Sunday, July 17, 2016
The Coup In Turkey And Why It Failed
Friday afternoon local time I began getting e-mails from acquaintances and correspondents in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East. They told of violence in the streets and military activity in the capitol of Ankara and in Istanbul, the city that sprawls between the Asian Turkey of Anatolia and the small piece of European Turkey on the other side of the Bosporus, the narrow strait that divides the Black Sea and the Aegean.
Was it some kind of ISIS or PKK attack?
As more time passed there were reports of an Army coup in Turkey underway. Had the Army finally tired of its neo-Ottoman Sultan Erdoğan?
As the news outlets in Turkey and the Middle East began filing reports, I noticed a few details that told me something had likely gone wrong. The first clue was that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was reported to be 'in a secure location' and inciting people to go into the streets and attack the soldiers attempting to pull off the coup...which they did.
This is very odd behavior for a coup. The very first rule of a military takeover is to get the leader you want to depose under your control and either dead or locked away. It's the first thing al-Sissi did in Egypt when he deposed Erdoğan's fellow Islamist Mohammed Morsi, and it's pretty much job one in any military coup. Among other things, it confuses the military players whom aren't involved as they wait to see what's happening or to receive orders.
The next odd note was for Erdoğan to call for civilians to attack elements of the Turkish military, and for them to comply eagerly. With the downward spiral of the Turkish economy, multiple instances of political corruption involving Erdoğan and with Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian ways, he's not the most popular leader, especially in more cosmopolitan Istanbul. And the normal human behavior would be to lay low and let the military factions sort it out, not attack trained, armed troops. Yet, they did, and while much has been made of some civilians whom were shot, many of the soldiers involved in the coup seem to have reacted by simply retreating. One tank commander was even pulled out of his own tank by the mob and beheaded right on the spot while trying to do just that. (I've seen the footage. Trust me, you don't want to.)
The coup also was unusual in that it did not involve any senior officers and was not widespread. It mainly consisted of a few junior officers and enlisted men whom were primarily from Erdoğan's First Army. They were easily overpowered by troops loyal to Erdoğan and his AKP Party.
There are a number of stories out now claiming that Erdoğan staged his own coup. I highly doubt it. But what does seem obvious to me is that he had advance inside knowledge of it, that the men who attempted the coup believed that they were going to get more support from others in the military whom then either sat on their hands or decided to support Erdoğan, and that Erdoğan allowed the coup attempt to occur because it was beneficial to him.
As a result of the coup, a lot of elements Erdoğan considered disloyal have been flushed out, along with a number of others who simply oppose him politically or whom he finds convenient to lock up. Thus far, 2,745 judges and prosecutors whose loyalty to the Erdoğan regime has been questioned - especially those involved in the investigation and/or prosecution of the corruption surrounding Erdoğan - have been thrown in jail. Something like 2,839 soldiers have been arrested as well. Erdoğan is openly referring to the attempted coup as 'a gift from Allah' which pretty much gives the game away. Erdoğan will use it to quash any investigation of corruption and take out whatever remaining opposition there is to him. He's already calling for the reinstatement of Turkey's death penalty.
Think of this as Erdoğan's 'Night of the Long Knives.'
Another benefit for Erdoğan is that it gives him an excuse to demand the extradition to Turkey of a major political opponent, Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is whom Erdoğan is blaming for the attempted coup.
Given that our President Barack Hussein Obama is one of the Islamist Erdoğan's best friends among foreign leaders, Erdoğan might very well get what he wants, event though Gulen has spoken out against the coup and claims he had nothing to do with it.
And Erdoğan has a powerful card to play as well to obtain this. America's Incirlik Air Base in Turkey has been completely shut down and remains so. The power has been cut off, no flights in or out are being allowed and 1,500 Americans are stranded there. All operations against ISIS have been postponed, meaning that the Iranian controlled militias have lost a part of their main edge against ISIS in Iraq.
In any event, Erdoğan is going to remain in power for now, and Turkey will become even less free and democratic and a lot more Islamist, exactly the opposite of what the Turkish Republic's Founder, Kemal Ataturk created after World War One.
This kind of development in a country with the largest conventional army in Europe is not something to ignore.