domingo, 17 de julho de 2016
Turkey coup attempt: who were the plotters?
Turkey coup attempt: who were the plotters?
The Turkish government alleges links to Fethullah Gülen, while others say it was a badly organised coup and Hizmet connection is doubtful
Patrick Kingsley in Istanbul
Sunday 17 July 2016 15.49 BST
For a while on Friday night it looked as though one of the most powerful governments in the Middle East would be overthrown. Tanks brought Istanbul to a standstill as soldiers invaded the headquarters of the ruling party, bombed parliament, took over the military high command building, seized control of the state broadcaster and announced that the army was now in charge.
By Saturday it was clear the coup had failed. The night’s events came to be defined by images of plotters surrendering to crowds of pro-government forces. They emerged from tanks and trucks with their hands held above their heads . Some of them, bizarrely, were photographed in their underwear.
With the government saying it has arrested at least 6,000 alleged anti-government plotters, questions are being asked about how they were able to get as far as they did, who exactly the leaders were and what made them take action that night.
The government, led by the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claims the plotters came from a rival Islamic group, Hizmet, led by Fethullah Gülen. He denies any involvement. Once allies of Erdoğan’s AK party, the group is now designated a terrorist group. The government claims Hizmet has thousands of sympathisers within different parts of the deep state, all plotting to overthrow Erdoğan’s elected administration.
“The coup attempt has Gülenist fingerprints all over it,” said a Turkish government source, who asked to remain anonymous. “Many of the failed coup’s leaders were in direct touch with senior members of the Gülen movement. Many people who participated had entered public service with references from senior Gülenist figures and remained loyal to their networks.”
According to the government’s narrative, the putschists were organised and had a plan for how to run Turkey after the coup. They had a list of 9,130 people they planned to arrest, the government source said. They planned to appoint military governors in every area, replace the heads of all government institutions, and had a list of more than 100 loyalists they planned to promote.
“Our sense is that the would-be junta had made preparations for some time,” said the source.
But some Turkish observers are more sceptical – either about the association with Gülen, or about the level of planning involved. Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Turkey analyst at the European council for foreign relations, thinks it was a well-planned operation, but doubts it could have only involved Hizmet.
“The government has come out and said it’s a group of Gülenists,” said Aydıntaşbaş. “But I think we need to assume they have other allies with the [armed forces]. It’s too big of a mobilisation. This was a well-planned operation with several simultaneous operations in different parts of the country.”
But others doubt the Hizmet connection – precisely because they think the coup was so poorly planned. “I doubt that,” said Doğu Ergil, a political scientist at Ankara university. “The Gülenist group would not reveal itself in such an amateurish way [that would] lead to its own doom.”
For many, the coup seemed badly organised. It involved senior officers from across Turkey – including Erdal Öztürk, general of the Third Army in Istanbul, and Adem Huduti, who led the Second Army based at the opposite end of the country. But it did not seem to involve all factions of the military, nor its most senior generals. Parts of the tank divisions were involved, and parts of the air force. But most of the land forces did not turn out, and other wings of the air force stayed loyal to Erdoğan.
“I’m surprised this attempt took place,” said Sinan Ülgen, Turkey analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The coup officers did not have enough backing within the military. It was done outside the chain of command, so they didn’t have enough resources to make it work.”
Fundamentally, the coup plotters did not seem interested in doing things that are usually integral to a successful coup. They took over the state television station – but only belatedly went after Turkey’s many private stations, which gave the government a chance to control the narrative on the airwaves all night.
They arrested the army’s chief of staff, Hulusi Akar, seized a major bridge in Istanbul, and took over army headquarters in Ankara. But their key opponents – Erdoğan and his prime minister, Binali Yıldırım – escaped capture, allowing them to rally their supporters and remain as visible figureheads for the fightback.
“By blocking the bridge, taking command of [the military headquarters] and taking a few planes, how on earth did they think they would succeed?” asked Ülgen. “It smells almost like a kamikaze coup – they went and did it oblivious to the consequences.”
Some conspiracy theorists even suggest that the fact Erdoğan emerged unscathed means the whole scheme might have been a false-flag operation. A more logical explanation is that the plotters were rushed into it by an impending crackdown.
Some think their plot was discovered, forcing them to reveal their hand early. Or they knew they would be arrested anyway in August, when they expected a long-awaited crackdown on Hizmet supporters in the military, so they decided to act while there was still time.
This is the preferred narrative of the Erdoğan government. “The putschists knew that they would lose their official titles within weeks,” the government source said, “so they had to act quickly.”