Perhaps the most surprising consequence from Friday's failed Turkish coup, was the Turkish government's cutting electricity and suspending operations at the giant US airbase at Incirlik, which not only serves as the focal point of many US anti-ISIS missions, but also houses at least 50 B61 nuclear bombs. However, a piece of the puzzle was revealed today when a Turkish government official said the Turkish commander of the Incirlik air base has been detained. The official said Sunday that Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, 10 other soldiers and one police officer from the Incirlik base are arrested for their role in the botched Friday coup attempt.
The Turkish private DHA news agency showed footage of Van handcuffed and pushed into a van outside a courthouse.
Meanwhile, the counter-coup, this time with the implicit blessing of all western powers, is picking up speed.
Earlier today, according to AP reports, Turkish President Erdogan vowed to "systemically purge" all state institutions of supporters of an Islamist cleric his government blames for Friday's failed coup attempt. Speaking at a funeral in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan vowed to "clean all state institutions of the virus" of Fethullah Gulen supporters.
He also promised a purge of the armed forces even before the coup attempt was over. "They will pay a heavy price for this," he said. "This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army."
He said Turkey, through the justice ministry and foreign ministry, would request the extradition of the cleric, who is based in the United States, and his backers.
At a rally late on Saturday, his supporters demanded that the coup leaders be executed. "Let's hang them!" chanted the crowd in Ankara's central Kizilay square. Erdogan told them that parliament may consider a proposal to bring back the death penalty, which has been abolished. Crowds chanted "Fethullah will come and pay," ''Allah is Great" and "We want the death penalty."
Ironically, Erdogan said that in democracies, "you cannot push the wish of the people to one side" but also said "we are not after revenge."
The cleric, whose movement is labelled a terrorist group by Turkey, has denied any involvement in the coup effort. Yesterday, in an interview with the FT, Gulen accused Erdogan of staging the coup himself.
Whether or not that is true, the aftermath is clear: Erdogan has a green light to arrest virtually anyone he considers a remote threat, starting with the army and the judicial, and is doing just that.
The Turkish government has accelerated its crackdown on alleged plotters of the botched coup against Erdogan, issuing dozens of arrest warrants for judges and prosecutors and detaining military officers.
Already, three of the country's top generals have been detained, alongside hundreds of soldiers. The government has also dismissed nearly 3,000 judges and prosecutors from their posts, while investigators were preparing court cases to send the conspirators to trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. At least 265 people were killed and over 1,400 were wounded. Government officials say at least 104 conspirators were killed.
Earlier today, Turkey's justice minister said some 6,000 people have been detained in a government crackdown on alleged coup plotters and government opponents. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag says in a television interview that "the cleansing (operation) is continuing. Some 6,000 detentions have taken place. The number could surpass 6,000."
Bozdag also said he was confident that the United States would return Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey. The U.S. says it will look at any evidence Turkey has to offer against Gulen, and judge accordingly. Bozdag says "the United States would weaken itself by protecting him, it would harm its reputation. I don't think that at this hour, the United States would protect someone who carried out this act against Turkey."
But the best news of all for Erdogan is that he now has the full popular support to enforce a historic crackdown on all oppositions. Chanting, dancing and waving flags, tens of thousands of Turks marched through the streets into the wee to defend democracy and support the country's long-time leader after a failed military coup shocked the nation.
It was an emotional display by Turks, who rallied in headscarves and long dresses, T-shirts and work boots, some walking hand-in-hand late Saturday and early Sunday with their children. Rather than toppling Turkey's strongman president, the attempted coup that left some 265 dead and 1,440 wounded appears to have bolstered Recep Tayyip Erdogan's popularity and grip on power. Gozde Kurt, a 16-year-old student at the rally in Istanbul, says Sunday that "just a small group from Turkish armed forces stood up against our government ... but we, the Turkish nation, stand together and repulse it back."
The Yeni Safak newspaper used the headline "Traitors of the country," while the Hurriyet newspaper declared "Democracy's victory."
It is anything but.
* * *
Update: now that the Incirlik commander has been arrested, things appear to be back to normal
- U.S. RESUMES ANTI-TERROR STRIKES OUT OF INCIRLIK, COOK SAYS
* * *
Update 2: As expected, Erdogan is taking his time with the formal extradition request. Recall what Gulen's media advisor said yesterday: "Erdogan wants the best of both worlds, accusing him of being a puppet for the US and also asking the US to extradite him." He is so far, spot on:
- KERRY SAYS U.S. HAS NO EXTRADITION REQUEST ON GULEN FROM TURKEY
* * *
Update 3: Turkey has isued an arrest warrant issued against Erdogan top military aide Colonel Ali Yazici