Friday, July 15, 2016

FLASH: Coup in Turkey

I've been away from the news for many hours now. But a coup is underway now in Turkey:

Turkey's military announced on Friday night that the army had taken over “the entire management of the country to restore rule of law” as the country's prime minister admitted an “attempt” by a group within the military while falling short of calling the attempt a military coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking by cell phone to CNN Turk from an unknown location, vowed that Turkey would "overcome this invasion" and called on Turks to "gather in squares and see what this minority can do with their tanks and artillery against the people."

I haven't been happy with Erdogan, who has concentrated power and Islamized Turkey from its secular traditions; but Turkey has been reversing course on their alienation from the West lately. I don't like the idea of chaos in Turkey right now even though I don't like Erdogan.

Does this screw up our lukewarm support for Syrian rebels and the Kurds in Syria? Do we pull our forces out of Turkey as a precaution?

Does this mean Turkey is more likely to actually send troops into Syria to defeat Assad's regime?

Do Turkey's Kurds escalate that rebellion?

Does this send more Middle Eastern refugees and migrants into Europe?

After the purges Erdogan has carried out in the military, I'm surprised at this coup.

Is the Turkish military unified? Or will this descend into civil war or civil strife?

I guess I just have questions more than observations at this point.

Interesting times we live in.

UPDATE: However this turns out, I think we can count Turkey as collateral damage from the civil war in Syria that drags on.

UPDATE: The coup attempt by a small portion of the Turkish military seems to have failed:

Turkey's president declared he is in control of the NATO country early Saturday as loyal military and police forces fought to squash a coup attempt during a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead.

A faction of the armed forces attempted to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters, some strafing the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara, others seizing a major bridge in Istanbul.

It just depends on how much more fighting will take place before it is done.

Prior purges were sufficient to make the effort less than a full military-backed coup.

The purges will intensify, I imagine.

Will this lead to Erdogan being more autocratic and/or more Islamist? Or will it make him more cautious? I suspect the former.

Could Erdogan decide to send army units suspected of being pro-coup into Turkey to keep them busy? Having potentially disloyal soldiers and Assad's men killing each other might seem like a really good idea to Erdogan right now.

At least this didn't devolve into a full-scale civil war within Turkey. So we've got that going for us.

UPDATE: From The Economist:

Though seemingly well organised at first, the plotters seemed to represent only a minority faction of military officers. Units that had taken over the airport melted away, their commander saying he did not support the coup. By early morning the main state broadcaster, which had aired the coup leaders’ announcement, was back in the hands of the government. With fighting still taking place in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan made a triumphant return to the city, appearing on television to announce that those responsible for the coup attempt would pay a “heavy price”.

So there you go.

UPDATE: The coup plotters weren't very good.

But Turkey has problems apart from an autocrat and Islamist-friendly ruler like Erdogan.

Does this push Turkey into aggressive actions in Syria to finally make good on their years-old ultimatum to Assad to step down in an effort to "export" their problems? Or does it pull Turkey inward as they cope with their own problems?

My heart was with the coup supporters who don't want Erdogan to continue to undermine Turkish democracy. Had it quickly succeeded, I could have said, "Well, work with the new rulers to make the best of it and push for democracy restoration."

But I just didn't think a coup--which isn't exactly democratic despite Ergogan's sins against freedom--was the way to solve that problem.

But the coup collapsed rather quickly. And I fear Erdogan will accelerate his push to centralize power in his hands because of this failed coups.

Let's hope we work with Erdogan to make the best of his win and push for democracy restoration.

And as I said, while this is a bad situation, at least this didn't degenerate into a civil war in Turkey.

UPDATE: Amateur hour:

At the height of the attempt to overthrow Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Erdogan's plane in their sights. And yet he was able to fly on.

What part of "when you strike a king, kill him" is unclear?

UPDATE: Erdogan sure was prepared for his purge of security forces that followed the failed coup.

I tend to believe the simpler explanation that the coup plotters were as amateurish as they seem rather than being part of an Erdogan plot to crack down even more on the military and excuse his further grab of political power.

After all, Erdogan had been cracking down and grabbing power all along without effective opposition. Why stage a fake coup now?

But I'm no expert on Turkey. So I guess I am unwilling to rule out a fake coup.

UPDATE: Europe and the United States are cautioning Erdogan on rule of law:

The United States and European Union on Monday sternly warned Turkey to respect the rule of law after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government launched a massive crackdown following the failed coup.

Germany and the EU also said any move by Turkey to reinstate the death penalty for the coup plotters would derail Ankara's long-stalled membership bid.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in Brussels that Friday's attempted putsch was "no excuse" for excessive action, as Turkish authorities said they had arrested over 7,500 people and sacked more than 9,000.

If the coup had had that many backers in on the action, it might have worked!

Not that a list of those with suspicious secular tendencies couldn't have been kept by Erdogan just in case there was rumor of coup in the air. he seems like that kind of guy.

I don't think this list and action means the coup was a sham to provide a pretext for arrests. But never let a crisis go to waste, eh? Our president might not be the only one who believes that.

Yet despite our words of support during the coup, the Erdogan government is ready to punish us:
Turkey's Prime Minister says country might review its friendship with the United States

I'm just grateful that this administration repaired all the damage the Bush administration did to our foreign relations.