July 16, 2016

Turkish Military Launched A Coup More Disorganized Than Rio Olympics

A faction of Turkey’s military tried to seize power in an incredibly disorganized but deadly coup last night. This is what we know happened:
  • Tanks appeared on the streets of Ankara, Turkey’s capital, and Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city on Friday evening.
  • The coup plotters issued a statement saying they had seized control of the country and imposed martial law. 
  • Turkish President Erdogan, of the quasi-Islamist AKP party, was vacationing in the resort town of Bodrum at the time. He actually went on TV via Facetime to tell his supporters to rally in the streets against the coup. 
  • By early morning on Saturday the coup looked defeated, with Erdogan landing in Istanbul and many soldiers surrendering to police or army units loyal to the government. ~160 civilians died in overnight fighting, with the parliament building sustaining some shelling but remaining more or less intact.
  • President Erdogan vowed to punish those behind the coup and blamed his former ally, the US based, Turkish preacher/cult leader Fethulla Gülen for orchestrating the botched coup. President Erdogan has demanded his extradition from the US. 
  • Authorities arrested ~3,000 soldiers and dismissed 2,745 judges from their posts for allegedly supporting the coup. A small group of mid-ranking officers fled to Greece. Several top military commanders are still being held hostage by the coup plotters.   

Uh… What does all this mean though?

Turkey is no stranger to military coups, having had at least “three and a half” coups since its founding. Usually these coups are carried out by senior, secular military officers against Islamist politicians. This coup doesn’t follow the usual script. Gülen’s movement, which President Erdogan blames for the coup, is an Islamist one, that has itself been the victim of military coups in the past. So far we have no evidence of Gülen being behind the coup, and he denies any involvement. We might never find out who orchestrated the coup, and with the conspiracy theory mill flying at full speed it becomes harder to separate rumor from fact. 

The risk, now, is that Erdogan uses the coup as a pretext for expanding his own autocratic powers or that ISIS or Kurdish separatists use the confusion to step up attacks in the country. A lot is at stake as Turkey is a NATO member, plays a key role in the fight against ISIS and hosts US military personnel at the Incirilik Air Base. 

Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: