Saturday, July 16, 2016

What's Next For Turkey?

Turkey quashes coup; Erdogan vows 'heavy price' for plotters

Forces loyal to Turkey's president quashed a coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead Saturday. Authorities arrested thousands of people as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed those responsible "will pay a heavy price for their treason."
The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey — a NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group — that critics blame on Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissidents, restricted the news media and renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels.
Pressure has also come from millions of refugees who have fled violence in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a series of bloody attacks blamed on the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels.
The uprising appears not to have been backed by the most senior ranks of the military, and Turkey's main opposition parties quickly condemned the attempted overthrow of the government. Gen. Umit Dundar, newly appointed as acting chief of the general staff, said the plotters were mainly officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units.

Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters were detained. A source at the office of the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said the 161 toll "excludes assailants."

The coup attempt began late Friday, with a military statement saying forces had seized control "to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated."

The military did not appear unified, as top commanders went on television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks.

Turkish authorities said they had regained control of the country on Saturday after thwarting an attempt by discontented soldiers to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that claimed more than 250 lives.

After the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year autocratic rule, Erdogan urged his backers to stay on the streets to prevent a possible “flare-up” of Friday’s chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people.

Friday’s putsch bid began with rebel F-16 jets screaming low over rooftops in Ankara, soldiers and tanks taking to the streets and multiple explosions throughout the night in the capital as well as the biggest city Istanbul.
Rebel troops also moved to block the two bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, culminating in a stand-off with an angry crowd.
As protesters poured onto the streets, an AFP photographer saw troops open fire on people gathered near one of the bridges, leaving dozens wounded.
Soldiers also shot at protesters angrily denouncing the coup bid at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, injuring several.
There was chaos in Istanbul as angry crowds jeered the passing tanks, with smaller numbers welcoming the troops.
Erdogan denounced the coup attempt as “treachery”, saying he was carrying out his functions and would keep on working “to the end.”
“What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price for this act of treason,” Erdogan said. “We will not leave our country to occupiers.”
The president’s critics have long accused him of undermining modern Turkey’s secular roots and of sliding into authoritarianism — but he was believed to have won control of the military after purging elements who opposed him.
Turkey’s once-powerful military has long considered itself the guardian of the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
Erdogan immediately pinned the blame on “the parallel state” and “Pennsylvania” — a reference to Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, his arch-enemy whom he has always accused of seeking to overthrow him.

Experts say the doomed coup attempt by a small number of the military could shore up the president’s power, and even speculate that this was a false flag operation that aimed to achieve that exact goal

He weathered anti-government protests that lasted for months in 2013.

He escaped the flames that engulfed some of his ministers in a corruption investigation nearly three years ago.

And now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has survived a military coup — a boast many of his predecessors ousted in previous army takeovers cannot share.

However, in a country which has seen three military coups — and one where direct force was not used — there have always been signs of fault lines that could prompt such a move.

In recent years, critics, foreign governments and Turkish citizens have expressed concerns about a steady decline into authoritarianism under Erdogan.
Although he won much praise in the first few years after becoming prime minister in 2003, since becoming Turkey’s first directly elected president in August 2014 Erdogan has been accused of dictatorial ambitions.
Erdogan wants to change Turkey’s constitution, which was installed in 1980 following the last successful military coup, to adopt an American-style presidential system which would give him greater power.
According to Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, the coup was a result of many factors including the military’s fear of the new system.
He explained that the reasons for the coup included “one of the latest developments [that] has been the bill redesigning the high courts as well as Erdogan’s refusal to be impartial.”
For Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, this was not a coup by the full army as in previous cases, but undertaken by a clique who themselves held top general Hulusi Akar hostage.

“It was not an operation designed by the army and it showed. Without the full support of the army, they lacked the assets and capabilities.”

Indeed the sheer odds stacked against the coup spawned conspiracy theories with the hashtag #Darbedegiltiyatro (It’s not a coup it’s theater) trending on Twitter.
Natalie Martin, politics and international relations lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in Britain, said it appeared “almost meant to fail,” something which created suspicions.
“It is entirely possible it’s a false flag coup,” she said.

Erdogan, a consummate political tactician, will sense the failed coup has created opportunities to tighten his control over Turkey but faces a critical choice.
“He can build on the fact that all parties got behind him and build an era of consensus or he can use this as an opportunity to consolidate his one-man rule,” said Erdemir.
“It’s almost fully up to Erdogan — the path he chooses will have enormous consequences. The optimist in me goes for the democratic way but the realist and pessimist says Erdogan would never miss such an opportunity and that would be a shame.”
Erdogan will come out of this stronger, Ulgen said, but “the question is whether he is willing to use that to drive towards a more consensual politics.”
“This is a unique opportunity to advance a more ambitious democracy agenda. But the more likely scenario is Erdogan using it to drive his personal ambitions and create a presidential system.”

ANALYSIS: Turkey’s Erdogan Shattered Even If His Regime Survives - Breitbart

Turkey is in chaos and the future does not bode well for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies regardless of whether Erdogan can wrest control from an army group that announced on Friday it has taken over the country.

Unknown elements in the Turkish military on Friday released a statement claiming they had assumed power, while a presidential source told the media that a “group within the Armed Forces has made an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government outside the chain of command.”

Erdogan, an ally of the Obama administration, himself called into CNN Turk and vowed to overcome what he labeled an uprising by a minority.

This framing seems to downplay the significance of the events the past few hours. The military actions of today show the power seizure attempt involves members of the Turkish military senior enough to possibly close bridges into Ankara and streets throughout the city; deploy jets over civilian zones and send tanks outside the Ataturk international airport in Istanbul. It remains unclear which of the troops deployed are part of the coup attempt and which are responding.
There are also reports that senior military officers including Turkey’s top general, General Hulusi Akar, have been taken hostage at the military headquarters.

If Erdogan survives, his regime will never be the same.  He has been thoroughly humiliated. He will be viewed internationally as a weak leader, with his grip on power considered so tenuous that it could suffer such a serious coup attempt.

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