The July 15 coup attempt was co-organized by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) in order to incapacitate the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), a former Chief of General Staff said on Monday.
İlker Başbuğ said that the CIA knew of the planned attempt by FETÖ members within the army and that carrying out the attempt without external help would "go against the grain." He also said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been "alone in the fight against FETÖ" and he has been fighting by himself since 2012.
"Where does [FETÖ leader Fethullah] Gülen live? In the U.S. Who provides him opportunities? The CIA. Did this intelligence agency give him a residence permit for nothing? Do you think that the intelligence will not use him?" he said in a televised interview.
Indicating that FETÖ and the CIA wanted to discredit the TSK through cases based on fabricated evidence, the former top general said the latest coup attempt was "the last strike in the project."
"You are a foreign country and you are not content with the TSK's presence and power in terms of your national interests. Something must be done after a certain period. What is important for the TSK is its dignity in the eyes of the Turkish people and their confidence. The more you make this confidence hit rock bottom, the more you damage the TSK's power."
Several surveys following the coup indicate that a fair share of the Turkish public believe the U.S. was behind it or at least played a facilitating role for the coup plotters. According to a survey by pollster Andy-Ar, 64.4 percent of respondents believe FETÖ's leader, U.S.-based retired imam Fethullah Gülen, was behind the coup attempt, while 3.8 percent directly blamed the United States. The survey showed 72.6 percent of respondents thought other states supported the attempted military junta.
The public's sentiment is largely attributed to Gülen's murky presence in the U.S., where he was granted a green card and has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999. He is the prime suspect in the coup plot, and Turkey wants Gülen to be extradited on charges of terrorism.
Elements in the Turkish media have claimed that the CIA and a senior U.S. commander had a hand in the coup plot and many Turks resent the perceived stance taken by the American media that implicates President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, fueling public outrage against the U.S.
Furthermore, Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the CIA National Intelligence Council, whitewashed Gülen previously by claiming that he does not believe that Gülen was the mastermind behind the coup in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post.
Başbuğ previously said that the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations are not related to corruption probe investigations as claimed by supporters of FETÖ, but were coup attempts that aimed to overthrow the government.
Referring to a book by Hanefi Avcı, a former intelligence officer and police chief who received a 15-year sentence after writing a book on the Gülen Movement, Başbuğ said: "The Dec. 17 operation was a coup [attempt]. It never aimed to reveal corruption but rather to topple its rival and seize power."
Başbuğ, who was also victimized by FETÖ, was handed a life sentence in 2014 in the Ergenekon coup trial, pending appeal. The lengthy trial had seen hundreds of suspects imprisoned on charges of forming a terrorist organization. Suspects were held in pretrial detention for years without tangible evidence but were later released after legal amendments limited such detentions. The trial was reportedly the joint work of infiltrators from the Gülen Movement in the judiciary and police, conducted to stifle opposition to the ubiquitous group that evolved into a politically motivated juggernaut from a simple religious community.