Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he has no doubt the coup plotters “thought to themselves ‘well, hey, in previous coups that happened in the Middle East, including the one in Egypt, what was the U.S. stance?
“That precedent is a dangerous one that the coup plotters had to be aware of,” he said during a SETA Foundation panel discussion in Washington. SETA is a Turkish think tank.
If the July 15 coup attempt had been successful then the U.S. would have been “indulgent toward the coup plotters,” Hamid said, adding, Secretary of State John Kerry harbors a “soft spot for dictators.”
“Let’s be honest about it, he does,” Hamid said. “His inclination would have been to make peace with the coup if that’s where Turkey was going.”
Still, Hamid cautioned against conspiracy theories of U.S. complicity in the putsch, noting that President Barack Obama has worked to disentangle the U.S. from the Middle East.
“To be involved in a coup plot takes a lot of time, effort and attention, and that is not something that Obama could conceivably be involved in from any reasonable standpoint,” he said.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have soured since rogue members of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow the state last month.
Turkey accuses U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen of masterminding the plot, and is actively seeking his extradition so he can face trial in Turkish courts.
Turkey's government says the foiled putsch, which left 240 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was organized by followers of Gulen known as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Hamid doubted whether Turkey would grant Gulen a fair trial. “It’s pretty clear” that would not happen, he said.
Kadir Ustun, the executive director of the SETA foundation’s DC office, sought to throw cold water on such concerns, saying PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s trial was certified fair by European observers and the same could be expected for Gulen.
“A fair trial is perfectly possible. We have actually precedent for that,” he said.
The Obama administration has insisted on fulfilling legal obligations under a 1981 treaty signed between Washington and Ankara.
“The administration is right to point to the legal process, I think Turks perfectly understand that, but there’s also the political side of this,” said Ustun.
“You need to assure the Turks who are going through this trauma that the U.S. will be there as their ally, politically, but also legally,” he added.