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A military coup succeeds or fails quickly. The July 15 attempt in Turkey now is over with thousands arrested, hundreds killed and Turkey in traumatic shock. The reasons behind a coup attempt, however, do not rise or disappear as quickly.
In a country that treats conspiracy theories like snack food, there will be few limits to public speculation in Turkey. For its part, the government has moved quickly to blame President Erdogan’s previous chief ally, Fetullah Gulen. The government quickly rounded up nearly 3,000 people suspected of involvement, and Erdogan has promised further retaliation. "They will pay a heavy price for this," he said.
U.S.-Turkey relations might pay a price as well. Gulen has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and the Turkish government is now accusing Washington of sheltering him—which provides the government with an opportunity to deflect attention away from its own actions.Turkey filed a lawsuit in 2014 to compel the U.S. to extradite Gulen to Turkey, but on June 29 the federal court in Scranton, Pennsylvania dismissed the suit as not within its jurisdiction. Lawyers for Turkey say they will continue to press the U.S. executive branch to extradite Gulen. “Turkey will not be run from a house in Pennsylvania,” Erdogan said Saturday, according to TRT World.
It’s not that simple, unfortunately. There is an existential battle going on for Turkey’s heart and for Turkish democracy. The struggle began years ago, has powerful forces on each side, and neither side intends to leave the field until the matter is settled. Years of turmoil may lie ahead for this important ally of the United States. The coup attempt—wrong, undemocratic and unacceptable in any modern society—did not arise from nothing, and we need to examine the possible causes.