Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Discussion on the failed Turkish coup

Turkey's Failed Coup: The Players, the History, and the Geopolitical Chessboard




Eric Draitser of http://StopImperialism.org provides his analysis (July 24, 2016) of the failed coup in Turkey, and the implications both for Turkish society and on the international scene. Draitser explains the relaitonship between the CIA and Turkish military coups in the past, the connections between US-NATO intelligence and the Gulenist network, and the broader strategy for the region. He also places the latest developments in the context of a shifting political landscape where Turkey's loyalties to the West and NATO are increasingly in question. All this and more in this in depth conversation.





Thoughts on the Coup Attempt in Turkey

by Patrick Armstrong


There is still a lot that is murky about it, the most murky being US involvement and foreknowledge, but I believe some conclusions can be drawn.



Off-Guardian,
26 July, 2016



There was a real, home-grown coup being plotted against Erdoğan. It probably combined Gülenist and Kemalist elements. While these two seem unlikely allies, coup alliances – especially ones planning to assassinate the leader – are animated more by what they are against than by what they are for. The plotters often cannot think past The Deed: Brutus and Cassius expected that with Caesar gone, the “republic” would re-appear; the killers of Sadat imagined that with “Pharaoh” gone, all would be well. But all they got was another Caesar and another “Pharaoh”. Thus a temporary coming together of Gülenists and Kemalists to overthrow the “Sultan” is not impossible.


This coup had been in preparation for some time and Turkish security got wind of it (“received information” is the phrase being used) in time to warn Erdoğan to get out just ahead of the assassins. The story that Russian intelligence had picked up the clues and forewarned him is very believable. Russian signals intelligence has always been very good and Moscow would have been monitoring communications in Turkey because of the fighter plane shoot-down. It is very plausible – especially if, as Ankara now says, the shoot-down was orchestrated by the plotters – that Russian intelligence would have come across the plot. If so, it would immediately be wondered – and I’m sure is being wondered in what we should probably get used to calling the Sublime Porte again – whether US intelligence had also got wind of it but didn’t warn Erdoğan.


Despite earlier speculation, this coup was much more serious and came much closer to success than was thought at the time. If Erdoğan had been killed and if the people had not come out in the streets, we’d today be looking at something completely different. (It is time to abandon the speculation that Erdoğan orchestrated it himself.)


Washington and the coup. I said that this question was murky and I expect that it will remain so. And the principal reason for this is simply “which Washington”? The CIA? Some faction inside the CIA? The neocon cabal that infests the State Department? The humanitarian bombers who populate Obama’s retinue? Some faction in the US military? Somebody in the US staff at the İncirlik airbase? The US Ambassador? Would these/some/other American officials have given active encouragement to the coup plotters or a (deniable) misstatement that was taken as encouragement? Did US intelligence get wind of it and not pass the message on? Did they pass it up to the political level and it didn’t pass it on? I strongly suspect that neither President Obama nor US Secretary of State Kerry could answer the question either: nobody seems to be in charge in today’s USA. So, the extent of US involvement at some level or other to some degree of activity or encouragement will probably not be know for decades. But see below.


Whatever the reality may be, Erdoğan and his people are blaming Washington. There have been enough direct and indirect statements to make that plain. The demand – and demand it is – to hand over Gülen is being presented as a test. I expect Washington to “fail” the test if for no other reason than the fact that decision-making is too fractured. Evidence of US involvement will be looked for and will be found or invented. Washington’s support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units just strengthens Ankara’s hostility.


Erdoğan has used the coup as an opportunity to accelerate and widen the purge that he was already doing. Enough of the actual plotters and potential sympathisers have been neutralised that he is coup-proof for the foreseeable future. He is fully in charge and has demonstrated his substantial street power, Added to which he can now blame any past foolish decisions (like the Russian fighter plane shoot-down) on the plotters. So, he is free to re-tell the past, he has proved his power and he may now do what he wants.


Atatürk made a kind of compact with the population: adopt European behaviours and, eventually, Europe will accept you as “European”. For years I have wondered what would happen when Ankara finally understood that that was never going to happen. We will now find out. Kemalist Turkey is gone. My guess is that what will replace it will be something that could be called “neo-Ottomanism” – authoritarian but with a degree of popular support, predominantly Islamic but with a degree of tolerance, looking much more to the south and east. But the future structure will take time to evolve and, at the end of the day, it might cover a smaller territory and it may get rather violent.


The Turkish Armed Forces have been severely weakened and, with the emphasis on domestic security now predominant, to say nothing of extensive purges of the high command, the time of military adventures in Syria is over. 

The war against the Kurds will also likely have to wind down.

I believe that Erdoğan and his people began a sort of cost-benefit analysis recently and, just before the coup, we saw the first moves with his overtures to Israel and Russia. First, the cost side of the ledger. Turkey is never going to be admitted into the EU (not that that is so attractive these days); following Washington’s lead in the Middle East has brought it disaster and defeat; rightly or wrongly, Ankara believes Washington has betrayed it. The Western orientation is mostly on the cost side of the ledger. On the benefit side, Ankara has learned how much Russia’s enmity can cost it (and, if its true that Moscow tipped Erdoğan off to the coup, what Russia’s friendship can give). 

Then there are the future benefits: tangible in the shape of becoming Russia’s gas spigot to southern Europe and the potentially enormous gains from China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy. Therefore, a simple cost-benefit calculation shows that a Eurasian turn has many benefits for Turkey while the status quo has about paid out.


A more brutal calculation would have Erdoğan & Co considering the correlation of forces. Who’s winning? Which is the side to bet on? In 2000 the USA was by far the most powerful country on Earth; most powerful in every measurable way. But it’s been at war ever since and it’s losing these wars; it has outsourced the manufacturing power that was the foundation of its power last century; its foreign activities are fumbling and incoherent. As to the other Western standard-bearer, no one could possibly pretend that the future of the EU is bright. The power of the West is fading and what remains is incompetently managed. Since 2000, on the other hand – although the consumer of Western media absurdities would be unaware of it – under very capable management, Russia has grown in wealth and power. The same goes for China – steady economic and military growth combined with intelligent and wise leadership. If you were running Turkey, with which would you throw in your fate? Especially when your Western “allies” have so frequently spurned you? And may just have tried to kill you?


Moscow will accept the turn but will demand behavioural change. No more backdoor support to Daesh through oil smuggling; no more safe havens for Daesh fighters; no more interference in Syria. But it will continue its patient approach and allow a certain amount of dissimulation from Ankara. Moscow will pretend to believe (and maybe it’s true) that the fighter was shot down by coup plotters and other face-saving statements from Ankara as Erdoğan rewrites the past.


Turkey will leave NATO. What is not clear is the timing and the optics. I can easily imagine a gradual pulling back that doesn’t quite ever formally leave. But, if the Eurasian turn is indeed happening, then NATO is gone. It no longer brings Ankara advantages and that goes doubly given the apparent use of İncirlik base as a location of some of the coup plotters. Washington is starting to understand that İncirlik is, in fact, changing from an asset into a liability and it will be interesting to see what it does: certainly it’s time to move the nuclear weapons out. (Vide the New Yorker piece: “How secure are the American hydrogen bombs stored at a Turkish airbase?“.)


Things could get rather violent. It’s too early to tell. Erdoğan’s call to take to the streets to stop the coup was bravely answered and that may be enough. His purge is very extensive and may eliminate the fifth column (as well as many innocents). It all depends on how strong the internal glue of the country is and that we cannot know – the distance between stability and bloody chaos in any society is shorter than most people like to think. And the American regime changers, who have brought so much destruction in such a short time to Turkey’s neighbours, have a new target, albeit with greatly restricted access and levers with which to do it.



(What follows is sheer off-the-wall speculation. The Ottoman Empire was an extremely multi-ethnic and multi-confessional enterprise. Through the millet system, the Sultans allowed and managed these differences. Atatürk tried to create a European-style country inhabited by an ethnicity he invented called “Turks”. Descendants of the people of Göbekli Tepe, the Trojans, Bithynians and Miletians, Caucasians, surviving Greeks and Armenians, Seljuks and Kurds would now all officially be “Turks” just as Bretons, Burgundians and Occitan-speakers were officially “French”. To a considerable degree this fiction succeeded (as it has for that matter in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and so on) but the Kurds never accepted being called “Turks” or “Mountain Turks”. In a neo-Ottoman Turkey, however, they can again become “Kurds” (but never separatists). But, if the Kurds really want independence, this is probably the best chance they have ever had to take it.)



Why the US Almost Certainly Was Not Involved in the Turkish Coup

Alexander Mercouris
All the indications suggest the US had no part in the coup. However Erdogan and the Turkish government think otherwise and it is their opinion which matters.
TheDuran,
26 July, 2016



As relations between Turkey and Russia improve following the coup, relations between Turkey and its erstwhile Western allies – the US and EU – are deteriorating rapidly, with claims in Turkey that the US was involved in the recent coup.  That in turn opens up the question of whether the US was actually involved in the coup and if so to what degree.

Before discussing the question it is important to say that the answer so far as Turkey itself is concerned may no longer matter.  The conviction appears to be taking hold in Turkey – including amongst some members of its government and with Erdogan himself – that the US was in some way behind the coup.  That in itself will be enough to cause relations between the US and Turkey to become strained.  In international politics very often it is what people believe rather than what is true that most matters.

Was the US however behind the coup?

The first thing to say is that at this stage we simply do not know.   The information that would enable us to say for sure is simply not there.  The investigation of the coup is still at a very early stage.  Coup plotters are still being rounded up and questioned, and paper and electronic trails are still being followed up.  It will take months or even years before trials follow – if they ever do – and before we start to get definite answers to the questions like the one about the extent, if any, of US involvement in the coup.

The second thing to say is that when people talk about a coup being US backed they are using a blanket term that covers different things.  There are coups in which the US is not initially involved but which it backs after they succeed (eg. the coup which overthrew the Argentinian dictator Juan Peron in 1955).  There are coups of which the US has foreknowledge and to which it gives the green light (eg. the Vietnamese coup against President Diem of 1963, the Brazilian coup of 1964 and the Turkish coup of 1980); and lastly there are the coups which the US actively orders and organises (eg. the coup in Iran in 1953 and – despite continued US denials – the coup against President Allende of Chile in 1973).  All these coups are in a sense “US backed” but they clearly fall into different categories.

There is no doubt that if the coup against Erdogan had succeeded the US would have backed it after the event, just as in 1955 it backed after the event the coup that overthrew Peron, and to that extent it is legitimate to say that if the coup had succeeded it would have been US backed. 

The US has no love of Erdogan, who is far too independent minded for its tastes, and would certainly not have regretted his passing.  Besides the US would not want to sacrifice its longstanding relationship with the Turkish military and compromise its position in Turkey – a key NATO ally – by refusing to back a Turkish military government installed by a coup that had succeeded.  After a few muffled statements of concern and some token sanctions the US would have quickly come to terms with the new coup-installed government, whilst the Western media would by now be full of stories of what an unbalanced, authoritarian, corrupt and dangerous leader Erdogan was and why it was a blessing – and a true expression of democracy – that the Turkish military had acted to remove him.

What evidence however is there that the US either gave the green light for the coup or actually ordered it?  Briefly, at this stage there is none, and everything we know about the situation in Turkey before the coup and about US policy towards Turkey makes it very unlikely.

The US has very extensive and very longstanding links with the Turkish military.  Some of the military officers who were involved in the coup were based at the giant air base in Incirlik, which is the single most important US military facility in Turkey.  It seems that even the Turkish commander of the base was involved in the coup.  It would therefore have been easy for the coup plotters to tip the US off about their plans for a coup, presumably in order to make sure the coup had US backing, and that is what many people think happened.  What evidence is there however that it actually did?  Again the answer is that there is none, and the facts show that it is very unlikely.

The coup plotters would presumably only have tipped the US off if they had been confident of US support.  As it happens in every case I know where the US has given the green light for a coup there have been weeks or even months of intense discussions between the US and the military officials discussing the coup before it takes place. That was true in Vietnam in 1963, in Brazil in 1964 and in Turkey in 1980. 

In all of those cases the US was willing to support the coup because it was reasonably confident it would succeed. Would the US have been equally sure the recent coup attempt in Turkey would succeed given Erdogan’s popularity with so many of Turkey’s people and with its business community, and given that Erdogan has the powerful support of the Mosque and of Turkey’s intelligence agencies and of most of its police?  Would the US not rather be worried that if the coup failed – as it might easily do – its whole position in Turkey (a key NATO ally with by far the biggest army in NATO after the US) would be disastrously compromised if it became known it was involved?  Would the US be willing to take that sort of risk by colluding in a coup which might easily fail?

It is not as if the reasons for backing a coup look particularly compelling.  It is true that in the days immediately prior to the coup Erdogan had taken steps to patch up his relations with Russia.  However, as I have explained previously, there would simply not have been enough time to organise a coup in the time available since those steps were taken.

Besides would Erdogan’s fence mending moves towards Russia really have sufficed to make the US want to overthrow him?  If there is one thing one can say about Erdogan it is that he is unpredictable.  He has at various times been Putin’s friend and Putin’s enemy, just as he was once Assad’s best friend only to become Assad’s greatest and most dangerous enemy.  He was also once Israel’s enemy but is now becoming Israel’s friend. 

Only a few months ago there was worried talk of an armed clash between Turkey and Russia, with credible reports of the Russians warning they would use tactical nuclear weapons if Erdogan ordered the Turkish military to attack their forces in Syria.   

How in light of this record could the US be sure that any rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia would be for real?  Given the history of bad blood between Erdogan and Russia, would it not have made far better sense for the US to wait until Erdogan and Russia fell out again – as many before the coup expected them to do – rather than take the extraordinary risk of backing a coup to remove him when there was a serious risk that it might fail?

Would a rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia anyway justify a coup?  Though Erdogan was making moves to mend his fences with Russia, he never before the coup questioned Turkey’s loyalty to NATO.  At NATO’s recent Warsaw Summit he co-signed the appalling NATO Declaration branding Russia an aggressor and he has staunchly supported the US regime change policy in Syria.  He even recently expressed regret for Turkey’s failure to support the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

Whatever view the US has of Erdogan, he was hardly before the coup a disloyal ally, and it is difficult to see why his very tentative moves to patch up relations with Russia would in themselves have made the US want to overthrow him.  On the contrary, if it is true that the conflict between Turkey and Russia over Syria during the winter became so bad that the Russians felt obliged to give Erdogan a nuclear warning, then the US might well have looked upon the limited  rapprochement underway between Turkey and Russia with a measure of relief.

Last but not least, would a coup in Turkey, even if it had succeeded, really serve US interests?  Would it not be far more likely to destabilise Turkey further, with much of the population bitterly resenting the overthrow of a democratically elected and popular President?  Turkey already faces multiple security threats from violent jihadists, from its large Kurdish majority and – potentially – from its large Alevi community, which is known to be unhappy with Turkey’s role in the war in Syria. Is this a good time to add to the instability by overthrowing the country’s democratically elected, constitutional and popular government?  Might that not risk a civil conflict or even a civil war in a country whose cohesion and stability is vital to the Western alliance?

I would add at this point that any US decision to give the green light to the coup would definitely have needed Obama’s approval.  Given the stakes involved it is inconceivable that any US official or agency would have acted without the President’s approval.  In all the previous US backed coups which I have discussed US officials were careful to keep the President informed and to consult him in advance.  Would Obama in the last months of his Presidency, at a time when he gives every impression of wanting to avoid an international crisis so as to secure his legacy and give Hillary Clinton a clear run to the White House, really risk a colossal crisis in a country like Turkey? Would he not have acted instead immediately to squelch the whole crazy idea, just as he has acted to squelch far less crazy ideas for interventions in places like Syria and Ukraine?

Overall, despite what some say, I simply do not see in Erdogan’s moves towards the Russians grounds for the US to take the gigantic – indeed existential – risk of backing a coup to remove him.  Those moves were tentative and carried out within definite limits and did not compromise the US’s position in any fundamental way, whilst the risks involved in backing a coup against him were so enormous as to make it crazy to have done it.

In summary, though it would have been possible for the coup plotters to tip the US off about the coup on balance I think it is very unlikely that they did, precisely because if they had I am sure the US would have told them that it strongly opposed it. In that case it would surely have been impossible for the coup to have taken place.

I suspect the coup plotters knew this perfectly well, which is why they almost certainly did not tell the US about the coup before it happened.

All the same arguments obviously hold true to an even greater degree against any scenario that involves the US actually instigating the coup.  Would the US really have taken the extraordinary risks of planning a coup against the popular leader of a key NATO ally when there were no compelling reasons to do so? Would Turkish army officers really have put their lives and reputations on the line to carry out US orders in such a case?  I can certainly see why they might have risked everything in a coup against someone like Erdogan if they thought they were doing it for their own reasons.  Would they however have done it simply because the US ordered them to?

Before leaving this subject there are two further points I do however want to make.

The first is that my whole case obviously depends on the assumption of at least a measure of rationality on the part of Obama and his officials.  Against that I have to accept that US policy in recent years has become increasingly detached from reality.  Indeed I have written about this at length.  However if US policy makers really are now so detached from reality that they took the frankly crazy step of instigating or colluding in a coup against Erdogan in Turkey, then they are much crazier and more dangerous, and the situation in the world is far worse and far more dangerous, than up to now I or I suspect anyone else has suspected.  It really would be a case in that case of us needing to reach for our fallout shelters.

 Fortunately everything we know about the coup suggests otherwise.

My second point concerns the Gulen movement.  Erdogan and his government blamed the Gulen movement for the coup whilst it was actually underway, and have continued to do so since. 

I have previously expressed my doubts about this.  The statements of the coup plotters suggest a Kemalist secular ideology far removed from that of the Gulen movement.  I frankly doubt that the Gulen movement’s penetration of the Turkish state and military can have been so extensive as to enable it to carry out a coup of this sort.

Discussion of the Gulen movement’s exact role in the coup has however diverted attention from the far more interesting question of what it actually is.  No-one so far as I know has explained how Fetlhullah Gulen, a self-exiled scholar and cleric, has managed single-handedly to create the massive organisation that the Gulen movement has become. 

Whilst it seems that Gulen does enjoy some support from the Turkish business community and from Turkey’s Deep State, the most obvious explanation is that he has been able to build up his organisation because he has US backing. The US after all is the country where he is based and where he lives.  The ideology of the Gulen movement makes it appear rather like the sort of religious based anti-communist pro-business and pro-free market movements the US actively sponsored in order to defeat Communism during the Cold War.  It would not surprise me if the US as part of its “soft power” policies used Gulen to set up that sort of organisation in Turkey to mould opinion there, and possibly also in other neighbouring states under Turkish influence.

If that is correct then it is at least possible that Gulen is a US intelligence asset, in which case that fact is likely to be well known amongst political insiders in Turkey. 
In that case Erdogan’s constant criticisms of the “parallel state” Gulen supposedly runs in Turkey should be understood as coded criticism of the US and its role in Turkey.  Certainly that is how they look to me.

If so, then going back to my original point, it hardly matters anymore in relation to the situation within Turkey whether the US really was involved in the coup or not.  Whilst I think it is very unlikely it was, Erdogan’s comments about the Gulen movement show he thinks it was.  Needless to say it is what Erdogan thinks not what I think that matters, irrespective of which of us is right.

That does not mean that the question of whether or not the US was involved in the coup is not important.  On the contrary it is very important because its likely non-involvement will effect the way the US responds to whatever Erdogan is now going to do.  The nature of that reaction will however depend on Erdogan’s moves, which will become clear over the course of the next few weeks.


RT coverage at DNC

TPP ‘unimaginably unpopular’ at DNC convention


Donald Trump is leading Hillary Clinton by less than one percent in the latest poll. What can the Clinton’s do at the convention to get a boost in the polls? John Nichols, correspondent for The Nation magazine, joins ‘News with Ed’ and says that Bill Clinton should avoid talking about trade at this convention because TPP is ‘unimaginably unpopular’ in The City of Brotherly Love.




Bernie Sander supporters storm a media center

Bernie Sanders Supporters Storm Media Row Outside DNC
While Hillary Clinton has been officially nominated by the Democratic Party, supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stormed a media center.

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Philadelphia.

Sputnik,
27 July, 2016



Sanders supporters have been frustrated over the release of DNC emails by Wikileaks that show the supposedly neutral organization had a bias toward Clinton.

Earlier on Tuesday, Clinton was officially nominated as the party's presidential nominee, making her the first female candidate of a major US political party.


Outside the Bernie or bust storming of media row




Outside the walkout/storming of media row

11:44 AM - 27 Jul 2016

In an attempt at unity, Sanders had urged his supporters not to leave the arena. A number walked off the floor following Clinton's nomination, however.
Nearly all seats in the Maine, Kansas, Alaska, and Oklahoma sections were empty.


Protests also occurred on the first day of the convention, with speakers interrupted by boos and chants of "Lock Her Up." Many voiced their opposition to the TPP trade deal.


Bernie delegates have stormed media row and it's now locked down by police

‘Unity not a word to win Bernie Sanders supporters’ – FishTank

RT

Boos for Hillary Clinton and chants for Bernie Sanders marked the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What will we see on Day Two? Ruth Conniff, editor of The Progressive magazine, joins RT America’s Lindsay France in the FishTank and says that Democrats need to talk about the impact Bernie Sanders has had on the party and policy, rather than just asking them for unity. Then, conservative commentator Crystal Wright joins France and says that the Democrats haven’t been specific enough about how they plan to pay for all their promises