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The Purge: Coup Year

Walter Russell Mead

The most important purge in the world isn’t showing in American movie theaters this summer—it’s playing out right now in Turkey. The coup attempt in Turkey has given President Erdogan, in his own words, the perfect “reason to cleanse our army.” But the army isn’t the only institution in Turkey being purged right now—the judiciary is being hollowed out as well. The FT:

The arrest on Sunday night of Mr Erdogan’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Ali Yazici, a man with unfettered access to the president, showed how deep the conspiracy to topple his government ran. A Turkish official revealed that Mr Erdogan’s jet was “harassed” by at least two fighter jets in the early hours of the coup.

At least 29 generals and more than 20 colonels are among the nearly 6,000 arrested, while 3,000 more remain at large, according to Turkish officials. The alleged ringleader, ex-air force chief Akin Ozturk, will be charged with treason, according to an official.

Fears were growing that Mr Erdogan would use the coup to target the independent judiciary. More than 2,700 judges and prosecutors have been fired, including two members of the highest court. The government has yet to tie them to the putsch.

As the arrests gathered pace, Mr Erdogan called the coup “a gift from God to cleanse the army”. So many soldiers have been detained that some have been locked in schools in Ankara.

As of today, there are no bounds on Erdogan’s power in Turkey. He has an unparalleled opportunity to lead the country in virtually any direction. He is a master politician; as a policymaker his record is mixed—Turkey’s foreign policy is the kind of thing Ben Sasse is traveling around Nebraska this week to see…

It is as if Erdogan has a rich intuitive sense of how Turkey works but is much less gifted at reading the outside world. How this mix of mastery and ineptitude will work out is anyone’s guess, but Turkey is going to be one of the most important countries in the world to watch in the coming weeks and months.

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