Consideration to geostrategic pulse 218 - Turkey is shaking in the whirl of global geopolitics

Turkey is shaking in the whirl of global geopolitics
Corneliu PIVARIU

In the night of 15 to 16 July 2016 there was an attempted military coup in Turkey, which failed in a few hours (the fifth attempt, after the successful coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997).

Although the Turkish leadership is trying to explain this attempted coup by foreign implications (especially Fetullah Gulen and Daesh), we believe that it happened mainly due to internal motives, among which we mention: the domestic conditions of Turkey represented by the situation on the border with Syria and the presence of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees; the activity of Daesh, subsidiaries of al-Qaeda, including the terrorist attacks that they organized in Ankara and Istanbul; the conflict with the PKK; Erdogan's authoritarian domestic policy, limitations on the freedom of expression, the additional powers of the police and the intelligence services, the President’s partial political control of the judiciary; the intensification of President Erdogan's autocratic trends.

President Erdogan’s preoccupation to control the army has been evident since the days when he was prime minister and extensively tried to remove officers and generals who favored a secular Turkey (see the cases “Ergenekon” and “Sledgehammer” that we have analyzed at the time, which allowed the removal from the army of more than 400 senior officers and establish a higher control of the AKP over the military). At the same time, Erdogan has promoted junior officers in key positions, making sure that the Chief of the General Staff was loyal to him. We should also mention that in April 2016 the people accused in the Ergenekon case were acquitted by the High Court of Appeals, which ruled that the existence of the network of conspirators could not be proven with evidence (after they have served long years in prison). The changes in the armed forces leadership allowed the amendment of the Constitution in July 2013, Erdogan's government managed to successfully pass it through Parliament by amending Article 35 according to which the army’s role was to protect and preserve the Turkish Republic. This change has been considered by many people as a political coup, since Article 35 was amended so that the army was no longer responsible for the preservation of the secular state, the mission of the Turkish armed forces being to defend the nation against foreign threats and dangers, excluding thus the preservation of Turkey as a secular state from the mission of the army. That is why in the statement made by the orchestrators of the putsch it was mentioned that: ”the Turkish armed forces have taken full control of the country's administration to restore constitutional order, human rights and the rule of law as well as security (of the country – our note) that has been affected…”

The fact that the AKP and Erdogan largely succeeded to control the army is demonstrated by the fact that not all the army rallied to the coup, but only some units of the land forces, air forces and few of the navy. If the whole army had acted unitary and had obtained the support of the population, Erdogan regime would have probably become a page of history.

But why is it that the National Intelligence Service (MIT - Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı), which has been led since 2010 by Erdogan’s loyal Hakan Fidan, has not found out in time about the plot and has not stopped it in its early stage? This is a question that cannot be given an exact answer. It is very possible that the interference of former Prime Minster and current President Erdogan in the MIT might have had a role. He promoted at the MIT people that needed to be loyal first of all, but lacked military training. In fact, the percentage of personnel with military training at the MIT decreased gradually over time, from 35% in 1960 to about 4.5% today. At the same time, the missions of the MIT have grown exponentially, the organization being over-charged with other tasks such as promoting Edogan’s vision of foreign policy, overlapping the intelligence missions of the police, being engaged, according to some sources in “arms sales, support of Islamist and almost Islamist groups from Syria, the Kurdish issue and the transport of oil across the border”.

About 2,400 military plotters (of which 34 are reported to be generals and admirals by the time of this article’s publication) have been arrested (including the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Armies, as well as General Akim Ozturk, who was the Chief of the Air Forces until 2015 - suspected for about a year for preparing a coup). 11 prosecutors and about 200 judges have been arrested and about 2,740 judges have been dismissed (representing about 36% of all judges, more than the military personnel arrested!) 10 members of the Constitutional Court have been arrested too.

The present situation allows Erdogan, at the time, to strengthen his position, but if he is not aware that he has caused an even greater gap in society, that he has contributed to increasing animosity within the law enforcement bodies of the country and if he does not take effective measures to reduce them, what happened a few days ago will happen again and it will succeed in several months or years. The Turkish army, though not loved, was respected and it has currently gone through a serious damage in its image, which is not beneficial for Turkey in general.

Last, but not least, it was the pro-Erdogan population who decided the outcome, defending its vote cast. The Turkish society is very much divided and this sign of instability is worrying.

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