Did Erdogan stage the coup to crack down on opponents?

The Turkish government has arrested 6,000 military and non-military individuals in connection with the failed coup against President Erdogan.

Of those detained, more than 2700 are judges and prosecutors who have opposed Erdogan's constitutional power grab. An unknown number of journalists, lawyers, and other regime opponents have also been arrested. Erdogan is taking full advantage of the crisis to "clean up" the military and the judiciary where most of the opposition to his rule is based.

Erdogan is demanding the extradition from the US of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar who went into exile in Pennsylvania 15 years ago. Turkey is claiming that Gulen is behind the coup, but has offered no evidence to that effect. Gulen denies he was involved in the plot and suggested that Erdogan may have staged the coup to justify a crackdown on the opposition.

Daily Mail:

Speaking from his home, Gulen claimed democracy in Turkey could not be achieved through military action. 

He condemned the plot, although authorities in Ankara are not convinced.

He said: 'There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup. It could be meant for court accusations and associations.' 

He added: 'It appears that they have no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organisation that is not under their total control.'

President Erdogan told a crowd chanting for the death penalty on Saturday that such demands may be discussed in parliament after a coup attempt by a faction in the military killed at least 161 people. 

Looking relaxed and smiling, giving an occasional thumbs up to his supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said the coup attempt had been carried out by a minority in the army.

He said: 'The army is ours, not that of the parallel structure. I am chief commander.'

Earlier Erdogan urged the US to extradite Gulen claiming Turkey never turned down an extradition request from Washington for 'terrorists'.

Secretary Kerry demanded the Turkish government supply proof of Gulen's complicity in the coup:

US Secretary of State John Kerry said of any extradition, that Turkey should "present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny".

Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup. The 75-year-old, who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for the past 15 years, said: "I don't even know who my followers [in Turkey] are."

Mr Kerry strongly rebuked a Turkish minister who suggested Washington was behind the coup. He said "utterly false" insinuations were "harmful to our bilateral relations".

With Erdogan taking full advantage of the crisis to round up his opponents and attempt to settle the score with his longtime ally Gulen, is it possible he manufactured this coup so he could justify a crackdown?

Gulen may be trying to deflect attention from his own guilt by suggesting a set up, but with the absence of any evidence at all of his involvement, the idea cannot be entirely dismissed.

Also, the small number of troops involved, the incompetent prosecution of the coup, and the apparent lack of planning by the plotters suggest an extremely amateur attempt to overthrow Erdogan. But might Erdogan's agents have goaded the plotters into taking action? It's a seductive theory that has no evidence to back it up.

The simplest explanation is that Erdogan is a ruthless SOB who is simply following the advice of Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel; "Never let a crisis go to waste."



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