Erdogan tightens control of Turkish armed forces

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved today to further tighten his government's control of the armed forces following this month's failed military coup. Erdogan fired 1,400 soldiers, sailors and airmen, including his own chief military adviser, for suspected links to U.S.- based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Erdogan of masterminding the aborted coup. Erdogan also abolished all military academies, staff the top military council with civilians and said he and the prime minister will have direct authority over the armed forces.

Just how far will Erdogan's crackdown go?

Joining us via Skype from Istanbul is "Wall Street Journal" reporter Dion Nissenbaum.

So, this shake up in the military is happening at a time when NATO allies were wondering, wait, who's actually in charge, who do I have a relationship with that I can trust?

DION NISSENBAUM, The Wall Street Journal: That's right. And there is actually two wars going on on the border with Turkey. You've got Turkey's own war with Kurdish militants and one of the coup plotters, the alleged coup plotters was actually overseeing that war. And then you have the war against Islamic State and the general at the Incirlik Air Base which is the main base where the U.S. uses to carry out strikes against Islamic State, he was arrested as well. There are tankers used from that base to refuel some of the jet fighters used in the coup plot.

So, you've got U.S. military saying, how much is this going to impact our fight. They are seeing an impact already, but it's a little bit too early to say, if there will be a measurable or long-term impact.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you know, we've heard different reports, we've heard some detentions, we've heard some arrests. We've heard some people release. If they are out, if they're not detained, is there a possibility that they decide to kind of group text each other and form the equivalent of, you know, a movement against Erdogan?

DION NISSENBAUM: It's difficult to tell, we're under a state of emergency here in Turkey that's up to three months, maybe longer, depending on how it goes. The crackdown here has been widespread, 10,000 people arrested up to 70,000 people have lost their jobs, suspended or dismissed. You know, there is, I'd say a broad fear right now about this crackdown, journalists have fled the country, passports have been cancelled.

There isn't a lot of space here I would say for political opposition against President Erdogan. There was some space for it before the coup, but now that that coup has been put down, it's really given President Erdogan a lot of wind under his sails to press forward with what he really wants in this country, which is an executive American-style presidency, where it's putting all of the resources under his control. As you mentioned at the beginning, he's doing that now, today, with the military.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about all these different military academies? Why are though so important to try to purge or to retain under his control?

DION NISSENBAUM: It's an interesting question. The notion here by the government is that the people who planned the coup was led by this cleric Fethullah Gulen as you mentioned. And he's known for essentially feeding and seating people throughout the government.

So, I guess the suspicions with the military academy is that it's filled with these people that are loyal not to Turkey but to Fethullah Gulen in Pennsylvania, that they must feel like they just need to essentially wipe the slate clean and start again. That's — it's just happened today, so we don't have a lot of the rationale for why their closing the academies. But that would be my guess.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Dion Nissenbaum, joining us via Skype from Istanbul of the "The Wall Street Journal" — thanks so much.

DION NISSENBAUM: Thank you.

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