After the failed coup in Turkey. Towards a reordering of power in Europe?

In Turkey the coup against Erdoğan is being ascribed to the businessman and spiritual leader, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the United States. Initially Gülen was a patron saint of the AKP but subsequently he quarreled with his protégé Erdoğan. After decades in which the islamic undercurrent in Turkey also implied an anti-Western posture (under his predecessor, Erbakan), Erdoğan was the first to weld the islamisation of the Turkish state and society into a neoliberal and pro-American position. Now that he has abandoned this pro-American stance, the rupture with Gülen is complete. After the Eurozone rampage in Greece and the Brexit, another pillar under the Euro-Atlantic order has been knocked away.

For some time in the West criticism of the repression by the Erdoğan government has been growing, but let nobody think this is a principled attitude.

When Dutch and German Patriot batteries were sent to the NATO basis of Incirlik in early 2013, supposedly to defend Turkey (one million men under arms) against Syria's Assad (100 000 men locked in a civil war), there were already some one hundred journalists in jail. And when the absolute majority in parliament Erdoğan was blocked in June 2015 by the unexpectedly strong showing of the pro-Kurdish, progressive HDP, the war he unleashed against the Kurds, which helped him towards his absolute majority later in the year, was covered by NATO.

The real reason for the recent criticism of Erdoğan is that he has turned away from the disastrous policy of regime change in Syria. Although Ankara initially, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, gave support to the jihadists of al-Nusra/al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc., it gradually dawned that following the American-British destruction of Iraq, this might lead to the establishment of a Kurdish state. In addition Turkey was hit by a series of murderous terror attacks.

Also, the plan to land the Russian pipeline under the Black Sea, South Stream, in Turkey (after Bulgaria had cancelled it under pressure from NATO and EU), ran into difficulties and it was shelved after the shooting down of a Russian jet fighter over Syria by a Turkish F-16.

However, when the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced on TV in early July that Russian fighter planes might begin to use the basis of Incirlik for their missions against ISIS, it set off alarm bells in many quarters. For Incirlik is a NATO base with US nuclear weapons and a 2500-strong American force.

That gets us to the coup. It is completely unlikely that this was a provocation by Erdoğan himself, even though lists of names of judges, military men, journalists and academics associated with Gülen were no doubt prepared in advance. This was an operation of the part of the Turkish armed forces loyal to the Americans and NATO, and Incirlik was the pivot. One of the most important commanders at the base, general Bekir Ercan Van, was among the senior officers arrested after the event. The general, a close acquaintance of the American defence secretary, Ashton Carter, was the commander of the unit (10 Main Tanker Base) that comprises both American and Turkish KC-135 refueling planes and they actually refuelled the F-16s involved in the coup during operations. One of those F-16s was the plane that downed the Russian Su-24 over Syria, so there is no doubt we are dealing here with a segment of the Turkish military acting as a conduit of American and NATO policies.

Erdoğan for some time was trying to get more of a grip on Incirlik but this was resisted by the Americans. According to the Los Angeles Times the F-16s played a crucial role in the coup attempt and it does not take a lot of ingenuity to understand that given the central role of Incirlik, the American military and intelligence were involved in it too.

The coup was moved forward by six hours because the conspirators suspected their plans had been exposed. However, according to Patrick Cockburn in The Independent the elite unit tasked with arresting Erdoğan in his hotel in Marmaris were not informed and the Turkish president had already escaped when they moved in the early hours (3 o'clock) of the 16th of July. Whether the fact that Erdoğan succeeded to escape was owed to Russian intelligence, has obviously been denied by the Kremlin. But the AKP government did not fail to extensively thank Moscow for its role in defeating the coup and Putin personally called Erdoğan to congratulate him with the fortunate outcome. Western politicians on the other hand were mainly issuing warnings that reprisals against the coup plotters and their presumed followers should not go over the top. John Kerry flew to Brussels for urgent discussions with the EU foreign ministers (read, NATO without Turkey) whilst his French colleague, Ayrault, openly questioned whether Ankara is still a reliable ally…

Everything looks as if Washington knew about the impending coup and did not intervene to prevent it; that Russia unexpectedly gave support to Erdoğan, possibly even warning him; and that immediately following the suppression of the coup, discussions were announced with both Russia and Iran, of which the main item would be to keep Assad in power and preventing the establishment of a Kurdish state supported by the United States. Moscow in this way has paid back the West for the seizure of power in Ukraine, and in hindsight also for Iraq, for Libya, the secession of Kosovo, you name it.

And what about Gülen? When the businessman and spiritual leader applied for an American Green Card in 2006, the former vice chair of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Graham Fuller, and the former ambassador in Ankara and also veteran CIA operative, Morton Abramowitz, both wrote letters of support. In other words, Gülen has contacts at the highest levels of the State Department and the CIA, but that of course is not the same as organising a coup d'état from Pennsylvania.

Taking all things into consideration it would seem that the anti-Assad and anti-Putin forces in Turkey and NATO have tried a coup to maintain control of the country and that Erdoğan has used the occasion to eliminate a current in Turkey that is close to the AKP but with a much firmer pro-Western orientation.

Meanwhile the repression in the country, and as we know now, also among Turks outside Turkey, is going from bad to worse. In that respect the new Turkish-Russian-Iranian alliance, if things develop to that point, does not bode well for democracy. However, those who only now recognize the repression in Erdoğan's Turkey run the risk of being accused to have been in favour of the coup attempt.

Kees van der Pijl (with thanks to Willy Klinkenberg)

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