In Turkey / Türkiye

New Cold War.org, July 17, 2016

Enclosed are news articles analyzing the aftermath of the failed coup by the Turkish military during the night of July 16, 17, 2016

Turkey: Anatomy of the coup

By Alexander Mercouris, The Duran, July 16, 2016

The coup was an internal revolt by the entire military which was defeated because of Erdogan’s popular support.

Though there are still many unanswered questions since the collapse of the attempted coup, it has become possible to answer many questions both about the coup and about the general situation in Turkey. It is also possible to make some educated guesses.

1. The U.S. was almost certainly not involved in the coup.

As the coup was underway there was speculation that it was launched because of the steps Erdogan had recently taken towards a rapprochement with Russia. However, as I discussed previously, the scale of the coup points to months or at the minimum weeks of planning. The timing of the coup makes it virtually impossible that it could have been organised so soon after Erdogan took the first steps to reopen dialogue with Russia by sending his apology to Putin for the SU24 incident.

In addition, U.S. reaction to news of the coup was not consistent with the U.S. being involved. The invariably pattern of U.S. supported coups is that they are timed to take place in the aftermath of political protests against the government the U.S. wants overthrown, thereby making it easier for the U.S. to represent the coup as a defence of democracy rather than its overthrow. The U.S. then almost immediately signals its support for the coup as it is underway, generally blaming the overthrown government for the fact it is happening.

None of this happened during the attempted coup in Turkey. All the indications on the contrary suggest that the U.S. and EU were taken by surprise by the coup. The fact French diplomatic missions in Turkey closed on 13th July 2016 – i.e. just before the coup got underway – was almost certainly connected to the Bastille Day holiday rather than to foreknowledge of the coup.

Though the U.S. almost certainly was not involved in the coup, it will undoubtedly be concerned by what is happening in Turkey. Erdogan is altogether too erratic and impulsive a leader to be considered by the U.S. a reliable asset and relations between him and U.S. President Obama are known to have been strained. Erdogan for his part is known to be unhappy with the U.S., and it is not impossible that he may blame the U.S. for the coup. With Erdogan already complaining that the U.S. is providing asylum for Fethullah Gulen – the man he accuses of being behind the coup – it is not impossible that in the aftermath of the coup relations between Turkey and the U.S. could deteriorate further.

2. The coup was supported by the entire military.

Whilst the coup was underway, the Turkish government insisted that only a faction of the military was involved in the coup and that it was acting outside the chain of command, and that the greater part of the military remained loyal.

This is not believable. The only troops visible during the coup belonged to the coup plotters. There is no information that these troops were resisted at any time by other military units loyal to the government. Not a single high ranking officer publicly dissociated himself from the coup whilst it was underway. Whilst some members of Turkey’s senior military leadership were arrested by the coup plotters in Ankara, it is striking that not a single commander of a single Turkish military unit anywhere else in Turkey publicly pledged his loyalty to the government or offered Erdogan the support of his troops.

By contrast, the coup plotters were able to deploy troops in both of Turkey’s two biggest cities – Ankara and Istanbul – and bring tanks and other armoured vehicles onto the streets, use helicopter gunships against the Turkish parliament, and declare martial law across the whole country. Moreover, and contrary to claims that the air force remained loyal to the government, there is no doubt the F16s which in the early hours of the coup were seen flying over Ankara and Istanbul were supporting the coup.

The coup plotters were able to obstruct social media and the internet and interfere with broadcasts by state television. They were also able to bomb the hotel where Erdogan was staying in what was clearly an attempt to kill him, and for some hours were able to prevent his aircraft landing anywhere in Turkey. Indeed, Erdogan’s position for some hours looked so desperate that there are credible reports that he asked for asylum in first Germany and then Britain.

All this points to a coup which had the overwhelming backing of the armed forces. The coup was not surpressed by the army. Rather it crumbled in the face of civilian resistance organised by the government and the Islamic clerical authorities who called their supporters onto the streets.

The fact that the coup had the overwhelming support of the military should make one skeptical of Erdogan’s claims that the Gulen movement was behind it. Erdogan has in recent years used the Gulen movement to try to represent himself as the target of a huge sinister conspiracy being organised against him by a mysterious exiled Islamic cleric. In that way he is able to represent his opponents as tools of this conspiracy, thereby casting doubt on their motives whilst denying the true level of their support.

Erdogan is using this device again to isolate and discredit the coup plotters. In reality it is simply not credible that Gulen could orchestrate a gigantic conspiracy involving the entire Turkish military from his distant exile in the US. As it happens he has denied doing so and has condemned the coup.

3. Erdogan retains wide support in the country.

This is often denied, but the facts speak for themselves. In the face of a coup by the army, large numbers of people were prepared to risk their lives by flooding onto the streets to resist the coup and support Erdogan and the government.

Erdogan has many opponents and critics in Turkey. He retains a critical mass of devoted support from the population and in the showdown with the military this proved crucial. However, the coup shows that in the face of hostility from the army it is this core of population that is the only factor that is keeping Erdogan in power.

4. Erdogan will try to use the coup to tighten his grip on Turkey.

There are already reports of a major purge of the Turkish judiciary underway, and no doubt a purge of the army will follow. With the defeat of the coup, there is no force in Turkey that can prevent this. However, one side effect of the defeat of the coup and of the purge is that it will demoralise the Turkish army. Its ability to conduct military operations in places like Iraq and Syria has for the time being at least been diminished.

There is a temptation on the part of Erdogan’s many external critics to regret that the coup against him failed. That temptation should be resisted. Like him or not, Erdogan is Turkey’s constitutionally elected President, whilst the history of coups in Turkey has been – to say the least – unhappy. The coup in 1960 resulted in two decades of instability and political violence, whilst the coup in 1980, though it may have averted a civil war, was nonetheless an exceptionally brutal affair, which left behind it wounds that have still not fully healed.

In light of Erdogan’s popularity, had the coup against him succeeded, it would have been bound to have been followed by years of fierce repression by the military of his supporters, which could only have destabilised Turkey further. This at a time when there are violent jihadi groups already on the scene waiting to capitalise on any instability.

In the event the coup failed. Like him or not, Erdogan has survived and for the time being at least he is here to stay.

Alexander Mercouris is a founding editor and publisher of The Duran, which was launched in April 2016.


Erdogan isn’t going to take this well…

Commentary by Peter Lavelle, The Duran, July 16, 2016

Erdogan’s reaction to the failed coup may soon make many Turks regret the military’s lack of success.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a politician not known for subtlety. His reaction to the failed coup may soon make many Turks regret the military’s lack of success. Erdogan’s political ambitions are almost without limit. Now his name is the law – backed up with popular support (at least for the time being). Who knows – will he make himself president for life?

[A note on the margin: Was Erdogan behind the coup attempt? This is possible considering how badly it was executed. Whether this is true or not, Erdogan’s powers are now almost boundless].

What we know now is the attempted coup was planned and executed by a small number of army officers. They justified their actions with the following statement: “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security that was damaged. All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue.”

The irony of these words should be obvious to all: what the plotters hoped to regain for Turkey will certainly be lost as Erdogan exacts his gleeful revenge. The plotters had hoped to restore political stability to the country; the only thing they succeeded in doing is just the opposite.

What can we expect now?

The military will be entirely purged of element not loyal to Erdogan. This is really bad news – the military was the key institution that could exercise a degree of independence and stand up to the president. It will not longer be the Turkish military – it will become Erdogan’s private instrument of enforcement.

Civil liberties, particularly the media, will be assaulted with even greater force. The judiciary – already besieged – may recall the days before the coup attempt as a time of relative freedom.

Turkey’s “Kurd problem” will only worsen and Ankara’s inconsistent policies confronting terrorism will probably generate more terror as a result.

Erdogan’s experiment with democracy and political Islam is now even more confusing. Erdogan now has even more power to decide the limits and uses of Islam in politics. This is dangerous. Established laws and legal enforcement should regulate this and not by personal whim.

Turkey’s strained relations with the EU are now ever more complicated. The only upside for Brussels is Erdogan is a known quantity – more erratic behavior is on order.

For Washington, a successful or failed coup is of no importance. As long as Erdogan is loyal to NATO, the Americans will happily tolerate the Sultan.

Before the coup attempt, the military said Turkish troops would not be sent to Syria. Erdogan’s hands are now free. Is he foolish enough to embark on a military campaign that would most likely fail? Yes, maybe.

Will Erdogan stop or reverse Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia? Probably not – having Turkey at odds with such an important country is detrimental to Erdogan political ambitions.

If the coup had succeeded would have Turkey’s prospects improved? This is possible. Post-failed coup, Turkey’s prospects are indeed grim.

Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s CrossTalk. He is a contributing editor to The Duran.


6,000 detained from Turkish army, judiciary in probe into failed coup attempt, Hurriyet Daily News, July 16, 2016

Timeline of failed coup in Turkey, Hurriyet Daily News

Turkey will never talk to Assad regime: officials, by Umut Uras, Al Jazeera, July 13, 2016

Turkish officials tell Al Jazeera that policy towards Syrian regime stays same, after reports suggesting PM intends to mend ties.

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