July 25, 2016
Troubling Forces Unleashed in Turkey – Interview with Soner Cagaptay (The Cipher Brief)
- This coup goes beyond everything we know about the Turkish military in the sense that when the military orchestrated coups in the past, they were usually top down. This time, it seems to have been splintered within the military, with some high-level officials taking part, but not the chain of command of the top brass. In the past, when the Turkish military carried out coups, it never fired at its own people, and this time the military fired on its own people. This is going to have long-term debilitating effects on the military’s standing.
- The coup involved a pretty sizeable group, for example, 20 percent of all admirals and generals and one-third of all one and two-star generals. So it’s a very sizeable population.
- Turkey has been deeply polarized, between supporters and opponents of the ruling party, the AKP. The military, which is based on universal military conscription, was the only organization in which all Turks participated – until this coup. When the military fired at its own people, it sort of fired on itself. The military is no more a unifying institution.
- Any democratic regime is better than even the best coup. But the aftermath of the coup is troubling, because the forces Erdogan unleashed that prevented the coup are not the forces of democracy and liberalism, nor are they garden variety conservative AKP supporters. Rather, they seem to be Islamists, and in some cases jihadists, who have taken to the streets. At the same time the Diyanet, which is a government public office that controls all mosques, asked all imams in the country that they should use their mosques to call for prayer and also to call them to rally in support of Erdogan. So that’s a kind of religious mobilization that we have never seen before in Turkey at least not since the end of the Ottoman Empire.
- The failed plot could not have come at a worse time for the U.S., because this is after the U.S. had worked with Turkey diligently to build counter-ISIS cooperation. That included talks with Turkey for two years. Turkey had finally come on board, first opening its bases to U.S. missions flying into Syria last summer, and coming on board a few months ago in the battle against ISIS in northwest Syria. Now, Turkey will freeze, at least temporarily, cooperation with the U.S.
Cagaptay is the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.