My two previous blogs on the subject of Turkey will have meant that no one reading the series need have been surprised by recent events. Details of the coup’s inspiration (but almost certainly not its instigator) were contained in this blog https://khakispecs.com/?p=1952
In the blog immediately preceding it, https://khakispecs.com/?p=1910 I explained how Erdogan was anticipating trouble from the Gülen (aka CIA) camp. In that blog I quoted the gleeful account in the Wall street Journal of the consequence of the Turkish Air force’s downing of a Russian aircraft over Syria.
“But perhaps the best development is Turkey’s strengthened ties with Washington. Messrs. Erdogan and Davutoglu know that following the Nov. 24 plane incident, Mr. Putin didn’t and couldn’t respond with outright aggression because Turkey is a NATO member. Facing a resurgent Russia, its historic enemy against which it fought and lost countless wars, Turkey knows that it needs NATO and Washington more than ever.
The irony for the Davutoglu-Erdogan administration is that after a decade attempting to bring Turkey closer to Russia and the Middle East, relations are back to where they were nearly 20 years ago. If Turkish-Israeli ties normalize, Turkey’s foreign policy will look almost identical to 1995, under then-President Suleiman Demirel: good ties with the U.S., bad ties with Iran, Iraq, Russia and Syria, a working relationship with the EU, and cooperation with the Iraqi Kurds who help Turkey against the PKK. It is Turkey’s moment to grasp. Ankara will be safer to turn course back to its old friends.”
Having read the above, one can understand why Erdogan is reported to have argued at the time, that the attack on the Russian aircraft had been a calculated attempt by Gülenist sympathisers in the Air Force to frog-march Turkey back into the American camp. Reports have it that not only the commandant of the US shared, Incirlik airbase, but also the two pilots of the Turkish aircraft that flew from that base and downed the Russian fighter, have been taken into custody as being participants in the coup attempt. Now thanks to Erdogan’s precautions and the CIA’s lack of them, the American triumph, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, has been completely reversed.
The fact is that key elements within the USA, long used to dealing with military strong-men as leaders of its Turkish Cold War ally, were dismayed by the onset of a democratically appointed civilian leadership, let alone one of a moderately Islamic inclination. Signs that things were amiss with the relationship were evident when Turkey refused to let its territory be used as a jumping off point for American forces in their assault on Iraq. From then on there were frequent friction points. These ranged from falling out with American ally, Israel over the MV Mavi Marmara affair to Turkey’s support of Morsi’s Islamic regime in Egypt and Erdogan’s continued hostility to El-Sisi’s military, secular and strongly anti-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime that followed Morsi’s ousting. Far more serious in American eyes was Erdogan’s apparent willingness, until heavy pressure was brought to bear, to provide through the Turk-Stream project, an alternative route for Russian gas into the EU. By doing so, he was undermining America’s economic war against Russia and jeopardising the benefits it had hoped to reap from the State Department’s successful coup in Ukraine.
Though, admittedly, Erdogan was happy to help Washington undermine the secular Gadhafi and Assad regimes (when it suited his own pro-MB agenda) he refused to play the lapdog that is expected of America’s vassals. He continued supporting ISIS long after the Americans had decided to reverse their initial support of that ill-disciplined instrument and he continued to attack the Kurdish PYG in Syria on whom America were heavily reliant for the manpower to mop up the ISIS mess of their own creation. America would far prefer a complaint military regime in control of such a strategically situated ally.
Erdogan has been preparing for this attempted, CIA encouraged, Gülenist coup for several years. I would argue that it is this preparation, rather than a particular drive for authoritarian power that has been motivating his continual ‘anti-democratic’ maneuvering to secure his government’s hold on power.
The Gülen network, with its heavy involvement in universities and schools, has been able to establish an all-pervasive, pro-American, old-boys network that percolates throughout the civil service, police, judiciary and military. Now, with American enmity fully exposed, Erdogan will be in pursuit of new allies.
The American war aim in Syria, originally intended to enable a gas pipeline from Qatar to transit Turkey with a view to cutting the Russian gas trade with the EU, is now without hope of realisation. That is perhaps now, the least of Washington’s worries. Erdogan is currently involved in intensive diplomatic activity to achieve reconciliation with both Russia and the Assad regime in Syria and to improve his relations with neighbouring Iran. This activity was noticeable in the weeks immediately preceding the coup: it has now accelerated.
This re-arrangement of alliances represents a seismic shift in international relations. Turkey – the land-bridge between Europe and the Middle East is moving out of the Western camp and into the orbit of the Eurasian powers. It is perfectly on the cards that ultimately this process will result in Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO and with it, will go all American dreams of destabilising Russia by subversion of what is viewed by the neo-con think-tanks as its ‘soft-underbelly.’
To return to the coup itself, one has to be surprised by its lack of success. The CIA has vast experience of organising coups. However this coup attempt was most certainly not conducted according to best practice. Its failure was assured when the plotters were panicked into premature action before all the elements were fully in place. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/07/turkey-coup-attempt-basic-cause-was-premature-birth.html Erdogan’s instantaneous post-coup actions against the Gülenists, demonstrate that the arrest and sacking lists had been drawn-up well before the coup. It was just a question of whether it would be Erdogan or the plotters who got to make the first move.
As a consequence of American interference, Turkey, having enjoyed an intermission in democratic and secular sunshine, now looks set to revert back to a not atypical Middle Eastern, Islamist despotism (albeit, in common with Egypt, having achieved that status not by brute force, but by popular demand.) For decades, the country will remain polarised and almost certainly subject to further destructive episodes of dissent. However, who is to say that the emergent Turkish form of democracy is any less desirable than that on show at the recent Nuremberg-style rally held in Cleveland? Nor should it be assumed that Kerry was lying in denying all US involvement in the failed coup. With the enormous funding available for ‘black ops’ that bye-pass Congressional oversight, the American deep state is at liberty to conduct warlike operations independently of the apparatus of democratic rule.
The eradication of the Gülenist network, now in full swing, will further undermine the stability of the Turkish state and significantly weaken it both economically and militarily. This may well make the civil war being waged against Turkey’s Kurdish population no longer sustainable. The war was created by Erdogan for cynical, political reasons. Now, there may well be room for some sort of reconciliation. As, in the face of American hostility, both Assad and Erdogan need to retain Russian support. Russia’s good relations with the Kurds in both Syria and Turkey might well facilitate this process.
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