Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the failed coup on the US and the 75-year-old US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey wants to extradite. It is understood the Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag is expected to go to Washington to negotiate the extradition of Gülen. Bozdag has said the US is well aware Gülen is behind the attempted coup.
The move will put further strain over Turkish-NATO relations. Turkey has been a member of the alliance since 1952 and NATO relies strongly on its military, as well as airbases — particularly Incirlik. In southern Turkey, which has a massive NATO presence and is critical to Middle East operations.
Mehmet Ugur, Professor of Economics and Institutions at the Greenwich Political Economy Research Center told Sputnik:
"[Turkey] is very important — strategically — and you can understand why. More than one third of the nuclear warheads [of NATO] are stored in Incirlik. Turkey has got the [second] largest army [in NATO]."
"Turkey is a partner in the fight against Daesh, (also known as ISIL). NATO doesn't have a viable alternative for Turkey at the moment. I think Erdogan will want to maintain [links with NATO] as it pays off for Turkey. But I think the other factor here that there are some sections within the US administration and the security and defense establishment which want to maintain strong links with Turkey," Professor Ugur told Sputnik.
"They want to give sweeteners, even during this period of repression, ruling by decrees and ruling by mobs, to see that NATO connections continue. NATO will stick with Turkey, but this will tarnish the claim by NATO that it is a collection of nations ruled by democracy and rule of law."
Gulen, the inspiration behind the Gulen movement, initially supported Erdogan ahead of him becoming elected in 2014. However, the two fell out over a massive corruption scandal in 2013 that cost the country US$100billion. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind the corruption investigations.
Gulen is currently on Turkey's most-wanted-terrorist list, accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which Erdogan believes staged the failed coup.
The questions to be asked over the coming weeks, is how will the US react to the requested extradition of Gulen and how NATO will save face — and its strategic requirement for Turkish assets — as the reaction to the failed coup unfolds.