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From Turkey To Nice, Looking At Safety And Stability Around The Globe

Clothes and weapons belonging to soldiers involved in the coup attempt that have now surrendered lie on the ground abandoned on Bosphorus Bridge on July 16, 2016, Istanbul, Turkey. (Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)
Clothes and weapons belonging to soldiers involved in the coup attempt that have now surrendered lie on the ground abandoned on Bosphorus Bridge on July 16, 2016, Istanbul, Turkey. (Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)

Thousands of police officers have been suspended in Turkey following an attempted coup over the weekend.

Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with security analyst Jim Walsh about what instability in that country could mean for the rest of the world, as well as what we're learning about the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France.

Interview Highlights: Jim Walsh

On how the international community is reacting to the attempted Turkish coup:

"I think with trepidation you see statements coming by John Kerry, by the head of the EU, worried about what the future of Turkey will be. To step back for a moment Turkey had been on a tough trail. They had alienated many countries in the region and elsewhere. In the last couple of weeks were trying to repair that damage. They normalized relations with Israel, with Russia. They seem to be shifting policy on Syria. Then you had the coup, and I think the concern now is that President Erdogan is going to take advantage of the failed coup and follow what some would describe as deeply authoritarian instincts. Already, we've had thousands and thousands of people detained and arrested, even though it's hard to imagine that over a weekend you could find evidence for all that. So I think that they really risk international isolation if they continue down this path."

"I think it's the consensus view of most experts on Turkey and in the region. Remember, the Turkish president had previously tried to change the constitution to increase his powers, and the folks being detained are not just members of the military; police officers, judges, lawyers. The question is will this now extend to opposition figures who are "alleged to have been part of this process." That's the fear that this is going to provide an opportunity for a power grab."

On how arresting thousands in armed forces could affect Turkey's fight on terrorism:

"At least for a while and maybe longer. It sort of takes Turkey out of the game. Everyone is going to be looking behind their shoulder waiting to see if they're going to be arrested. Right now they have a domestic political crisis. They'll be looking inward, not outward, and insofar as they relied on the military to carry out operations against ISIS, well those folks are now sort of being put on trial. The quick summary here is they're going to be concerned with their own house, they're not going to be concerned with the region."

On the degree of turmoil in Turkey:

"I don't think it's as bad as that, but it all depends on where Erdogan takes this. If he insists on trying to put all the power to him as a person–it's a very personality driven process. This is less ideological than it is personality, I think. Then obviously there's going to be opposition and push back. So that creates the possibility for civil contestation, and then once that starts you don't know where it's going to go. But I think the analogies to Syria are far overblown."

On identifying people who could be radicalized:

"I think we have to be careful here. In a press conference with the Interior minister, he pointed out that as of yet they have established no direct links to ISIS or to Islamic extremism in general. He wasn't on any watch list. He wasn't a practicing Muslim. I was struck by an article in the New York Times today titled, 'In the Age of ISIS Who's A Terrorist and Who's Simply Deranged?' And it makes the point, which I am in agreement with, which is, we're quick on the trigger here to say that everything, if it involves a Muslim, is terrorism when the center of gravity might be elsewhere. This guy, like the guy in Orlando, abused his wife. He was a heavy drinker. There are other things in the mix here, and it's not clear to me that Islamic ideology is at the center."


On whether Americans are less safe now than before:

"The risk of any American being a victim of terrorism is infinitesimally small. You're far more likely to be killed by other things than terrorism. I know it feels that way, but I think that's media momentum more than the statistics would have you believe."


Jim Walsh, Here & Now security analyst, research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Security Studies Program. He tweets @DrJimWalshMIT.

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