Accessibility links

Turkey’s Failed Coup Stokes Historical US-Turkish Tensions

  • Dorian Jones

Members of Patriotic Party shout slogans as they demonstrate against the visit of U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 1, 2016.

Members of Patriotic Party shout slogans as they demonstrate against the visit of U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 1, 2016.

Accusations of U.S. involvement in last month's failed coup in Turkey continue to dog relations between the countries.

In rare political consensus, the allegations are crossing Turkey’s deep political divide.

“There is a very strong belief in Turkey amongst many that America is somehow involved in this coup,” says Turkish political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor website. “There is a long-standing tradition of anti-Americanism both in the left-wing and in the right-wing in Turkey, and especially amongst Islamists.”

Newspapers across Turkey’s political spectrum are pointing fingers at Washington for at least being involved in the coup attempt.

"Such accusations have been dismissed as utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations," says U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to take steps to reign in such claims.

Stoking painful memories

The latest controversy is resurrecting painful memories of suspicions of U.S. involvement in other military coups - in 1960, 1971 and 1980, argues international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“Every coup has been associated in one way or another with the United States. We know that in 1960 that the Americans knew that there was something being prepared and didn't say anything to the government," Ozel said. "On the 12th of March, they were very much aware, if not [involved] in it. On the 12th of September, they were practically in it and they have given unconditional support to the most brutal military coup Turkey has ever had. So that is our collective memory.”

What about democracy?

Kerry’s initial comment on the July coup attempt omitted the word 'democracy.'

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking to the media.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking to the media.

“I hope there will be stability and peace and continuity within Turkey,” he said. The absence of the word and lack of support by the government added to speculation that Washington, at best, chose to sit on the sidelines.

Turkey’s labor minister, Suleyman Soylu, tweeted on July 16, “There is the USA behind the coup. Some magazines published there have been organizing activities for some months.”

Days later, he repeated the accusation on Turkish national television.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief international relations adviser, Ayse Sozen Usluer, played down the tweet, insisting it was a “personal comment” and did not reflect the administration’s view.

The dispute, however, is continuing to disrupt bilateral ties, warns international relations expert Ozel.

“On the one hand, yes, the Turks complain [U.S. President Barack] Obama’s announcement [of the coup] was three hours after the coup was known. On the other hand, the Americans are also saying you must be out of your minds to implicate us in this at the level of your labor minister or justice minister," Ozel said. "So obviously there is a lot of bad blood between the two sides.”

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave their national flags and hold a portrait of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, with Turkish words that read: "the Coup nation traitor, FETO" (Feto is the nickname of Fethullah Gulen).

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave their national flags and hold a portrait of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, with Turkish words that read: "the Coup nation traitor, FETO" (Feto is the nickname of Fethullah Gulen).

Gulen extradition could make matter worse

Ankara also is insisting on the extradition of Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States. Gulen and his followers are accused of being behind the coup attempt, a charge he denies.

Reducing tensions is seen as the key objective of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey Wednesday.

Ozel suggests that ultimately the controversy will die down, but suspicions will remain.

“The thing is the charges are such that you cannot either prove or disprove them. Not now," he said. "Maybe 20 years from now when the archives are open, you may be able to prove them in an airtight way.”

XS
SM
MD
LG