Ilhan Tanir
Mar 23 2018

Trump’s new NSA said would not shed a tear if Erdoğan overthrown

U.S. President Donald Trump's new National Security Adviser John Bolton said on the night of the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey that he would not mourn the departure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a possible indication of a more robust U.S. policy towards its Middle Eastern NATO ally.

Speaking to Fox TV as the coup plot unfolded in Turkey on July 15, 2016, Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said: “I have no charity in my heart for Erdoğan, if he goes down I'm not shedding any tears. I do not believe he is a friend to the United States.”

Trump chose Bolton on Thursday to replace General H.R McMaster as national security advisor. Known as a hawk on Iran, North Korea and political Islam, Bolton said on the night of the coup he saw Erdoğan as someone seeking to increase the Islamisation of Turkey.

"The future of Turkey is obviously at stake here. If the coup succeeds then I think Erdoğan’s efforts to perhaps recreate the Ottoman Caliphate, perhaps to be the dominant power again in the Middle East and to move Turkey in an Islamic direction will be foiled. If Erdoğan prevails then I think you would see an acceleration of the Islamisation efforts he has been making."

As tanks took up positions in major Turkish cities and fighter jets flew overhead, it was not clear who had carried out the coup. Bolton said he thought those behind the attempted overthrow of Erdoğan were secularists opposed to the president’s Islamist policies.

“It’s a kind of last ditch effort by those who still adhere to the vision of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) to have a secular constitution and a secular society. It’s perhaps unique among Western governments that the constitution itself gives the military the duty of maintaining the secular nature of the state,” said Bolton.

Turkish leaders have since blamed followers of U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, a former Erdoğan ally who leads an Islamist sect, of carrying out the coup plot.

If the coup attempt failed, Bolton predicted Turkey and Erdoğan would become more authoritarian.

"If Erdoğan wins then he would follow up with an extensive purge, a real authoritarian acceleration and crackdown,” he said. Tens of thousands have been arrested in Turkey and many more sacked from their jobs in a widespread crackdown that rights groups say has targeted government opponents of all stripes, not just the Gülenists the government says were behind the abortive putsch.

Bolton criticised then President Barack Obama for backing Erdoğan against the coup plotters. “This is not a question of elected versus military government in Turkey. It's a question of the constitution that Erdoğan does his best to hurt it ... not only appointing his supporters in the military, but he is also packing the judiciary."

Bolton recalled Erdoğan’s performance as a U.S. ally before the 2003 Iraq war then the Turkish parliament failed to pass a resolution allowing U.S. forces to open a northern front in Iraq through Turkish territory. “I always believed he sabotaged our efforts back then,” Bolton said.

In his public comments before appointed as the director of CIA shown Trump's nominee for the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is not to be fan of the Turkish government either. After the announcement of his appointment, screenshots of a now deleted tweet that Pompeo made during the coup attempt in Turkey started making rounds. In the tweet, Pompeo characterises both the Turkish and Iranian governments as “totalitarian Islamist dictatorships”.