Turkey at Sixes and Sevens

Turkey alleges that a former American Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan may have transferred $2 billion to gain recruits for the coup

Turkey alleges that a former American Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan may have transferred $2 billion to gain recruits for the coup
Turkey alleges that a former American Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan may have transferred $2 billion to gain recruits for the coup

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]urkey started its modern era with a grand declaration that it wanted “zero problems with its neighbours.”  But by 2014, the country was struggling to find friends except, according to the Russians, Azerbaijan.1    On November 24, 2015, the Turks brought down a Russian plane and relations with Russia took a dive.  Russia imposed sanctions against Turkey.2   In addition, as a self-imposed leader of Sunni Muslims, Turkey automatically was at odds with Iran and its satellite states.  Turkey also re-started a war with Turkish Muslim Kurds who sought independence in south-eastern Turkey and are a fervent ally of America in trying to stabilize Iraq and Syria.  Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the US for backing the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen who is in exile in Pennsylvania.  Since Gulen has allegedly penetrated Turkish institutions with his supporters, Erdogan blames the “Pennsylvanian connection” and “the parallel state” in Turkey for the July 15, 2016, coup.3   Erdogan’s move away from Kemalism and towards conservative Islam meant that the EU was not likely to admit Turkey into the EU, even if the intention were there.  In Egypt, Erdogan backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Mohammed Morsi who was ousted from power.

Whereas in 2013, social media worked against Erdogan, in 2016, its more widespread use worked towards his benefit…

Turkey had to change for the better; it needed friends.  It apologised to the Russians, as was demanded, and arranged for the two leaders to meet and continue with their old, warm relationship.4   But the most significant change for the region was Erdogan’s declaration to his Iranian counterpart that Ankara wanted to join the Moscow-Teheran axis to settle the region’s problems.  This dramatic change will mean that the US will find it difficult to depose Syria’s Assad.

Turkey has been well compensated financially for stemming the flow of refugees into Europe.  What needs to be done is to have an Islamic passport, like the African passport, introduced by the African Union.  Such a document would give refugees the right to settle in any Muslim state where they can earn a living legally.  The Moscow-Tehran-Ankara axis is likely to affect adversely the close relationship that Turkey had with the US.  To cite one example, Turkey is home to 50 of NATO’s B-61 ‘gravity’ nuclear bombs aimed at Russia.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]nother major issue destabilizing Turkey is polarisation, according to opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).  CHP seems to be a Kemalist Party since it supports the rule of law, secularism, and citizen rights.  Kilicdaroglu’s view is rather narrow since he sees an axis between “religion and ethnicity” within the country.5     To a certain extent, this is true since Erdogan relies on Sunnis who support the AKParty; they make up almost half of the Turkish population.  The Shias, who are the largest minority group, are “sidelined.”  The Kurds in Turkey are treated as enemies for wanting to secede from Turkey.  Turkey has been unable to give full rights to its minority groups, which naturally leads to polarisation.

The most serious polarisation that is manifesting itself in Turkey is Islamic fundamentalism and modernization.  On average, this polarisation has led to a coup per decade, since 1960.  The CHP, AKP, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have to show maturity and decide how to stop this cycle of coups.  Normally, the army is blamed for these social disruptions.  But this is not always the case.  In the May 27, 1960 and March 12, 1971 coups, the army had to stop street fights since the governments of that time failed to deliver.  The September 1980 coup was called the People’s coup since 90% of the constitutional changes that the generals introduced were approved. Before 1997, the polarisation was between leftists and nationalists; from 2003, Gulenists were blamed for trying to run a parallel state.  The Gulenists and AKP cooperated well before:  Erdogan summarised this relationship thus: “Whatever the Gulenists wanted we gave them.”  The July 15, 2016, plot was, nonetheless, characterised as “an opera” defending “the guardian of faith.”

Erdogan’s actions seemed to show that he was resurrecting the glory of the Ottoman Empire, just as Putin was attempting with the Soviet empire.  The presidential palace, Ak Saray (White Palace) was a palatial 1,000-bedroom affair, larger than the White House or the Kremlin.  Did the palace suggest that the Turkish President and his successors were more important than the US and Russian Presidents?  If so, one writer suggests that such an impression was delusional.  It was at this palace that Kilicdaroglu reluctantly organised a gathering of political parties to forge a way forward; he wisely said that the leaders had to stop their bickering and not behave like “putschists,” who organised the 2016 coup.  Kilicdaroglu, himself, could be accused of bickering as he said that Erdogan was a ‘tin-pot dictator’ and that Ak Sary was illegal.6

With this background, the coup of July 15, 2016, can be analysed with all its implications.  Originally the coup was planned for the next day at 3.30 am but owing to public disclosures, it was brought forward by a few hours.  On July 15, at 4.30 pm Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) was aware of a coup and its Deputy Chief Hakan Fidan informed the Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces Yashar Guler of what he heard.  At 6.30 pm, Turkey’s Commander of General Staff Hulusi Akar ordered the sky closed to all aircraft including military, and stopped all movement of troops and armoured vehicles.  According to Iranian Fars, the Russian unit at Hmeymim, Syria, that was equipped with state of the art equipment, intercepted a conversation regarding the coup.7

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]C[/dropcap]onfirmation is needed to support the Russian claim that a former American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who is named, arranged for the CIA to transfer $2 billion through the United Bank of Africa, from Nigeria to Turkey, to gain recruits for the coup.  The General visited Turkey twice before the coup and met with the FETO (Gulenist) organisation.  A pro-Erdogan Turkish newspaper, Yeni Safak, also carried this story.8    Edward Snowden, of Wikileaks fame, offers the assurance that the US routinely conducts cyber-attacks on foreign political parties, which have been named.9     Erdogan’s fear is that the CIA-Gulenists cooperation is one of those insidious relationships, from a Turkish point of view.  That some of the western embassies were aware of the coup is evident by the fact that the French embassy closed three days before the coup.10

Ahmet Hakan offers, from an insider’s point of view, ten reasons for the failure of the coup.11 Whereas in 2013, social media worked against Erdogan, in 2016, its more widespread use worked towards his benefit:  his brother-in-law warned him of the coup while he was holidaying in the south-western town of Marmaris. Erdogan was saved by fifteen minutes when 40 specially-trained pro-coup officers went to capture “an important terrorist leader.”  Two of Erdogan’s bodyguards were killed.12     A little later, Erdogan used a video to contact his supporters, show them that he was still in charge, and ordered them to take to the streets, which they did with tremendous success.

Obviously since the army lost to unarmed civilians, it showed that the army was deeply divided and under any circumstances, civilians preferred a civilian government to military rule.  Erdogan’s popularity with Turks can be attributed to the fact that the AKP scored a huge victory in the November 1, 2015 elections and added another 9% points in the crucial June 7, 2016 elections.  Erdogan gave Turkey 13 years of stability with the economy improving by 7% annually, except in 2009 when the whole world faced a crisis.13    Erdogan’s 13 years of stability can be measured against the 17,000 unexplained murders in the 1990s.14

Bibliography:

  1. Maxim Yusin, “Turkey coup: Why did the military try to overthrow Erdogan? kommersant.com, July 16, 2016.

  2. Yekaterina Chulkorskaya, “How will the attempted coup in Turkey affect Moscow-Turkey relations,” rbth.com, July 17, 2016.

  3. Vladimir Mikheev, “How realistic is Erdogan’s pivot to Moscow and Teheran?” rbth.com, July 22, 2016.

  4. Chulkorskaya, op. cit.

  5. Stuart Williams & Raxiye Akkoc, “Turkey has chance to end polarization after coup: opposition chief,” yahoo.com, July 27, 2016.

  6. Ibid.

  7. “Russia warned Turkey about plotted coup, pravdareport.com.ru, 21.7.2016.

  8. “Turkey accuses ex-NATO commander of coup orchestration,” pravdareport.ru, 26.7.16.

  9. “Snowden: US attacks foreign parties,” pravadareport.ru, 26.7.2016.

  10. “Who benefits from Turkish failed coup?” pravdareport.ru, 19.7.2016.

  11. Ahmet Hakan, “10 blunders of coup plotters,” hurriyetdailynews.com.tr, July 19, 2016.

  12. “Troops sent to hotel where Erdogan was to capture an important terrorist leader,” hurriyetdailynews.com.tr, July 19, 2016.

  13. Emre Deliveli, “Why has the AKP been so successful?” hurriyetdailynews.com.tr, November 2, 2015.

  14. Melik Altinok, “The June elections: A critical turning point for Turkey,” dailysabah.com, May 14, 2016.

Henry D'Souza

Henry D'Souza is a prolific author who has written over 60 papers and 4 books, of which 2 books, 1 booklet and 28 papers were published. He is a distinguished sportsman, having represented Kenya in Field Hockey and also played tennis for the country.

Henry currently resides in Canada.

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