Erdogan Accuses U.S. General of Siding With Coup Plottersby
‘One should be ashamed,’ Erdogan says at police headquarters
Central Command chief said crackdown ‘very, very’ troubling
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the head of U.S. Central Command of “siding with coup plotters” after the general said American contacts were being swept up in Turkey’s post-putsch crackdown, deepening a rift between NATO’s two largest militaries.
“One should be ashamed,” Erdogan said in a televised speech outside the headquarters of police special forces in the capital Ankara, where 50 personnel were killed when a rogue group of officers carried out the July 15-16 revolt.
Erdogan didn’t mention General Joseph Votel by name, but it was clear whom he was railing against. Votel said Thursday that Erdogan’s campaign to stamp out dissent is “something to be very, very concerned about.” He was speaking at a security forum in Colorado alongside Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said “many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested.”
Turkey has suspended or removed more than 60,000 people from jobs in the military, security services, judiciary, Finance Ministry, academia and media since the failed coup left more than 250 dead. Another 1,600 soldiers, including 149 generals and admirals, were dismissed Thursday, just hours after Erdogan huddled with the chief of the armed forces.
Turkey’s defense minister, Fikri Isik, said he’ll seek clarity from his U.S. counterpart Ash Carter on exactly what Votel and Clapper meant by their remarks, which Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim called a “confession.”
The crackdown is targeting alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric Erdogan blames for the uprising. Erdogan says Gulen lords over a “parallel state” through legions of followers in his secretive organization, and demands his extradition. Almost 16,000 Turks have been detained in the post-coup sweep, about half of whom are awaiting trial.
While Erdogan has stopped short of directly accusing the Obama administration of fomenting the coup attempt, officials and news outlets are blaming the U.S. with increasing intensity, fueling a surge in anti-Americanism.
"A Confession From a U.S. General: The Coup Plotters Are Our Allies," read the headline in the pro-Erdogan Yeni Safak newspaper, one of several media outlets that interpreted Votel’s remarks as an admission of U.S. complicity in the coup attempt.
President Barack Obama denied any U.S. role in the putsch last week, telling reporters that reports to the contrary are “completely false, unequivocally false,” and that the U.S. and Turkey have a “critical alliance and partnership.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has said the extradition of Gulen, 75, will be considered if Turkey submits clear evidence of his involvement. Taha Ozhan, the head of the foreign affairs committee in parliament, said in an interview that he’ll lead a delegation to Washington next week to do just that.
“This situation is no different than if Turkey or another country refused to extradite Osama bin Laden after 9/11,” Ozhan said in an interview in Ankara.
Erdogan has ripped into the Obama administration for arming stateless Kurds fighting in neighboring Syria and refusing to classify them as terrorists. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned this week that relations will suffer even more if Gulen’s extradition is denied.
Erdogan’s chief adviser then followed up with an assessment that the coup was triggered by Turkey’s warming relations with the Kremlin:
“Without doubt,” Cemil Ertem wrote in the Milliyet newspaper, Turkish efforts to resolve regional conflicts and repair relations with Russia triggered the coup attempt. Gulen is just a “pawn” in a larger U.S. operation to create a “Europe-Turkey-Mideast geography that the U.S. will control directly,” he said.