WASHINGTON — A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN that the coup attempt in Turkey “came out of the blue” as the White House said the Islamist ruler of the country should be supported.
“This is a real surprise to all of us,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said as protesters began facing off with the Turkish military after they seized city centers and key points such as Ataturk airport in Istanbul. “An explosion like this was really unexpected.”
The Turkish Armed Forces issued a statement saying they have “completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged.”
“All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was on vacation in southern Turkey when the coup began, issued a statement via Facetime on a cell phone from an unknown location urging his supporters to take to the streets to protest the military’s action.
Cemal Hasimi, a senior advisor to Erdogan, told CNN by phone that the coup was staged by a “faction of the army that does not represent the army” and he claimed the government would regain control within 24 hours.
Risch predicted that the Turkish government was going to use the national police to counter the military, adding that “how widespread” coup support was in the military “we’re not certain yet.”
“Probably best judgment right now — it is a full-blown military coup,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued an emergency message to citizens stressing that “shots have been heard in Ankara and both bridges in Istanbul, Bosphorous and Fatih Sultan Mehmet, are now closed.”
“The Turkish Government states that elements of the Turkish army are attempting an uprising, security forces are taking action to contain it, and some buildings are under blockade,” the message said. “We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe. We have seen reports that social media is blocked, but you can contact friends and family by email, telephone, or SMS. We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time.”
Risch noted that not only are there “a lot of American citizens in Turkey,” but the U.S. Air Force’s Incirlik base, which was shut down under Force Protection Delta.
Erdogan, stressed Risch, has “tried more and more to give the country more of a religious bent.”
The “George Washington of Turkey, Ataturk, said what Turkey is going to be” and “charged the military as the guardian” of modern, secular, democratic Turkey, the senator added.
“We need to keep this country as an ally; that’s important.”
The White House said President Obama spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry, who was visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, “to discuss the events in Turkey.”
“The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” the statement said. “The secretary underscored that the State Department will continue to focus on the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Turkey.”
“The president asked the secretary to continue to keep him updated as the situation unfolds.”