was ironic that, as members of the military launched a coup against
him on Friday night, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey
resorted to guerrilla media tactics — broadcasting via the FaceTime
app on his cellphone — to urge Turks to oppose the plotters. Mr.
Erdogan has been no friend to free expression, ruthlessly asserting
control over the media and restricting human rights and free speech.
Yet thousands responded to his appeal, turning back the rebels and
demonstrating that they still value democracy even if Mr. Erdogan has
eroded its meaning.
erosion now seems likely to accelerate, exacting a terrible price
from Turkey’s citizens and posing new challenges to international
efforts to confront the Islamic State and halt the killing in
Turkey’s neighbor, Syria.
the chaotic and bloody events of the last two days, there is little
doubt that Mr. Erdogan will become more vengeful and obsessed with
control than ever, exploiting the crisis not just to punish mutinous
soldiers but to further quash whatever dissent is left in Turkey.
“They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said, chillingly.
“This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a
reason to cleanse our army.”
coming to power as prime minister in 2003, Mr. Erdogan has become an
increasingly authoritarian leader who has steered his country far
from the vision of a model Muslim democracy that many, in Turkey and
around the world, had longed for. The volatile Middle East cannot
afford to have another state unravel, especially one that is also the
essential bulwark of NATO’s eastern flank and has the largest army
in the region. In a statement late Friday, the United States
emphasized its “absolute support for Turkey’s
democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic
military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism,
although the army has not seized power directly since 1980. There
have long been tensions between Mr. Erdogan, whose AKP party has its
roots in Islamism, and the military, and he has worked methodically
to weaken the army as an institution. More recently, however, the
army was seen as regaining some of its clout because it was steering
clear of politics and managing a brutal war against Kurdish
Erdogan moved rapidly on Saturday to round up his adversaries, real
or imagined. Authorities reportedly had detained nearly 3,000 members
of the armed forces, including a brigadier general, and purged the
judiciary of 2,745 judges. Mr. Erdogan blamed the coup attempt on the
followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in
Pennsylvania, who was his ally until a bitter falling out three years
ago. Mr. Gulen’s followers were known to have a strong presence in
Turkey’s police and judiciary, but less so in the military.
Moreover, Mr. Gulen condemned the coup on the website of his group,
Alliance for Shared Values.
estimated 265 people, including “coup plotters” and civilians,
were reported killed during the insurrection, which began Friday
night when a faction of the army seized two bridges in Istanbul. The
uprising involved tanks, jet fighters and attack helicopters; some
forces strafed the headquarters of the Turkish intelligence and
parliament in Ankara, according to news reports.
a strategic sense, the fallout from the mutiny is already being felt.
Turkish authorities on Saturday halted American-led strike missions
against Islamic State that have been flying from Incirlik air base, a
vital operations center. Given the apparent split over Mr. Erdogan
within the Turkish military, ties between the American military and
Turkish military, a critical link in the Turkey-American
relationship, will be trickier to manage. That could impede
cooperation on Syria and other matters besides Islamic State,
American officials say.
the response to the coup demonstrates, Mr. Erdogan retains
significant support in his country of 80 million people, even as he
has become increasingly polarizing. One might hope that this
desperate uprising might prompt him to reach out to his opponents,
but Mr. Erdogan’s pattern points in the opposite direction. The
weekend’s upheaval and lingering political tensions are likely to
compromise Turkey’s democracy and its ability to be a stabilizing
influence in NATO and the region.
may no longer be a viable partner in fight against Isis following
coup, says French foreign minister
are questions that are being asked and we will ask them. [Turkey] is
partly viable but there are suspicions as well. Let’s be honest
foreign minister has said Turkey may no longer be a viable partner in
the fight against Isis in Syria, while Syrian state media has claimed
the failed coup in the country was fabricated by President Erdogan to
tarnish the military's reputation.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault raised concerns over Turkey's
ability to fight Isis amid growing political instability in the
country following the attempted coup against Mr Erdogan’s regime.
said: “There are questions that are being asked and we will ask
them. [Turkey] is partly viable but there are suspicions as well.
Let’s be honest about this.”
said he would raise the issue at a meeting in Washington next week
convened to discuss action against Isis.
his comments, a French diplomatic official said Mr Ayrault did not
mean to question Turkey’s viability in the fight against Isis and
said that they would remain a crucial coalition partner in the fight
against the terror group.
Syrian government newspaper has said the coup was fabricated by
President Erdogan in an attempt to "avenge the military and
strip it of its remaining support."
Erdogan supports insurgents in Syria who are trying to force
President Bashar Assad from power.
Tayyip Erdogan had it coming. The Turkish army was never going to
remain compliant while the man who would recreate the Ottoman Empire
turned his neighbours into enemies and his country into a mockery of
itself. But it would be a grave mistake to assume two things: that
the putting down of a military coup is a momentary matter after which
the Turkish army will remain obedient to its sultan; and to regard at
least 161 deaths and more than 2,839 detained in isolation from the
collapse of the nation-states of the Middle East.
the weekend’s events in Istanbul and Ankara are intimately related
to the breakdown of frontiers and state-belief – the assumption
that Middle East nations have permanent institutions and borders –
that has inflicted such wounds across Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other
countries in the Arab world. Instability is now as contagious as
corruption in the region, especially among its potentates and
dictators, a class of autocrat of which Erdogan has been a member
ever since he changed the constitution for his own benefit and
restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds.
to say, Washington’s first reaction was instructive. Turks must
support their “democratically elected government”. The
“democracy” bit was rather hard to swallow; even more painful to
recall, however, was the very same government’s reaction to the
overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s “democratically elected”
government in Egypt in 2013 – when Washington very definitely did
not ask Egypt’s people to support Morsi and quickly gave its
support to a military coup far more bloody than the attempted putsch
in Turkey. Had the Turkish army been successful, be sure Erdogan
would have been treated as dismissively as the unfortunate Morsi.
what do you expect when Western nations prefer stability to freedom
and dignity? That’s why they are prepared to accept Iran’s troops
and loyal Iraqi militiaman joining in the battle against Isis – as
well as the poor 700 missing Sunnis who “disappeared” after the
recapture of Fallujah – and that’s why the “Assad must go”
routine has been quietly dropped. Now that Bashar al-Assad has
outlived David Cameron’s premiership – and will almost certainly
outlast Obama’s presidency – the regime in Damascus will look
with wondering eyes at the events in Turkey this weekend.
victorious powers in the First World War destroyed the Ottoman Empire
– which was one of the purposes of the 1914-18 conflict after the
Sublime Porte made the fatal mistake of siding with Germany – and
the ruins of that empire were then chopped into bits by the Allies
and handed over to brutal kings, vicious colonels and dictators
galore. Erdogan and the bulk of the army which has decided to
maintain him in power – for now – fit into this same matrix of
warning signs were there for Erdogan – and the West – to see, if
only they had recalled the experience of Pakistan. Shamelessly used
by the Americans to funnel missiles, guns and cash to the “mujahedin”
who were fighting the Russians, Pakistan – another “bit”
chopped off an empire (the Indian one) turned into a failed state,
its cities torn apart with massive bombs, its own corrupt army and
intelligence service cooperating with Russia’s enemies –
including the Taliban – and then infiltrated by Islamists who would
eventually threaten the state itself.
Turkey began playing the same role for the US in Syria – sending
weapons to the insurgents, its corrupt intelligence service
cooperating with the Islamists, fighting the state power in Syria –
it, too, took the path of a failed state, its cities torn apart by
massive bombs, its countryside infiltrated by the Islamists. The only
difference is that Turkey also relaunched a war on its Kurds in the
south-east of the country where parts of Diyabakir are now as
devastated as large areas of Homs or Aleppo. Too late did Erdogan
realise the cost of the role he had chosen for his country. It’s
one thing to say sorry to Putin and patch up relations with Benjamin
Netanyahu; but when you can no longer trust your army, there are more
serious matters to concentrate on.
thousand or so arrests are quite a coup for Erdogan – rather
larger, in fact, than the coup the army planned for him. But they
must be just a few of the thousands of men in the Turkish officer
corps who believe the Sultan of Istanbul is destroying his country.
It’s not just a case of reckoning the degree of horror which Nato
and the EU will have felt at these events. The real question will be
the degree to which his (momentary) success will embolden Erdogan to
undertake more trials, imprison more journalists, close down more
newspapers, kill more Kurds and, for that matter, go on denying the
1915 Armenian genocide.
outsiders, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the degree of
fear and almost racist disgust with which Turkey regards any form of
Kurdish militancy; America, Russia, Europe – the West in general –
has so desomaticised the word “terrorist” that we fail to
comprehend the extent to which Turks call the Kurds “terrorists”
and see them as a danger to the very existence of the Turkish state;
which is just how they saw the Armenians in the First World War.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk may have been a good old secular autocrat
admired even by Adolf Hitler, but his struggle to unify Turkey was
caused by the very factions which have always haunted the Turkish
heartland – along with dark (and rational) suspicions about the
plotting of Western powers against the state.
in all, then, a far more dramatic series of events have taken place
in Turkey this weekend than may at first appear. From the frontier of
the EU, through Turkey and Syria and Iraq and large parts of Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula and on to Libya and – dare one mention this after
Nice? – Tunisia, there is now a trail of anarchy and failed states.
Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot began the Ottoman Empire’s
dismemberment – with help from Arthur Balfour -- but it continues
to this day.
this grim historical framework must we view the coup-that-wasn’t in
Ankara. Stand by for another one in the months or years to come