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Unclear Who Controls Turkey As Military Faction Attempts Coup


It is a night of chaos in Turkey. The military has attempted a coup, at one point taking over state TV and declaring martial law. The government now reports that it has taken back the country's broadcaster and arrested several coup-attempting soldiers. The state news agency also now says that an F-16 has shot down a helicopter that was being used by the military.

To help us sort out what is happening, we are joined by Henri Barkey. He's the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and he joins us from Istanbul where it is now 3:30 in the morning. Thank you for staying up and joining us once again.

HENRI BARKEY: OK. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: What is your sense of what is happening now? Do we know who is in control of the country?

BARKEY: Well, from the looks of it, this was a coup attempt not by the military but by a faction in the military. And it was a faction that clearly miscalculated and thought maybe that the rest of the military would join them once they started, and it has failed. And so the current government is in charge, and we will see the repercussions of this in the days and weeks to come.

But this is actually a terrible thing for Turkey. I mean, this is a coup attempt where you have no winners. Everybody loses, including the government that survived it. So the repercussions in terms of Turkish constitutional process, repercussions in terms of the self-confidence of Turkey, the repercussions in terms of Erdogan's ability to govern even if he assumes greater powers through a constitutional change (unintelligible) question.

And now you have a military which is, you know, is clearly affected. And how do you rebuild that military? How do you - essentially they'll have to purge. And how do you purge it without doing a great deal of damage?

SHAPIRO: Can I just ask? From where you're sitting, you say it appears clear that the coup has failed. We're hearing so many different conflicting reports from here. What leads you to that conclusion?

BARKEY: Well, I from the beginning did not think that this was a coup that was going to succeed only because I've seen and I've studied Turkish coups in the past. Whenever you have a coup, the high command is always in control. And they move swiftly, and they arrest the prime minister, the president and the cabinet and members of the parliament.

This did not happen this time. They - the coup plotters did not know where even - the president was, it seems to me so. So when you have a coup that is so disorganized, it is not likely to succeed.


BARKEY: The only thing - yeah.

SHAPIRO: Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been clamping down on civil liberties, press freedoms, freedom of speech before this coup attempt. If in fact he does retain power, what does that imply about the steps he might take next?

BARKEY: Well, the interesting thing is that the automatic corollary of this coup is that he's going to increase his powers at the expense of society, expense - at the expense of opponents, at the expense of everybody. That is kind of if you want a linear expectation.

But I will submit to you that this president now is much more weakened. Even though he will have probably extra constitutional powers, he's weakened because he's - the face that he projected of an impregnable confident leader is now not there anymore. So he's going to be looking over his shoulder all the time. He's going to be less trusting. He already was not trusting of the opposition. I suspect that relations will get much tenser in Turkey, and he will not be able to govern with consensus. Instead he's going to be governing more and more through dictate, and that is...

SHAPIRO: All right. Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars speaking with us from Istanbul, thank you so much.

BARKEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.