Turkey’s Failed Mil­i­tary Coup & Its Ram­i­fi­ca­tions

People's Review - - LEADER - BY SHASHI P.B.B. MALLA & CHAN­DRA BA­HADUR PARBATE The writ­ers can be reached at: sha­shipb­malla@hot­mail.com

The failed mil­i­tary coup d'etat ended in tri­umph for Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. The vi­o­lent at­tempt to over­throw the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment was crushed at its very in­cep­tion, and or­der re­stored. Many in­sti­ga­tors and their pre­sumed col­lab­o­ra­tors and sym­pa­thiz­ers have been ar­rested. It is be­lieved that sections of the mil­i­tary po­lice and air force were in­volved in the putsch, but that the po­lice and army were largely not in­volved. Thus, the lack of wide­spread co­or­di­na­tion and sup­port in the armed forces as a whole was the pri­mary rea­son for the fail­ure of the armed re­volt. Even as the pres­i­dent's sup­port­ers were fill­ing the streets and ma­jor squares cel­e­brat­ing the “victory of democ­racy”, Er­do­gan's ad­min­is­tra­tion was crack­ing down heav­ily on the per­pe­tra­tors and their sup­posed back­ers and pro­po­nents. The net was laid as wide as pos­si­ble. The deep di­vi­sions within the na­tion re­sulted in the death of hun­dreds and the in­car­cer­a­tion of thou­sands. In 1982, the mil­i­tary junta in­cor­po­rated an ar­ti­cle in the con­sti­tu­tion that en­abled the army to take power into its own hands if it sus­pected the gov­ern­ment of tam­per­ing with the sec­u­lar or­der. In 2002, Er­do­gan and his Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP) were elected to of­fice. They had made no se­cret of their pol­icy to aug­ment the role of re­li­gion, i.e. Is­lam in the coun­try as large. Er­do­gan was suc­cess­ful in push­ing through eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms and had the full sup­port of the United States. In 2007, he took stern ac­tion against peo­ple sus­pected of pre­par­ing an­other coup and sev­eral hun­dred were im­pris­oned. Against this back­ground, Er­do­gan moved for­ward to amend the con­sti­tu­tion cur­tail­ing the army's pre­rog­a­tive. A suc­cess­ful ref­er­en­dum in 2010 did just that and the army lost its con­sti­tu­tional right to in­ter­fere in the po­lit­i­cal life of the coun­try. Er­do­gan and his Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party gained the upper hand by con­fin­ing the army to the bar­racks. The high rise in liv­ing stan­dards strength­ened Er­do­gan's broad sup­port in the pop­u­la­tion at large. His ad­min­is­tra­tion en­joyed a level of sup­port that no other pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment had since the time of the leg­endary Ke­mal Ataturk. This fa­ther of the mod­ern Turk­ish na­tion had abol­ished the Ot­toman monar­chy/ caliphate and enun­ci­ated Turk­ish na­tion­al­ism and sec­u­lar­ism. This de­terred the army from tak­ing any ac­tion even when po­lit­i­cally ac­tive Ke­mal­ists and re­tired army of­fi­cers were im­pris­oned af­ter the con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­en­dum of 2010, or even af­ter the dis­puted elec­tions of 2015. The down­turn in do­mes­tic and ex­ter­nal af­fairs started with Er­do­gan's pre­car­i­ous pol­icy of sup­port­ing Is­lamist rev­o­lu­tions in the Mid­dle East, the es­ca­la­tion of bloody ter­ror­ist at­tacks on home soil, the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­la­tions with the ma­jor ally and part­ner in the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO), the United States, and the de­clin­ing prospects of mem­ber­ship in the Euro­pean Union (EU) all con­trib­uted to an un­fa­vor­able sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try. This was ex­ac­er­bated by the rekin­dling of armed con­flict with the Kur­dish na­tion­al­ists in the south-east. This may have prompted the ring­leaders of the at­tempted coup to take the ini­tia­tive. How­ever, the plan­ning was am­a­teur­ish, and the ex­e­cu­tion hope­less from the start. The band of coup lead­ers failed to neu­tral­ize the po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive right at the start. Both Er­do­gan and the newly ap­pointed Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim were not taken into custody and were free to mo­bi­lize their sup­port­ers im­me­di­ately. This proved cat­a­strophic to the out­come of the coup. How­ever, the coup plan­ners also made the car­di­nal mis­take of not keep­ing their in­ten­tions ab­so­lutely clan­des­tine. When com­man­dos at­tacked a ho­tel in the Mediter­ranean re­sort of Mar­maris (north of Rhodes) where Er­do­gan was hol­i­day­ing on the night of the July 15 coup bid, he had al­ready been tipped off, fled the scene and sprang im­me­di­ately into ac­tion. Sec­ond, it seems that the ring­leaders com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated the role of mod­ern me­dia, es­pe­cially so­cial me­dia, even af­ter their re­sound­ing res­o­nance in the var­i­ous Islamic rev­o­lu­tions in the Mid­dle East. The putsch cir­cle did man­age to cap­ture pub­lic TV sta­tions, but this was woe­fully in­ad­e­quate. Many other chan­nels were free to op­er­ate. Er­do­gan kept a clear head and re­acted quickly and de­ci­sively. The plan­ning of the coup must have taken months, and the coun­try's internal in­tel­li­gence must have re­ceived some in­kling about what was go­ing to hap­pen. It was, there­fore, not a ques­tion of ‘if', but ex­actly ‘when'. When Er­do­gan re­al­ized that a full-scale coup was in progress, he im­me­di­ately used the free In­ter­net-based video ser­vices to call on his sup­port­ers to flood the streets and pub­lic squares to counter the coup at­tempt with vo­cif­er­ous demon­stra­tions. The pow­er­ful loud­speak­ers of the mosques did like­wise. The coup was thus nipped in the bud. Third, the coup plot­ters woe­fully un­der­es­ti­mated the level of sup­port in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and po­lit­i­cal elites for the Er­do­gan gov­ern­ment. The ed­u­cated pub­lic had be­come sick of re­cur­rent mil­i­tary coups and had put their faith in a func­tion­ing democ­racy, how­ever many de­fi­cien­cies it may have had. All the op­po­si­tion par­ties and even the out of power politi­cians, like the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Ahmed De­vu­to­glu (who wanted to re­store the coun­try's for­mer Ot­toman great­ness) fol­lowed the call to ‘pro­tect democ­racy'. The elites were, there­fore, united and co­he­sive – un­like the mil­i­tary – in up­hold­ing the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment. Un­like in 1971, 1980 and 1997 when suc­cess­ful coups were in­sti­gated by the armed forces as a whole, this time around, they were badly frag­mented, and the putsch lead­ers – only a small group of of­fi­cers -- did not re­ceive the sup­port they ex­pected from the army gen­er­als. Many in the know kept silent and awaited de­vel­op­ments. The rapid col­lapse right at the start sealed the fate of the coup – the be­gin­ning of the end! All ob­servers and com­men­ta­tors are clear about the fact that the failed putsch has led to a mas­sive ac­cu­mu­la­tion of power for Er­do­gan – the very ef­fect that the coup in­sti­ga­tors wanted to elim­i­nate. He sees en­e­mies ev­ery­where and has started a large scale purge of the army, po­lice, jus­tices, teach­ers, univer­sity pro­fes­sors and the free me­dia – all rem­i­nis­cent of au­thor­i­tar­ian and to­tal­i­tar­ian states. Over 60,000 sus­pected have been dis­missed, de­tained or are cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for links to the putsch. The coup at­tempt was also quite bloody – more than 230 peo­ple were killed, and more than 2,000 in­jured. If Er­do­gan had been killed or cap­tured, it could have tipped Turkey into con­flict. Above all, he wants to com­pletely erad­i­cate the in­flu­ence and pres­ence of the ‘Khiz­mat' move­ment of the reclu­sive cleric Fethul­lah Gulen -- his for­mer po­lit­i­cal ally (in the fight against the dom­i­nance of the army in pol­i­tics), now in self-ex­ile in Penn­syl­va­nia, USA, with an insidious witch-hunt. Even the rul­ing party is to be “cleaned” of se­cret Gulen sup­port­ers! The US has been un­nec­es­sar­ily im­pli­cated in the coup at­tempt and Gulen's ex­tra­di­tion has also been de­manded. This has now led to a cool­ing of re­la­tions with the US. This could have grave im­pli­ca­tions for the in­ter­na­tional fight against the ter­ror­ist Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, and in stop­ping il­le­gal mi­gra­tion to Europe. Re­la­tions with Ger­many are also strained over the Ger­man par­lia­ment's de­ci­sion to brand as geno­cide the World War I-era Ar­me­nian mas­sacre by Ot­toman forces. These were fur­ther in­ten­si­fied when Ger­many, home to Turkey's largest di­as­pora, re­jected an ap­pli­ca­tion last week, to show by video link live speeches from Turk­ish politi­cians, in­clud­ing Er­do­gan, at a mas­sive rally by Turks in Cologne. Mean­while, Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Chris­tian Kern has said that he would start con­sul­ta­tions with EU lead­ers to stop Turkey's ac­ces­sion talks due to its demo­cratic and eco­nomic deficits. Turkey's for­eign min­is­ter re­acted an­grily by de­scrib­ing Aus­tria as a “capital of rad­i­cal racism”. Turkey at the cross­roads of the Ori­ent and West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion has now be­come part of the prob­lem of the var­i­ous con­flicts in the Mid­dle East.

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