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The Grand National Assembly building in Ankara was severely damaged

2016 - Mutiny - Why & Why Now?

With remarkable prescience, Michael Rubin wrote in March 2016 that " ... given rising discord in Turkey as well as the likelihood that the Turkish military would suffer no significant consequence should it imitate Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s game plan in Egypt, no one should be surprised if Turkey’s rocky politics soon get rockier."


For a long time it seemed that Erdogan, who is pursuing a policy of a creeping but inexorable Islamization, had the upper hand, after suppressing the resistance of the generals, forcing them to resign themselves to giving up the secular principles of Kemal Atatürk, and getting rid of a “fifth column” in the midst of the armed forces, having “purged” the officer corps through a series of large-scale court trials. It turns out this was not quite the case.

From the point of view of many residents of Turkey and a considerable section of its elite, the president bears responsibility for destabilizing the domestic political situation in the country. Society is split, as was testified by the mass protests in 2013. Yet the authorities stubbornly refuse to listen to their opponents and are implementing the social mandate only of their voters, who represent about half of the population.

Erdogan provoked a resumption of a civil war in Turkish Kurdistan. In the opinion of many Turkish politicians and Kurds themselves, it was his actions that triggered a flare-up in hostilities and wiped out years of efforts to establish a peace dialogue. As a result, the country has found itself in a state of war, although just a couple of years ago there were neither reasons nor preconditions for this.

In its foreign policy the Turkish leadership managed to ruin relations with practically all the key global and regional players. The diplomatic results of Erdogan's rule are dismal. The events in Syria are following a scenario that is absolutely at variance to Ankara was counting on. In Egypt, Erdogan's protégé, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, has been ousted. Relations with the EU are ruined.

Why Now ?

The government pointed fingers at the Gulen movement, President Erdogan's rival and a declared terrorist organization, but it was unclear who was behind the coup. The Supreme Military Court was getting ready to expel military servicemen said to be affiliated to the Gulen movement in August 2016, so the mutiny sought to pre-empt that purge.

For weeks there were signs that tensions between Turkey's secular military and the Islamist-aligned government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were reaching a boiling point. Semi-public disagreements between the politicians and the generals, especially over Syria policy, were becoming all too frequent. Military briefings appeared increasingly to be at odds with government statements.

And some analysts in recent weeks had feared a coup might be in the offing, with concerns mounting in military ranks about the series of recent deadly terrorist attacks in Turkey, the government's no-holds-barred war on the Kurdish minority in southeast Turkey, and Erdogan's attempts to consolidate ever greater control over the media and judiciary.

Afzal Ashraf of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, said he was surprised by the level of hostility among officers toward the government. They expressed increasing alarm at the autocratic tilt of Erdogan and anger at what they saw as the creeping Islamization of Turkey.

"For the first time in 15 years, young officers were making comments about their government in cynical terms," said Ashraf, a frequent visitor to Turkey. That was unusual, especially in front of visiting foreigners, he said. He noted, though, that top-ranking officers seemed more supportive of the government.

The magnitude and speed of the unfolding purge in the days immediatly after the failed coup lent credence to the fear some of the plotters reportedly had that the Erdogan government was planning in the coming days and weeks to carry out a large cleansing of perceived foes in the bureaucracy and judiciary, as well as a major reorganization of military commanders.

Those fears are what triggered the launch of the coup Friday, suspects Metin Gurcan, an independent security analyst and former adviser to the Turkish military. “Had there not been a coup attempt July 15, there would have been massive detentions on July 16-17,” argues Gurcan. “The plotters learned of this plan and launched their sloppy and uncoordinated attempt hastily. In other words, the coup attempt that was planned for a future date was moved up,” he writes on the Al Monitor news-site.

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Page last modified: 19-07-2016 14:02:22 ZULU