion and secularism.

More than 250 people died in the July 15 uprising, mostly government supporters standing up to the attempt. Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told KGOU’s World Views 60,000 residents have been fired, arrested, or pushed out of their jobs.

“There has been a long slate of public enemies of the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan regime that have been pushed out,” Landis said. “And this isn't people who are connected to the coup, this is a very opportunistic sweep.”

Erdoğan has blamed the coup on followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish religious leader who’s been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since the 1990s. Gülen has denied involvement and denounced the uprising. But because the Pennsylvania resident advocates for stronger diplomacy with the West, Landis says the coup attempt could undermine U.S.-Turkish relations.

“There's an extradition demand for him, and a package just the other day was sent to Washington demanding that he be expelled,” Landis said. “And the U.S. is going to have to go through it, but it's going to be very difficult.”

President Erdoğan is still a popular leader, having engineered an economic turnaround, slowed inflation, and led what Turkey’s secretary of state called a “zero enemies” foreign policy. Landis says President Obama even applauded Erdoğan as a liberal Islamist who could bring democracy to Turkey.

“All that fell apart with the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, which he got dragged into. And this began to splinter Turkey, dividing secularists from Islamists, dividing Kurds from Turks, dividing Shi'ites from Sunnis,” Landis said. “So Turkey is suffering, and this is a sign of Turkish weakness. And a crackdown to become more authoritarian by Erdogan is only going to weigh on U.S.-Turkish relations in the future.”

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