Friday, 15 July 2016

Turkish coup - Thoughts so far.

I'm going to write this on the fly as I really don't know what is going on in Turkey, beyond an attempted military coup. There are probably plenty of facts and figures out there that make the following look naive. So be it, they are just my own thoughts. I have not conducted research and apologise to anyone with greater knowledge for the lack of my own.

Turkey has a strong history of being run by military juntas so this is not like a military coup occurring in a main stream western democracy. I first visited Turkey when it was under military control in 1980. I was a teenager and nearly got shot because I misinterpreted my mother's instructions to be "back on the boat by midnight because of curfew" as her just wanting us back. No, there was a curfew with frightening, shaven-headed, boilersuit wearing, AK47 toting, giants wandering around. As I found out.

Nowadays Turkey is much more Westernised but we must not forget its roots. It is a melting pot of East and West and has, over the last few years become the overlapping bit in the middle of the world's geopolitical Venn Diagram. Syria, ISIS, Russia, US, Greece, EU , Iran and Energy all meet there. The country has long had the possibility of being the next global battlefield as it has already become the world's political chess board.

Just read the history of Constantinople to wonder how it has managed to stay so stable for the last 70 years.

We have a coup against a leader who has become increasingly autocratic. He has been sponsored by the US militarily and the country is a member of NATO. This is the fourth military coup in Turkey since the country joined in 1952, the other's being in 1960, 1971 and 1980 (when I was there).

We don't know whether the coup will be successful yet, the worst possible outcome would be a civil war with Erdogan going 'Assad'. This is unlikely due to the level of US and EU interest, but Russia is the other key local player and having had a jet of their's shot down, they would probably be happy to assist Erdogan's downfall. God forbid any Spetznaz are spotted in the coup.

I would suggest the most important question is who is supporting who. Worst case scenario would be Russian backing on one side and the US on the other.

Better scenarios would be:

- No external support and all domestic, though it is unlikely that anyone would try a coup without first getting their international ducks in a row, the military have normally held the position of supporting a secular state.
- The coup is backed by an international consortium representing broad interests. I see that Kerry happens to be in Moscow at the moment and is wishing for 'continuity' in the country. That doesn't differentiate between Presidential continuity or overseas alliance continuity. there is even the small chance that Russia and US are making up by getting together to topple Erdogan. Low probability but this is all just guesswork from me. Interesting that France closed its consulate two days before the coup.

Kurds. If things aren't complicated enough the Kurdish situation has me wondering which I the worst outcome for the Kurds. A militarily driven government where the military leaders have spent their whole lives fighting the Kurds, or a leader who likes to squash uprising like flies. Rock and a hard place.

ISIS - The back door to Syria has allegedly been open for years and terror groups have effectively been holding Turkey hostage to keep them open. This brief from Aimen Dean outlined it 18mths ago. The recent bombing of Istanbul airport would suggest that the equilibrium has tipped and the threat to the south-west tourist resorts would be growing. Perhaps the military sees this rise and feels not enough is being done to stop it. Indeed there were accusations from the Russians that the President's family has been aiding and abetting the Syrian oil black exports.

The coup is hardly a people's uprising against an undemocratic leader as military juntas are notably less democratic, But it depends on what the military coup next produces. If it just plans to topple Erdogan and then hold new elections without him or his family on the bill then this could be a good outcome.

But my overriding fear is that, as Turkey is such a tinderbox where everything meets, the risk for something going badly wrong is great. This coup is like defusing a bomb, a bomb with lots of multicoloured wires and lots of people trying to cut them.

My knowledge is not great, most of this is pure guesswork but from where I sit this is much scarier than Brexit, which in comparison will be like waving off guests after a jolly dinner party.

I normally counter extremes of mood with a tendency to favour mean reversion, but in this case, I will own up to being very worried.

00.25 BST - Hearing that the coup looks like failing. In which case add the outcome option of Erdogan seizing complete control over the military and becoming even more authoritarian. This would just accelerate the process to the next round of unrest. Ergodanised Putinisation.


Anonymous said...

Re. who might have sponsored it. Of course it's possible it was an Erdogan setup with the end game aim to concentrate more power. Everyone, Saudis, Israel, US, Russia are completely quiet now but where the Turks government finger is pointing right now is the US and regardless of what one thinks of it, there are some evidence. The NATO air base now starved of power, is claimed to have refueled and launched the rebel jets and they think they are also harboring, and consequently demanding extradition of the opposition leader cleric, mr. Gulen, who is claimed to have been behind it. Also claimed that MSM/EU was supporting the coup in the early hours but turned against it after it became clear it's going to fail. It's also claimed Turks are now getting closer to Russia and planning to cut off the rebels - if so, US must now get rid of Erdogan by any mean possible. However he's now much more powerful than he was the day before. Interesting times in geopolitic terms to say the least, but since the coup was short lived, probably a fade in the eyes of Mr. Market.

SRX said...

I get the feeling that Ergodan never liked NATO and wanted to buy those HQ-9's and S400's afterall and things were getting contentious within the military leadership.

Polemic said...

I agree that the Russiafication of Turkey has just taken a big step forward but I do not believe that the US or West had any hand in the coup. It was too poorly executed to believe that it was even a Bay of Pigs style mess up. THE coup failed many of the coup 1.0.1 basics.