there's no indication that the u.s. military there is in any kind of danger. >> jim miklaszewski, thanks. while we've been reporting, social media has been shut down in turkey. it has not been shut down here. and we're monitoring the same reports others are of sporadic gunfire and clashes. but at the top of the 5:00 hour here on a friday night in the united states, the story is reports conflicting on both sides of an attempted military coup in turkey. andrea mitchell has been part of our coverage and has been gathering as much as she can in washington. andrea, this appears to be a surprise to a lot of folks from turkey to the beltway. >> it is shockingly surprising to u.s. defense intelligence, the white house. secretary kerry in moscow says only that he is monitoring reports. they've seen the reports. they don't have additional information. they are hoping that there can
be peace and security in turkey, but as you know, this is a nato ally on the gateway to syria where isis is headquartered in raqqah. this is the pathway for foreign fighter to and from and also for refugees ot of syria and it's been a fulcrum of not only european, the focus of european angst because of the fact that these fighters are going in and out and also reaching europe, but also for the u.s. it has been a key chokepoint and a concern that there has not been enough cooperation by the erdogan government. and that the erdogan government has been leaning toward becoming more islamist and less secular as erdogan has tried to consolidate power. and conflicted with the military. there's been trouble brewing but it has dialed down. so this is very surprising to american officials who have been
monitoring the situation and are confirming gunshots on the streets. they're confirming media reports. they do not have their own fi t firsthand intelligence on what is happening in such an important nato ally which has roontly been the subject of terror attacks. >> and we don't mean to express surprise this has taken all quarters by surprise. by its nature, it has to be sprung and secrecy is a vital part of this. matt bradley in london. what your monitoring there. >> official statement from the state-run turkish media agency that the chief of staff of the turkish military was among those taken hostage by hostage takers in ankara. as you know, this is starting to look like a traditional coup, especially the kind that's
struck turkey several times. so taken hostage, probably means he was basically detained by the co-plotters in ankara. confirmed by reuters. this is the fourth -- this is the fifth time the military has intervened directly into turkish politics since 1960. as i mentioned earlier. this is very much with a precedent. the turkish military sees it as its sacred duty. and, of course, president erdogan had been islamicizing the state over the past more than a decade of his control. what's really interesting n has gone unreported, turkish report t tayyep erdogan just earlier today, several hours ago before this coup attempt or coup, he actually authorized the lifting or the -- he gave immunity for
any officers for their actions within turkish orders. this seems to have offered a green light for the turkish military to have acted against his rule, brian. >> matt bradley in london. ayman mohyeldin is here in our new york studios. for folks tuning in, this is a long way away. this is geopolitics. what does this mean? >> this is a seismic earthquake in the region. in a region where the united states is heavily invested. this is a nato country. it is on the doorsteps of europe. it's a conduit into europe from the middle east and from europe into the middle east. it is a major player inside of the middle east. its relationships with israel. its relationships with various countries across the arab world. the persian gulf or arab gulf. this country sits in the geopolitical center of one of the most important regions of the world. so what is happening now is a
very dangerous situation, to put it mildly. this is a situation, as we know, we don't know which way it's going to unfold. but to put it in context for our viewers. the person being removed from power or the attempt to remove this person from power has systematically won democratic elections for the better part of the last ten years, including in november of 2015. his party controls the democratic majority in a democratically elected parliament. this is a risk by the military and senior leadership of the military that is attempting this coup. and if they succeed, they will be removing a democratically elected government. the implications of that are going to be felt not just inside turkey, not just on the doorsteps of europe but it can take turkey and the region in a 180-degree direction from what we are currently seeing right now. >> we've seen social media shut down within turkey. they have that ability. we have seen air travel
apparently shut down in and around turkey. andrea mitchell has more on that aspect of this. >> we do have a report from the faa. the only airline that flies to and from turkey directly from the united states is turkish airlines. otherwise, most travelers, most turkish americans whom i know go through united or lufthansa through germany. but the turkish airlines does fly directly. we are told that flights that have already left turkey will not be diverted. they can lapped nd in the u.s. flights will likely be diverted to other countries in the region because they have closed the airport. the military has closed the airport, according to the faa. it's up to turkish airlines to determine whether a u.s. to turkey flight that has not left will, in fact, leave at all. no u.s. airline flies directly into turkey, but turkish airlines, which is, of course, a government airline. it does fly directly to and from
the u.s. >> how do we make sense of these opposing statements? you can find a statement to prove either thesis right now. and that is that the military has seized control in a coup and the government is saying everything is fine here. we turned away a military coup attempt. >> i would say, after talking to other officials in the u.s. government that the people with the guns are probably correct here. so i would say if the military says they're in control, they most likely are in control, at least temporarily. whether the people of turkey go along with that remains to be seen. but if they have the guns and they have lots of firepower. they are a nato ally. we've helped arm them. they're probably in charge. >> and let's talk oouf mystic t euphemistically about the kinds of personnel who would be inside a u.s. embassy in ankara.
doesn't that include all kinds of people who would have the ability to follow, at minimum, media reports within turkey and at most have contacts throughout government and the military? >> absolutely. this is quite an important listening post. so we have a full diplomatic contingent. the usual marine deployment and other agencies would be represented. you would have a lot of important information that right now is probably streaming into washington and to suburban virginia. >> chuck todd, whose hour this normally is, is with us. and, chuck, this puts -- this means everyone will be get tinga lesson in the life and times of erdogan. >> i heard the words turkey and coup n thought, what's erdogan up to now because it has been that kind of -- look. there is internally in turkey, there's been a lot of angst over
the -- what some have said is a bit of a power grab or autocratic rule that erdogan has created. perhaps this tension has been growing more than we had realized. but i tell you, this is a nato member nation. let's not forget that, brian. nato member nation. and, look, as ayman pointed out, it is -- of all places that we can't afford, and i say we. i mean the western world cannot afford to have unstable. it is turkey. when you consider the migration crisis, turkey is the chokepoint, preventing it from totally exploding into europe. perhaps you could argue maybe it already has and vice versa with syria. so it is -- this is a four-alarm fire for the white house in that situation room. >> and ayman, what can we assume, the fact that this coup is organized by the turkish military. >> the turkish military is
extremely powerful. but also very divided. and this is something that had an heralded by president erdogan himself. over the past several years as he's consolidated his power, he has moved officers that he felt would be loyal to him up the chain of command. it's a professional army. highly trained, highly skilled. very disciplined. this is certainly going to raise questions. i've been trying to get in touch with senior military officers that i know. and members of the akp party. nobody is answering their phone. this is a troubling sign. i draw on my own experience from egypt when that's country went through a transition government at the helm of the military not too long ago. in this situation, the turkish military itself, to understand what role it's played in turkish society is extremely important. it's always seen itself as a protector of the state. a protector of the state from external threats and intuernal
threats. this is where this challenge is going to unfold in the coming 24 to 48 hours. the turkish military, as they work to consolidate whatever is unfolding in the sense that they have clearly carried out this coup, it's going to see who from within the military, which branch, that's very important, what level of officers manage to pull this off. if the chief of staff is nowdet serious blow. this is not the senior officers of the military going after the president and the political elite. they're going after their own leadership within the military if that turns out to be a true statement as chuck pointed out. the united states and europe, israel, the entire arab world, cannot afford to have destabilized. >> our chief foreign correspondent joins us by telephone. few people know the structure
and ways of turkey as richard engel does. for our viewers just joining us, we just passed 10 minutes after 5:00 eastern time, how would you explain what you are able to see coming out of turkey? >> well, a coup is under way. and emergency meeting has been scrambled among top u.s. officials trying to figure out what is going on and who is in charge. there are reports of gunfire at a location in central istanbul. and it started out a few hours ago relatively small. it started out with sightings of soldiers. it started out with soldiers on a bridge. they were closing off a lane of the bridge. that's unusual. you don't see soldiers just stopping traffic like that and flash checkpoints in the middle of the city. then there were more reports the army was taking over television stations. a presidential palace on the
asian side. there were reports that the army was trying to consolidate control of its own barracks. the prime minister. an ally of the president, went on television and gave something of a frantic statement saying that a coup was under way. that this was an illegal attempt to thwart turkey's democracy. that the turkish government would fight to the last drop of blood to prevent the criminals from taking over and to prevent them from overturning democracy. then after that, a statement was issued by still unnamed coup leaders saying the army was in charge. not clear at this stage how true that is. the army is in charge of some things or a part of the army is in charge of part of turkey and the army, a true statement said that all previous treaties were being respected, that there
would be no change in policy and that actions were being taken to restore and defend democracy. tonight the u.s. troops who were in the country have been ordered to increase their force protection. there's a key nato base at incirlik where there was a large consin contingent of american forces involved in the air campaign against isis. american jets there, american drones. this is a fundamentally important development, not just in the middle east. >> richard, talk about the importance of what we're looking at right now which might as well be the george washington bridge or golden gate bridge. the bosphorus bridge. troubling because we saw traffic streaming over toward the camera location. in the past few minutes the traffic has dwindled to nothing and we've seen an individual running side to side and a car doing a loop. we can also see military
equipment and now we've lost the picture entirely. but explain the bridge. >> istanbul is famously divided. there are people that live on both sides of these continental divides. and one of the quickest ways to shut down and most efficient way to shut down the capital is to shut down the bridges. that was the first sign we saw today that a coup attempt was under way. when they came in their uniforms and blocked what was initially one lane of the road and traffic slowing on other parts of the city. word was not trickling down to the people that something was -- there were certain television stations broadcasting documentaries and norm entertainment program.
other television stations loyal to the government started behaving much more in a panicked way. jets were seen flying low over ankara and reports of exchanges of gunfire at one of the main police stations between supporters and police who apparent lie either defending their location or defending the state. in istanbul, you can imagine how people would be not knowing where to drive, doubling back on the roads. driving to their homes any way possible. this is an unsettling situation and an unsettling night. >> for americans who have not had the pleasure of visiting turkey, describe the city of istanbul. >> istanbul is one of the great cities of empire of the world. it is an enormous city, perhaps 15 million people. it is a well-known to tourists, both modern and ancient at the
same time. it's not the capital of the country, which is ankara, but touristic and economic capital. ankara is a strictly government center. and it is -- if you want to control the country, you want to control istanbul. that is where the economic life is. that is where the great deal of the population is. and it seems like there was a concerted effort to block traffic, take over buildings in istanbul. but not only istanbul. also reports of activity in ankara and other places. communications have been frankly confused and constrained. >> from the state department, americans in turkey should shelter in place, stay indoors. update family and friends on your status when possible. turkish government says they're attempting an uprising. security forces attempting to
contain. some buildings under blockade. this is according to the state department. on their twitter feed. u.s. embassy ankara confirmed shots have been heard. in ankara, both bridges in istanbul closed. richard engel, please don't go away. agalus petropolus, our producer is on the ground for us in istanbul, turkey. what can you see? what can you tell us? >> brian, we were moving as soon as news erupts of bridges being blocked. we were walking from galata tower, towards the center, towards the square. streets off of the main square
out of streets of the main square people were getting off the main square trying to shelter into smaller streets, reporting they've been seeing military on the street and some occasions, people told us on our way here, people told us that they were seeing tension between police and military. things are quiet in smaller streets, in smaller areas, and there are also reports, and testimony was earlier from people who were on their way from the airport. i spoke to one person on their way from the airport who said to me that they saw -- the military saw tanks, vehicles and military getting off of those vehicles of
the military vehicles, blocking the entrances of the airport. and right now, that person reported to me that they are blocked on the street. we have other reports of other people being blocked on the street in certain areas of the city. >> thank you. stay on it. obviously, stay with us, and stay in touch. matt bradley in our london bureau, matt, what do you have? >> brian, there's just been a statement read by the military on turkey's trt television. the anchor who read the statement said that martial law has been impose. the freedom of citizens in turkey will be guaranteed and turkey is now being run by a so-called peace council. and that everyone's civil rights will be guaranteed, regardless of religion or race or ethnicity.
they said that secular rule of law was threatened under erdogan's government. this is the traditional repeated excuse or reason for the turkish military intervening in turkish electoral politics. this is the fifth time since 1960 that the turkish military has interconvenievened directly. it's done under this presence dent that some leader, whether in the last half a century has somehow trampled upon the sacred secular nature of the state that was enshrined by ataturk nearly 100 years ago. this is breaking news. this statement read aloud on trt tv saying the country is under martial law and is being led by a so-called peace council. >> matt bradley, thanks. we're getting these new pictures in from dha. imagine yourself on the interstate and in front of you
is a tank. that is what we're looking at here. hard to know if this is live or tape turned around, having happened earlier this evening. but what a shocking sight that is. there's another one in front of that one. matt bradley reporting, according to the turkish broadcast that martial law has been imposed. we've put that on our graphic at the bottom of the screen. andrea mitchell in washington. andrea? >> these pictures are pretty shocking. first of all, seeing as richard described it, the bridge as cleared as it was. now seeing those tanks on the street. what i was told by a top official was we will be watching over the next couple of hours to see what we see on the streets. if you see the soldiers, the
tanks on the streets, that mines there is a coup. and the video you just showed could not be clearer evidence to anyone watching in washington that this coup has taken place. they are claiming they are in charge and the counterclaim by the prime minister may, in fact, be moot for the time being. >> david sanger, for "the new york times," is with us. david, what do you make of this? >> this is going to be a big challenge for the obama administration. and it's going to be an interesting challenge to see how the two presidential candidates react as well. turkey as you've already been discussing is not only central player for nato, but it's central to what's left of the american syria strategy. this was playing out just as secretary of state john kerry was in russia trying to develop with president putin and foreign minister lavrov a new american
and russian approach to trying to bring an end, at least a cease-fire to the fighting in syria. if the american position in turkey is threatened, if it looks like the turkish government in any way is unstable, if there is some question about our access to bases or even the question of who we go to in turkey to make decisions, i think that could greatly complicate what has already been probably one of the most complex and probably least successful foreign policy initiatives by the obama administration. and, of course, we're not used to nato countries going through coup attempts. >> yeah, that's right. and chuck todd who remains with us, to david's point. that basic point, who do we deal with? who do we go to? who is in charge here? who is the turkish government right now? these pictures are pretty shocking. >> we go back to, and i heard ayman talk about the similarities to what we saw in
egypt. there's also similarities to the concern and the instability that it could cause. i believe we're about two weeks removed from finally reconciliation between turkey and israel. and important reconciliation that was necessary there. so it is -- let's just -- and david, i'm curious your reaction. i don't know if there is a country we can tipick that woul be a worse situation to be going through a coup right now than turkey. and could you argue it's worse than what we saw with egypt? >> i think in some ways you could argue that it's worse. similar problem that we needed a stable government in egypt in part because we needed to be able to take on isis and need more stability in our region in the world where there's very little of it. remember there was the coup that
took effect in egypt, the obama administration had to do backflips not to call it a coup because once there's a coup it results in your cutting off american aid. and you could imagine that there are probably already lawyers sitting around trying to figure out how you cannot call this a coup because the last thing the u.s. would want to do is cut off its relationships with a country that it negotiated with very hard to be able to operate the drones and the other anti-isis campaign out of that air base, that nato air base in turkey. >> just had a note placed in front of me. a senior u.s. military source tells nbc news that u.s. officials are hearing that turkish president erdogan refused landing rights in istanbul. is reported to be seeking asylum
in germany. can't be good for erdogan. i'm looking at ayman mohyeldin in our new york studio. >> the world's eyes right now are on two individuals. erdogan of turkey and president obama of the united states. and depending on the reaction of these two gentlemen in terms of what happens now, the rest of the world is going to place their positions, their foreign policies in one line or the other. if, in fact, president erdogan is granted landing rights in germany, if germany accepts him and from that position he is given the opportunity to rail against this coup, which we certainly expect him to do, if he does arrive in germany. all eyes are going to be on how the rest of the international community falls in line to whether or not they're going to recognize this transition of government. however you want to describe it. if there is somewhere in the u.s. that they can -- a lawyer in the u.s. can describe this transition without using the word coup or if they'll come out and say this is definitely a
coup. we do not accept this. we will not accept this. we will not recognize it. it is going to open a pandora's box regardless of which decision the white house makes. i can assure you that the countries in the region who are following this, the powerful countries, whether the saudis, israelis, the european countries, they're going to be looking at this but also keeping a very close eye on every word that comes out of the white house until this situation is resolved. >> andrea mitchell, you've covered the state department for a long time. this is going to test the kind of policy ad libbing skills of all the people you know in washington. >> just look how complicated it was when mubarak in egypt was under threat and how difficult it was for the administration to deal with that. it took quite a while for that to sort out. we're still having blowback from it with some suggesting the administration took the wrong side. certainly the saudis were very upset that mubarak was abandoned
by their longstanding ally. this is going to be, as ayman just said, a critical turning point for this president to decide with john kerry and the other advisers, obviously joe biden who just was meeting with erdogan, what to do. joe biden is on his way to a trip in australia. so there is a lot of moving parts here. they are meeting at the white house. we're told by the national security council that top advisers, presumably lisa monaco and i assume the cia director john brennan obviously conferring on this with the president because they have to decide whom to back. they won't make a quick decision but a lot of this might involve calls to angela merkel. is she going to accept erdogan. once he's in germany, they have a problem but how do you say no to a nato ally looking for safe haven? >> chuck todd, it's a lot easier when there are white hats and black hats. >> that's right. and, look, there's so much time and effort has been invested by
obama, clinton, then kerry in this relationship with erdogan. it's never been easy. he's not been the best of partners, and things have fallen through. but every time it seems they give up on erdogan, he comes through. whether it's been dealing with syria or, for instance, the reconciliation with israel. but this is -- and correct me if i'm wrong, doesn't the united states have a part of its nuclear arsenal in turkey as part of nato? you know, under the nato umbrella? i'm not 100% sure, but that's what makes this a little extra nervous than any other country that this could have taken place in in the middle east. >> certainly that would be part of the nato deployment. the kinds of things they don't usually talk about but it would be -- understandably, they would be tactical weapons certainly at
incirlik. >> there's nuclear strategically placed there as well. >> along with 2,000 u.s. military personnel and a bunch of contractors. and turkish nationals working under contract with the united states armed forces. looking at more of the state department social media feed, remembering that social media have been largely shut down in turkey, state department. all flights are currently suspended. we had reported that before. and they are urging americans in turkey, monitor local press for updates. avoid areas of conflict. exercise caution if in vicinity of any military or security forces. these pictures sure are dramatic. they show different neighborhoods within what we
assume to be istanbul, but also potentially ankara. we saw earlier what just looked like a scene that could have taken place in america with a closed bridge and a lot of traffic circling on back to get away from it. but certainly all these barriers and barricades in the foreground we can see the recognizable figures of members of the military. ron allen is at the white house. and, ron, a lot of eyes on the white house west wing where a lot of meetings are going on, i imagine. >> indeed. the president is in the oval office. we know he's being briefed and also just spoke to president erdogan last week in warsaw at the nato summit meeting. the issue of turkey as so many have said is the war on isis. and we know that the u.s. has been putting a lot of pressure on erdogan to be more democratic, less authoritarian. and to cooperate with the effort to remove -- to take on isis and
close the border. and we've heard about the complications in the u.s. relationship with turkey because of the differences in how they view the kurdish population. the turks see them as rebels. they've been some of the most effective fighters for the u.s. in that part of the conflict with the terrorist groups. here they are being very cautious. we've not heard much from the white house. they are watching closely to see what happens. i would think that's the concern here is for stability, for there to be no violence. yes, there's obviously a concern about where the president is, but i think that the united states, the obama administration's great concern is that there be stability, there be peace, that's whatever is happening in turkey pass peacefully and with as much order as possible in the coming hours. and, clearly it will take some time for all this to sort itself out. but i think that's the watch
here at the white house. what they are looking for and hoping for is sta bill bility a violence. >> these are the overnight hours now in turkey. while we have read and heard reports of gunfire, of helicopters, of low-flying jets, none of the imagery we have seen is violent. for the most part, the military we've seen have had muzzles down. in more or less a kind of passive defensive posture. quite sure that's not the case everywhe everywhere. and we're looking at the available live pictures coming in to us. this is the bosphorus bridge we were talking about earlier. oh, these are taped pictures. of course, this was the traffic we saw that was flowing rather
freely earlier. the last live picture we saw, the traffic flow had stopped entirely. do we still have richard engel in communication? i'm told not right now. david sanger, there is a certain pattern to this in that we've travelled to the dark side of the moon. it's nighttime in turkey. we will all find out who we're supposed ed td to deal with, w situation is. one side is going to emerge from this. >> that's right. it is interesting, though, brian. i was thinking the president was in the white house press room talking about the awful terror attack in nice yesterday just at about 2:30 or 3:00 this afternoon. you wouldn't have sent him there if they had any advanced intelligence this was under way. sos there going to be a question at some point about, are our connections inside the turkish military weak enough that we
didn't see this coming? and that raises the question of whether it was bubbling along at a level low enough that we might have completely missed it. certainly it seems that president erdogan missed it as well. and if, in fact, the report is true that he is seeking asylum elsewhere, that would seem to pretty well make it, i think, difficult for him to find his way back into the country. not impossible, but the other times that we've seen that happen in similar situations, in pakistan and certainly other places in the middle east it would be hard to imagine him reconstituting his government from afar. >> again, these pictures are so compelling, and they show one theme. and that is the military in charge. at least their vehicles are prominent everywhere we see a camera shot. >> that's right.
of course in doing a -- conducting a coup, perception is sometimes as important as force and i think that the fact that somebody managed to cut off so much of the internet connection, we've seen some reports now that president erdogan may have come on facebook live n urged people to come out into the streets. that's not a confirmed report yet. he seems to be making a last-minute effort as somebody who won election very solidly to see if he could counter this with a popular uprising. that could get very bloody. >> david sanger is on deadline because he has a day job with "the new york times." thank you very much. >> thank you, brian. see you soon. >> thank you for joining us as long as you were able to. just a quick note about a shot we just saw fleetingly. if it looked like erdogan on facetime on an iphone, it was.
we had heard this report that he showed up on turkish television and talked to one of the presenters. and you heard david sanger say part of the content of what erdogan was telling people was to get out and protest against what was happening. we're working on locking down a transcript of what he said. a break in our coverage. more on the other side.
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we are back with what is by all accounts a military coup in nato member nation turkey. a very, very big story around the world. especially in that part of the world where turkish television, as you can see, is reporting that martial law has been imposed. at the bottom of that screen, incirlik air base is a very important piece of real estate for the united states, for nato and for u.s. armed forces. at the top of that graphic, the bosphorus bridge is where we've had some taped pictures, some live pictures but certainly have seen a choking off of traffic. we apologize if some of these pictures are getting repeated but this is what we've been able to grab off turkish television and off the web. and speaking of the web, in the past few minutes, a television presenter believed to be --
here's the scene from turkish television. facetimed with erdogan of turkey on vacation. let's, even though it's not in english, let's listen in to some of this. [ speaking foreign language ] >> kind of incredible, if you're familiar with facetime technology to think that this is erdogan who was on holiday on the black sea on vacation facetiming in to a television network in effect to say this will be turned away in short order. people should take to the streets. i'm reading a basic rundown of
what he said. as you look at the bosphorus bridge shut down heading out. turkish president erdogan says this is an uprising attempt by a minority within the military. he said he does not believe the coup plotters will be successful. he urges people to take to the streets and says the attempted uprising will be resolved within a short time. . i imagine it's a very confusing time right now on the cable networks covering turkey. but there you see the increasing evidence of the military presence. i think this is file tape we are seeing in the upper right. yes. no reason to believe we're seeing erdogan appearing live anywhere. chuck todd is in washington watching all of this with us. laura haim with canal plus is
also with us. and while you were standing by with us to talk about the terrorist attack in nice, i also understand you have seen a transcript from what erdogan said on facetime? >> yes, absolutely. he calls on the turkish people to take to the streets, gather in front of airports and resist the coup. and also erdogan is apparent apparently -- the uprise of the minority inside the army. he said that this is a minority inside the army which is doing this coup at this moment. but, clearly, erdogan on facetime is calling the people terrorists. >> chuck todd, this is not about the united states race for president, but by close of business tonight, this will be a part of the race for president. and this is where serious people
have to emerge, and a lot of things can be said in haste and in error. >> well, that's right. and, you know, already before this, when you think of the wait of the last month that's been hitting the american psyche for potential for terrorism incidents in nice, in orlando, the racial unrest in this country, what happened in dallas, what happened in baton rouge. let's not forget the terrorist attack in turkey just a few weeks ago. so you already had this collective, what i think was forcing both candidates it was time to be a lot more serious and somber in addressing these. now you throw in the turkish coup. what this means is the commander in chief test, it's a cliche phrase. we use it a lot. it has never been more important at a time right at the start of these conventions. the sort of the first time many americans start assessing these two candidates as actual
presidents. there is -- the conventions bring about a more serious way of looking at these people as future leaders, future leaders of the free world. and, boy, right at the cusp of the start of the first one, here we are. and i think it means that national security issues, probably -- i think they were already going to be front and center with the trump -- in trump world. i think it means you'll see it be a little more dominant theme in both conventions. >> the gop convention will be getting under way in the midst of what appears to be a change of management, hopefully not violent, but a change of management in a nato member nation. >> yeah. >> and, look. this will be for others. and we don't know. this is what makes president obama's decision here, the national security team's decision here. if this is a coup, if erdogan cannot get power back, erdogan has been in what you would call
a tough ally. meaning, you know, he's an ally. turkey is an ally but, boy, it takes a lot of management and all that. and they've got a way. can he get power back? they've invested a lot of time and energy and money into erdogan. at what point does the united states have to, because of the strategic interest that all of europe has with turkey, with a stable turkey, with the united states, with nato, all of those issues, at what point do you have to make that strategic decision. no matter how much personal time you've invested in a relationship with erdogan, at the end of the day, you need a stable turkey. i think it's going to be interesting to see how trump and clinton react to this one. >> i'm reading this, chuck, that arabella monroe a reporter with trt repotweeting as she was goi home, she was forced out of the state broadcaster. quote, just got asked to leave the state broadcaster by 40 or
50 armed soldiers. they took our phone, #istanbul and then she says further social media down. that matched what we had heard earlier. all the signs of a military coup. >> it is. and you can't, like i said, we've been saying it, you cannot come up with a tougher, new crisis to come up with for this president and for the next president than a coup in turkey. >> and, chuck, also, for folks joining us who may have heard or seen these reports that the top general has been swept up in this, that would, i am assuming, be the equivalent of the united states president appointing the joint chiefs of staff, appointing the chief of staff of the army that top general would be swept up, believing they are a partisan, a pro-erdogan
partisan, correct? >> that is correct. this is the stuff that we still need to figure out. how -- is there a division within the military on this? there's obviously erdogan is making the case that hey, this is a minority faction inside the military. okay, if that is the case, and that's erdogan's way of saying he can get this back, what if it's not. what if it isn't. so i think that, look, this is the flying blind about this that i think makes the job of the presidency so much -- so difficult in this situation and again, it's, you know, when i heard the words coup and turkey, it was -- there was always unease about erdogan, a fear he was sort of eroding democratic norms, but at the end of the day you needed a stable turkey and
we were all in with the united states and frankly the western world, with having a positive good relationship with erdogan because it was necessary. you had to. so the question now is how does this settle down and where does it go. >> you were trying to say this earlier. his name goes on that list of leaders who were grossly imperfect with whom the united states had relationships over the years and had just kind of decided well, this is our guy. >> right. because of the importance of nato, because of the choke point that it serves, because of the crisis they have been facing regarding the syrian refugees. but of course, they complicate it. they have been complicating our isis strategy because of their essentially some would call it a civil war with the kurds. so it's like everything in the middle east, it's never black and white. it is seven dimensional when it comes to the middle east. >> i want to bring in someone we
both know, david ignatius of the "washington post." anywhere you want to begin to get on record with this. >> well, i should first say i'm just reacting to this as we all are, actually on holiday. the first thing i would say is that president erdogan has been one of the great success stories in the middle east until the last few years, when he became increasingly authoritarian in his rule. he had problems within his own political party. i was in turkey about six weeks ago and had conversations there with u.s. officials, with a few turks. one thing that i began to hear over the last few months is that as the u.s. worked more closely with the turkish military in fighting against isis, some space began to emerge between the turkish military and president erdogan, the military had been quite severely squeezed
by erdogan and the military relationship with the u.s. was described to me as being [ inaudible ]. i have no idea whether that plays any role in what happened. erdogan's essential problem is he has been fighting a two-front war. he has obviously a serious battle with isis setting off bombs in various cities in turkey but he's also fighting what increasingly looks like a civil war against the kurdish minority in turkey. at one time he was trying to resolve that through negotiations. the negotiations had fallen apart. he's been in recent months a very embattled, somewhat one-sided president. >> so into the breach comes a new leader, a new force. any speculation? >> well, i think this is one where we just have to wait and see how things settle out. turkey is a country that before
erdogan was one in which the military played too great a role in the way that the country was held together. the military has always been the repository of the legacy of ataturk, who created modern turkey, made it the institution of secular democracy, if you will. the military often violated that. the military in turkey has become increasingly precious as the country is under pressure. i hear concerns from all the turkish contacts i have, journalists who have been imprisoned, harassed, judges and police have felt under pressure from erdogan. it's a country that has really been reeling from all the pressures around it and internally. so that's going to be the first thing every turk thinks about, is this country headed toward greater turmoil or headed toward a little more civility. >> so much nervousness, of course, in washington and in the
obama administration. >> president obama has an interesting history with president erdogan. back five years ago, as the so-called arab spring began, president obama turned to erdogan thinking that he was the kind of muslim leader who represented the combination of islamist views and democracy, and president obama put a lot of hope in the idea that erdogan would be a model for others that led obama into really endorsing the muslim brotherhood government in egypt of president morsi which was strongly backed by turkey. in the white house there's a feeling that is a bet that went bad. frustration with erdogan over the last several years in the white house has been intense. often after phone calls, there would be radically different readouts from the white house, from the turkish presidency about just what they talked
about, so this has been what was at one time a key friendship, increasingly has been a pretty difficult relationship. one other thing that is really important for people to think about is president erdogan in his difficulties in recent months has done two really startling things. he's made peace with israel, in effect resolved the sharp dispute with israel that followed the incident off the gaza coast, and he's also tried to make peace with russia, which relations were badly strained after the turks shot down a russian jet. obviously this has been a turkish president reaching out, trying to find some foreign support in a time when he must have felt embattled. >> i was going to ask you about that and how people should process those exact same two things. one is tempted to use the phrase reset button although it's fallen into repute in recent
years, but would a new administration, a new movement, reset those two fronts considered two of the bright spots of the erdogan administration? >> i think again, that's one of the things that we're all going to be looking at carefully. israel's relationship with turkey was once a key strategic relationship, part of israel's stability. that fractured badly under erdogan, led the israelis to seek new relationships. is there something durable, it's always taught behind the scenes relations continued between the turkish military and israeli military, very much in the shadows, so maybe there's something to build on. the tensions with russia are more complicated. russia would love to have a stronger relationship with turkey, keep turkey away from its traditional nato membership.
at this hour, no answers i can give but i know these are the questions u.s. officials will be thinking most about. >> one last question and that is, zoom back and take a wide shot for us on behalf of the viewers just tuning in, how rare this is. this is a nato member nation, couldn't be in a more critical position in a more critical part of the world. >> well, exactly. if you think of the fault lines in this very dangerous world we're living in, one of them runs right through turkey. turkey is a country where the islamic state has tried to set up cells, has been moving fighters and supplies across the border. turkey wasn't sure how to crack down, as i said earlier, fighting a two-front war. in a world that's fracturing
where europe is under pressure from refugees, the flows are destabilizing all across europe. the idea that turkey itself would be pitched into that chaos, we would have a period of uncertainty about the stability of the new turkish government, it's hard to think of something that would be worse for europe and for a world that already has too much turmoil. i think your viewers should think in the most strategic part of the world, arguably the biggest, most strategic country is now at greater risk than it was and that should worry us all. >> thank you so very much for joining us by telephone. our thanks to david ignatius of the "washington post." we are half a minute away from the top of the 6:00 hour on the east coast, 3:00 p.m. on the west coast, and on an already busy day with a lot of news, with a great tragedy in nice in
france after last night's terrorist attack, with all the tumult over domestic politics here in the united states, it was in the middle of the afternoon on a friday afternoon here in new york, we got word of an apparent military coup in turkey. turkey, a nato member nation, as you just heard the explanation, the description from david ignatius, couldn't be in a more critically important spot at a more critically important time for the world, and here, this is what we're looking at now.