Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared eager to get on the good side of the Turkish government today, praising the “courage” of the leadership and the public in resisting last year’s failed coup d’etat, saying it amounted to “defending their democracy.”
That’s a major shift from the US policy last year. The Obama Administration was loathe to even take a side on the coup attempt at the time, only criticizing the attempt after it had already failed. They also heavily criticized the post-coup crackdowns on dissent, which Tillerson conspicuously made no mention of.
Turkey’s coup was used by the Erdogan government as a pretext to move against everyone remotely affiliated with exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, and saw wholesale purges of academia, the media, and other broad swathes of society that Erdogan considered on questionable loyalty.
The big question, however, is still the fate of Gulen himself, as the US has so far rejected extradition over lack of evidence of his involvement. Tillerson’s comments suggest the US may be shifting closer to that matter, though he did not mention it specifically.