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Turkish Military Says It Has Seized Power Of The Country

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In a story that is unfolding as we speak, the Turkish military appears to have taken over state TV, claiming that armed forces have seized power in Turkey. A statement being read by an announcer cites rising autocratic rule and increased terrorism. At the same time, the country's leadership has only gone so far as to say that there is an uprising in 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. Welcome to the program.

HENRI BARKEY: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: What is your sense of what is happening right now in Turkey?

BARKEY: Look, I think it's too early to tell. I think we have to wait and see what's going on. If it was a real serious coup attempt, I don't think it was very well-planned because clearly the prime minister spoke on television, and the president also is out there urging people to go out in the streets. So this - if this was a real - real serious coup attempt, I would have expected those two - those two gentlemen to have been arrested immediately. So we don't know.

I mean, it may - it may be a coup in the making, in the sense that it started off small or medium-sized and maybe other units will join. Or it may be that it is only a coup that will be overwhelmed by the rest of the - of the military. I don't think we know enough, but something certainly is going on. And this is going to have very serious repercussions for Turkish policy, Turkish domestic security, Turkish stability and whether or not Erdogan and the prime minister remain or whether or not they topple. I think we've got to deal with a very, very different Turkey either way.

SHAPIRO: It does seem like very contradictory messages, where the military - or at least facets of the military - say we are in control, and the president and prime minister say this was an attempted coup within the military, and we're still doing fine, and we are in control.

BARKEY: Right. I mean, look, I think it's - I think it's very clear that whatever this is, it's not a full blown coup that originates with a high command. It is clearly within the military - a faction of the military. So it - it must - we don't know the size of that faction. If that faction is very, very strong, it will maybe overwhelm the rest of the military. If it's not, it's going to succumb.

So that's - that's what we don't know at the - at the moment. And that's why you have confusing stories out there. Initially, I thought that this was a very small attempt, but clearly it has legs, and it is most serious than I personally thought it was. But at the moment, because of the confusion, we will not know for - for a while. And what we're seeing is...

SHAPIRO: Can you briefly - can you briefly explain what would have motivated elements of the military or the military in its entirety to rebel against the country's leadership?

BARKEY: Look, the military has been unhappy with Erdogan for a while. Now that's he's president and with his authoritarian style, it's not that the military is essentially a democratic force. It is not. But until very recently, the president and - had a very strong ally against the military. He and his ally, - this organization called (unintelligible) - they broke. So the - the president has tried to align himself with the military, and I think the military is smelling weakness.

SHAPIRO: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Henri Barkey is the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. We'll continue following the story. Thank you very much for your time.

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