Home Essays Turkey: a War on Multiple Fronts (part I)

Turkey: a War on Multiple Fronts (part I)

Turkey: a War on Multiple Fronts (part I)
Turkey: a War on Multiple Fronts (part I)

Casablanca – The Failed coup d’état in Turkey represents a remarkable event that promises unprecedented alterations in the global political scene. Worldwide reactions have emerged since the Turkish government announced that it completely contained the coup: Governments have declared their support for the democratically elected government, and others have denounced Turkey’s arrest campaign of over 6000 suspects. Less official statements have hailed Turkey’s quick resilience and others have, inconsistently, deemed the coup as staged.

At the internal level, the scene is more likely to change now than ever before with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new powers that have shaken the military institution and forced it to cut  top generals and officers loose. As the coup plotters must have considered, the failure’s most immediate repercussions are a sudden and permanent decrease of their power and a sudden revival of Erdogan’s popular support. Other institutions have repositioned themselves on the chessboard, such as the National Intelligence Organization, whose leader Hakan Fidan has risen to the occasion and claimed his new status as a national hero. At the more political level, the four main parties have put their ideological differences aside and united under the umbrella of the democratic choice.

As fate would have it, again, the failed coup stirred a wave of popular support for Erdogan in the Muslim majority countries. For years he has charmed the Muslim public as a paragon of Modern Turkey and a dignified political figure characterized by his stark anti-West rhetoric and stands. Due to his dent in the attempted coup, , he’s now seen as the long-dreamed of Muslim ruler that people hope will carry the torch of the Muslim world and revive its glories. Erdogan couldn’t wish for a more convenient opportunity to hit all these wild birds with one stone.

As to how things will turn out in the long run, that is contingent on a plethora of confluent elements that the Turkish government need to deal with using the same level of urgency. The state of emergency announced by the Turkish presidency, which will allow it to bypass the parliament and suspend rights and freedoms, has raised eyebrows among many countries. Also, the series of arrests conducted by the government that has exceeded 6000 suspects has caused uproar especially when Erdogan promised the Turkish people calling for reinstating the death penalty that their request would be considered. Beside this diplomatic conundrum, Turkey has to keep a watchful eye on potential undercover putschists that,as Erdogan warned, may be waiting for the right time to ambush the government with more decisiveness than before.

The Coup From the Outside-in:

The world now awaits the results of the investigative process initiated by the Turkish authorities in the immediate aftermath of the coup. The Turkish president pointed the accusatory finger, before the fire of the coup was extinguished, at Fathullah Gulen, the founder of the Gulen Movement known as the ‘parallel state’, now in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, US.  Erdogan later confirmed his suspicion in an interview with France 24: “Numerous arrestees admitted that,” he said.  “Even those who arrested the Armed Forces General Hulusi Akar suggested to him to meet their leader, and this is the first time I say this on record.”

This quick accusation suggests that Erdogan had intelligence information of the plot and lied in wait for the convenient moment to turn it all round and force the Putschists into crackdown. This also overrules the allegation that the coup was staged by Erdogan himself, to take a firm grip on power and rack up the previously stated achievements.

The quick accusation, beside the list of 3000 alleged plotters published by the Turkish authorities on the third day after the coup also indicate that the issue of the inside elements responsible for the execution of the coup is almost completely resolved. However, there are indications that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that there are bigger forces controlling the plotters, and their leader for that matter, from behind the curtains.

To ask about the external entities behind the coup is to ask who would benefit the most from it. Turkey is an active player, in fact the only remaining player, in the Middle East that is capable of voicing criticism against the United States’ imperialistic project in the region.

Turkey is definitely an obstacle, bigger than Iraq ever was, in front of the US’ mission of subduing the region and securing its economic interests in it. Therefore, the US would happily jump at every less-costly maneuver to get rid of it, once and for all. The US’ disappointment at the non-fulfillment of the coup couldn’t be any more blatant than when Foreign Minister John Kerry started, heartbrokenly, explaining why the coup failed rather than clearly condemning it as an attempt to abort the democratic process in Turkey.

John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the US, in his turn, refused during The Intelligence National Security Alliance meeting in Washington DC to answer if his apparatus was involved in the coup and admitted that they knew about it. In addition, the statement released by the US embassy in Istanbul during the first hours of the coup, which dubbed the coup an “uprising”, has made the White House’s readout on Saturday 16 that expressed Washington’s “unwavering support for the democratically elected in Turkey”, go up in smoke. Last but not least, the US’ unwillingness to extradite Gulen as the Turkish government has repeatedly requested tips the balance toward the US’ involvement.

Israel and Turkey have started normalizing their ties after a long diplomatic rupture following the Gaza flotilla Raid in 2010, which claimed the lives of 9 Turkish human right activists. This last move, has been viewed by many commentators, as way for Turkey to strengthen its strategic alliance with regional powers especially after the diplomatic crisis with Russia.

As for Israel, the increase of the international community’s discontent with its expansion of settlements in the West Bank and its stark violations of the international law has made Israel thirsty for new allies. The reason why this should not overrule the possibility that Israel may stand behind the coup, however, is that the rule of pro-Israel putschist would secure more benefits for Israel without having to make concessions, just as in Egypt. Despite the facts that the Four-Star General taken into custody, Akin Ozturk, served as Military Attaché in Israel and that Israeli politicians reportedly cheered when the coup was underway, the lack of evidence proving Israel’s complicity makes it too early to prefer charges against it.

Soon after the coup, social media users referred to the Bilderberg Group 64th annual summit in Dresden, Germany, just one month before the coup as the force behind it. The group, deemed the most secretive group in the world, holds private annual meetings of 120 to 150 top political and business leaders from the US and Europe and has been subject to numerous conspiracy theories since its first annual conference in 1954.

Giles Scott-Smith, the professor of Diplomatic History at the university of Leiden, Netherlands says in justification of the theories around the Bilderberg Group: “If you gather powerful political and economic leaders in a location that is deliberately away of public eye and with an agenda that is very vague and with no media allowed … all this combined will produce stories on what they are doing and what they are achieving.” However, given the mysterious nature of this group, dubbed a global shadow government, and the difficulty to reach any concrete decisive conclusions about its involvement, contemplating the internal forces behind the coup should include it as a potential and not a confirmed force.

As for  Turkey’s most ardent regional enemies, Syria and Egypt, it would be quite laughable to entertain the thought of their involvement. Egypt has been Turkey’s declared enemy since the coup that toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi in 2011. The diplomatic ties have been cut ever since and Erdogan has fully exploited every chance to denounce the coup. Egypt, however, is not in a position to retaliate with a coup since the repercussions would be too dire for it to handle and because, most importantly, it does not have the intelligence aptitude to orchestrate the coup in Turkey.

I hasten to add that the success of the coup in Egypt is more due to Morsi’s amateurish way of handling the internal issues rather than the Army’s proficiency in orchestrating or executing the coup, mainly because there were numerous indicators of a coup lurking in the shadows. Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who has killed over 500 thousand Syrians since the popular uprising in 2011, is even more unqualified than El-Sisi for such an undertaking. Had Assad  not been supported by Iran and Russia, he would not have been able to control his own fate. Therefore, cheering in the first hour of the coup from their position of a passive spectator is all the Syrian officials are capable of.

Whatever conclusion the investigations leads to, the Turkish government should and will act wisely. Revealing the outcome of investigations, however shocking they are, may cause some mountainous effects at first but will soon dwindle into indifference. The Turkish government should use these results as cards to pressure the culpable countries for more concrete political gains, and turn the coup around externally as it has managed to do internally.

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