Failed coup in Turkey – a few initial thoughts/ Hell Hath No Fury Like a Teflon Sultan (Pepe Escpbar on Turkey coup)
[Editor’s note: It would appear that Erdogan has done an about face. No longer a stooge of NATO, no longer looking towards the EU for its future, but instead looking east towards the Silk Road project. In which case the previously planned caliphate restoring what was once the Ottoman empire [sans the planned “Greater Israel”] has been abandoned for a more democratic future involving co-operation between independent Nation Sates of the Middle east, including Syria and Iran. Recent talks between Erodogan and Russia and new deals between Erdogan and Syria appear to be a complete turnaround from what has been dominating the Middle East since 2011 with the rise of the Wahhabi Daesh, centred in Saudi Arabia. With Aleppo about to fall and Assad stating that this fall would be the end of Erdogan, he is now changing feet very quickly and doing a zag from his zig, as Pepe puts it. ]
When I first heard that a coup was in progress in Turkey my first thought was that it was the USA’s way to punish Erdogan for his sudden apology to Russia. Yes, sure, I realized that there were many other possible explanations, but that was the one I was hoping for. I even told my family that if this was a US-backed coup and if Erdogan or his supporters said so, there would be hell to pay for the USA. Less than 24 hour later my hopes were fulfilled:
Erdogan was undeterred and he went on to publicly declare ““Dear President Obama, I told you this before, arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn’t listen. I call you on you again, after the coup attempt – extradite this man from Pennsylvania to Turkey. If we are strategic partners, do what is necessary,” Erdogan said. He also explicitly called any nation supporting Gulen “an open enemy of Turkey.”
Now we need to remember that Erdogan has a history of zigs followed by zags, so I would not put it past him to warmly embrace Obama in the near future, but I find that unlikely. Why? Simply because there is a lot of indirect evidence that the USA was, indeed, behind this coup. Consider this:
The coup involved a very large number of people. We can get a sense of the magnitude of this coup by looking at the huge purge now taking place in Turkey. According to various sources it includes no less than 6’000 people, many senior officers (including 5 generals and 29 colonels), 2’745 judges and prosecutors. So the first thing we need to ask ourselves is how likely is it that the USA did not know what was being prepared by the coup plotters? I submit that in a country essentially at war, where US forces which are involved in combat operations in nearby Syria and Iraq are deployed and where the US reportedly keeps 50 tactical nuclear weapons, the notion that the USA did not see this coming is far fetched. Turkey is a NATO member state, which in practical terms means that the US has full control over the Turkish military, and we know thanks to Sibel Edmonds that the Turkish deep state has very close ties to the US deep state – and we are to believe that nobody in the USA saw this coming?
Furthermore, when Erdogan says that the USA did not hurry to condemn the coup, he is absolutely correct. In fact, it was rather amusing for me to see that all the western media was indicating that the coup had succeeded, while the Iranians and Russians reported that the coup had failed. If that was case of wishful thinking on both sides, what does it tell us about the wishes?
Now let’s look at the cui bono angle.
Some, including Fethullah Gulen, have suggested that this coup was an a false flag operation by Erdogan himself. And it is true that he declared that this coup was a “”gift from God… because this will be a reason to cleanse our army“. But the reality is that this coup is a huge embarrassment for Erdogan who had already purged the Turkish armed forces many times over and who could not take the risk of having a planned “false flag” turn into the real thing: even General Bekir Ercan Van, the commander of Turkey’s Incirlik airbase, has been detained by Turkish authorities accused of complicity in the attempted coup. So not only did this coup show that Erdogan was hated at the very top level of the Turkish armed forces, but the failure of the coup has now resulted in a huge purge which will tremendously weaken the Turkish armed forces who are involved not only in Syria but also in a bloody civil war against the Kurds. So the notion that Erdogan triggered this coup himself appears very far fetched to me.
Then, of course, there is Russia. And while I wholeheartedly agree that Russia will immensely benefit from this failed coup, I also am convinced that the Russians never had anywhere near the means needed to trigger a coup in Turkey. Neither the Kemalists nor the supporters of Gulen are pro-Russian and Russia simply does not have the kind of access in this major NATO country to trigger military coups.
As for the USA, had the coup succeeded, they could have placed a compliant, and probably far more reliable, military leader at the helm of power in Turkey. Now that the coup failed and now that Erdogan appears to be furious at the USA, the USA is the big loser in this outcome. But had the coup succeeded?
Keep in mind that the war in 08.08.08 and the case of the US “multiple personality disorder” over Syria have shown that there is no unified US foreign policy. There is a White House foreign policy, there is a CIA foreign policy, then there is a Foggy Bottom foreign policy and a Pentagon foreign policy. We even know that there is a separate Neocon foreign policy. Any one of them coup have pushed the coup plotters to take action just like the Neocons pushed Saakashvili to attacked South Ossetia.
Now that the coup has failed, however, the situation has the potential to strongly turned in Russia’s favor and even though the Russians will never trust Erdogan, they are also fully aware of the objective advantages Russian can reap from the current situation. The ultimate success would be to trigger a withdrawal of Turkey from NATO, but I personally doubt that this is possible. A more realistic goal could be to accept that Turkey will nominally remain in NATO, but that at least in Syria Erdogan will accept the Russian-created reality on the ground. The fact that Lavrov and Kerry have agreed to a joint long-term ceasefire whose exact terms are to remain secret indicates to me that the Russians forced the US into concessions which the latter don’t want to be made public (and not the other way around because Moscow holds all the cards now and Kerry has therefore no means to put pressure on Russia). In other words, now that even the USA has basically caved in, at least temporarily, the Turks have no reasons left to try to impose anything on Syria.
The current situation holds a tremendous potential for developments favorable to Russia. I hope that the Russians will apply some creative thinking and make maximal use of this new situation to create afait accompli on the ground in Syria. The best option for Russia would be to have a reliable and predictable partner in Turkey. Alas, this is not going to happen. The next best option is to have a weak Turkey wasting most of its resources and energy dealing with internal crises. This seems to be what will happen in the foreseeable future. By any measure, this is a good thing for Russia, Syria and, really, the entire region.
When Turkish President/aspiring Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport early Saturday morning, he declared the attempted coup against his government a failure, and a “gift from God.”
(Erdogan) love is in the air
The coup plotters did aim at the intel services – whose top positions are at Istanbul’s airport, the presidential palace in Ankara and near the ministries. They used Cobra helicopters – with pilots trained in the US – against these targets. They also aimed at the army’s high command – which for the past 8 years is designated by Erdogan and is not trusted by many a mid-ranking officer.As they occupied the Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul they seemed to be in touch with military police – which is spread out all over Turkey and have a solid esprit de corps. But in the end they did not have the numbers – and the necessary preparation. All key ministries seemed to be communicating among themselves as the plot developed, as well as the intel services. And as far as Turkish police as a whole is concerned, they are now a sort of AKP pretorian guard.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Gulfstream 4, flight number TK8456, took off from Bodrum’s airport at 1:43 A.M. and flew for hours over Turkey’s northwest with its transponder on, undisturbed. It was from the presidential plane, while still landed, that Erdogan had gone on Face Time, and then, on the air, managed to control the countercoup. The plane never left Turkish airspace – and was totally visible to civil and military radars. The coup plotters’ F-16s could have easily tracked and/or incinerated it. Instead they sent military choppers to bomb the presidential abode in Bodrum a long time after he had left the building.
The head of the snake must have been 100% sure that to board his plane and stay on Turkish airspace was as safe as eating a baklava. What’s even more startling is that the Gulfstream managed to land in Istanbul in absolute safety in the early hours of Saturday morning – despite the prevailing notion that the airport was occupied by the “rebels”.
In Ankara, the “rebels” used a mechanized division and two commandos. Around Istanbul there was a whole army; the 3rd command is actually integrated with NATO’s rapid reaction forces. They supplied the Leopards positioned in Istanbul’s key spots – which by the way did not open fire.And yet the two key armies positioned in the Syrian and Iranian borders remained on “wait and see” mode. And then, at 2 A.M., the command of the also key 7th army based in Diyarbakir – in charge of fighting the PKK guerrillas – proclaimed his loyalty to Erdogan. That was the exact, crucial moment when Prime Minister Binali Yildırım announced a no-fly zone over Ankara.
That meant Erdogan controlled the skies. And the game was over. History does move in mysterious ways; the no-fly zone dreamed by Erdogan for so long over Aleppo or the Syrian-Turkish border in the end materialized over his own capital.
Round up the usual suspects
The US position was extremely ambiguous from the start. As the coup took over, the American embassy in Turkey called it “Turkish uprising”. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Moscow to discuss Syria, also hedged his bets. NATO was royally mute. Only when it became clear the coup was in fact smashed President Obama and the “NATO allies” officially proclaimed their “support for the democratically elected government”.
The Sultan went back to the game with a vengeance. He immediately went live on CNN Turk demanding Washington hands over Gulen even without any evidence he masterminded the coup. And that came with an inbuilt threat; “If you want to keep access to Incirlik air base you will have to give me Gulen”. It’s hard not to be reminded of recent history – when the Cheney regime in 2001 demanded the Taliban hand Osama bin Laden over to the US without offering proof he was responsible for 9/11.
So the number one eyebrow-raising possibility is a go; Erdogan’s intel services knew a coup was brewing; and the wily Sultan let it happen knowing it would fail as the plotters had very limited support. He also arguably knew – in advance — even the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose members Erdogan is trying to expel from parliament, would support the government in the name of democracy.Two extra facts add to the credibility of this hypothesis. Earlier last week Erdogan signed a bill giving soldiers immunity from prosecution while taking part in domestic security ops – as in anti-PKK; that spells out improved relations between the AKP government and the army. And then Turkey’s top judicial body HSYK laid off no less than 2,745 judges after an extraordinary meeting post-coup. This can only mean the list was more than ready in advance.
The major, immediate post-coup geopolitical consequence is that Erdogan now seems to have miraculously reconquered his “strategic depth” – as former, sidelined Prime Minister Davutoglu would have it. Not only externally – after the miserable collapse of both his Middle East and Kurdish “policies” – but also internally. For all practical purposes Erdogan now controls the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary – and is taking no prisoners to purge the military for good. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sultan is in da house.
This means the neo-Ottoman project is still on – but now under massive tactical reorientation. The real “enemy” now is Syrian Kurds – not Russia and Israel (and not ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; but they never were in the first place). Erdogan is going after the YPG, which for him is a mere extension of the PKK. His order of the day is to prevent by all means an autonomous state entity in northeast Syria – a “Kurdistan” set up like a second Israel supported by the US. For that he needs some sort of entente cordiale with Damascus – as in insisting that Syria must preserve its territorial integrity. And that also means, of course, renewed dialogue with Russia.
So what’s the CIA been up to?
Needless to add Ankara and Washington are now on a certified collision course. If there is an Empire of Chaos hidden hand in the coup – no smoking gun yet — that certainly comes from the Beltway neocon/CIA axis, not the lame duck Obama administration. For the moment Erdogan’s leverage only amounts to access to Incirlik. But his paranoia is ballooning; for him Washington is doubly suspicious because they harbor Gulen and support the YPG.
Hell hath no fury as an underestimated Sultan as well. For all his recent geopolitical follies, Erdogan’s simultaneous ballet of reconnecting with Israel and Russia is eminently pragmatic. He knows he needs Russia for the Turkish Stream and to build nuclear plants; and he needs Israeli gas to consolidate Turkey’s role as a key East-West energy crossroads.When we learn, crucially, that Iran supported Turkey’s “brave defense of democracy”, as tweeted by Foreign Minister Zarif, it’s clear how Erdogan, in a mater of only a few weeks, reconfigured the whole regional picture. And that spells out Eurasia integration and Turkey deeply connected to the New Silk Roads – not NATO. No wonder the Beltway – for whom, overwhelmingly, Erdogan is the proverbial “erratic and unreliable ally” — is freaking out. That dream of Turkish colonels under direct CIA orders is over – at least for the foreseeable future.
So what about Europe? Yildirim already said that Turkey might reinstate the death penalty – to be applied to the coup plotters. This means, in essence, bye bye EU. And bye bye to the European Parliament approving visa-free travel for Turks visiting Europe. Erdogan after all already got what he wanted from chancellor Merkel; those 6 billion euros to contain the refugee crisis that he essentially unleashed. Merkel bet the farm on Erdogan. Now she’s talking to herself – while the Sultan is able to dial God on Face Time.