With Turkey now undergoing the largest military/governmental purge in modern history, the question of Turkey’s future in terms of its domestic stability and structure is in flux and the possibilities facing the world, especially Syria, in regards to any changes of Turkish foreign policy are shaky as well. But even as the question of Syria’s future remains, what about who initiated the coup? Who was behind it? Why was it launched? In other words, what the hell is happening in Turkey?
Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer to this question. There is, however, context into which we may place the situation for a better understanding of the possibilities and the potential directions of Turkey’s and, as a result, the Middle East’s future. Indeed, what is happening in Turkey will have reverberations that span across the globe in every direction.
The first thing that one must be aware of when discussing the crisis in Turkey is that Turkish politics, like internal politics of most nations but especially those of Middle Eastern countries and those with heavily fractured elements of political, ethnic, religious, and historical/imperial baggage, is extremely complex. While forces at the top of the pyramid may control the direction of the country, at the operative level, there are several different factions in motion in Turkey. Even within branches of the Turkish governmental structure, factions are a major issue that must be considered for any amount of analysis.
The Factions – Turkey 101
In simplistic terms, there are largely three factions in the Turkish government that one must be aware of in order to understand the complexity of the issue. The first faction is the Erdogan/AKP faction which largely works arm in arm with the Muslim Brotherhood networks and within the Islamist orbit as well as the wealthier or upper-middle class type constituency of Islamist society. The second faction is the Turkish nationalists, also known as the Kemalist Turks. This faction tends to be more embedded in the “deep state” which, in this context, means the internal structure and backbone of the Turkish government. For this faction, one might think Egypt or even, in some way, Ghaddafi of Libya as well as Nasser of Egypt and Ataturk of Turkey long ago. This faction is nationalist but traditionally has been more open to dialogue with the world and its neighbors as opposed to acting as a spear in imperialist engines. The third faction is now being discussed more and more in the mainstream media in the West as a result of the coup. This faction is made up of the Gulen Movement, led by a wealthy businessman with close ties to the CIA and based inside the United States.
Eric Draitser of Stop Imperialism described the factions in much the same way. Draitser says:
Most people don’t realize this but there are three major factions that in various ways vie for power.
The first is Erdogan and AKP (Justice & Development Party) which is in the milieu of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is close to those same networks and pursues MB policies, representing the typical petit bourgeois class that MB always represents.
The second is the Kemalist Turkish nationalists. They are historically connected to the Turkish military and deep state, similar to Egypt. They have historically been friendly with NATO while maintaining a somewhat friendly attitude to neighbors and Russia.The third is the faction around Fetullah Gulen, the super-rich Turkish businessman who runs one of the world’s largest charter school and private school networks. He is very close to the CIA and has been more or less at war with Erdogan for the last few years.
These three factions have been fighting for power for a while now, and it is these conflicts that really drove Erdogan to consolidate his power as he has, and implement the draconian laws that have created Turkey’s police state.
So what we see are the embedded nationalists who are continually trying to rein in Erdogan’s insanity as well as his deep connection and subservience to NATO and the Western imperialists. However, the Gulen Movement, acting as a U.S. –backed wing of potential destabilization was always waiting in the lurch to act as a pressure and possibly replacement for Erdogan and the AKP if the two were ever to get too far out of line.
Even the Turkish military is factionalized. “[The]Military is not [a] homogeneous organization – [there are] many factions – [which] has been an issue the US and NATO have tried to solve for decades,” says Tony Cartalucci of Land Destroyer. [The] trick now will be figuring out which faction is fighting which. There were obviously factions opposed to Syrian war, others supporting it (with NATO/Erdogan & Co. involved). Obviously if the anti-war faction is going to come out on top, that is the absolute END of NATO in the Middle East, in Syria, and beyond. We are talking a titanic shift here no matter which way this goes… [This is an] incredibly dangerous time.”
Which Faction Was Responsible For The Coup?
The question now remains, even as Erdogan engages in the biggest governmental/military purge since the days of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, who was actually responsible for the failed coup against the Turkish president? The options as they present themselves are, of course, any one of the factions mentioned above – The Kemalist Nationalists, Gulen Movement, and even the AKP/Ikwan networks. There is also the possibility of an outside force being involved in the coup as well, particularly of the American variety. There is also the option of a combination of two or more factions having been involved.
In what would, at first glance, look like the most obvious option, the Kemalist Nationalists would no doubt have reason enough to want to overthrow Erdogan. Having instigated a second civil war with the Turkish Kurds/PKK, gross abuse of the Turkish Constitution and the constitutional form of government, the crackdown on civil liberties, dissent, political rivals, and anything resembling a free media, Erdogan has turned Turkey upside down and moved the country even further down the road of authoritarianism. Erdogan’s foolish blunder in Syria, the elimination of a peaceful neighbor, Turkey’s growing cooperation with Israel, and the provocation of Russia (to the point of shooting down a Russian military jet) is thus threatening to turn an internal crisis into an external one of international dimensions. Erdogan’s support for ISIS and other terrorist organizations for use against the Syrian government has made Turkey a pariah amongst nations of good will and a ticking time bomb of Islamic fanaticism inside its own borders. Erdogan’s subservience to the will of NATO and the Western imperialists such as the United States, Britain, and France among others is also a finger in the eye of any nationalist sentiment as well it should be. Such is the hostility created when one spends truckloads of money on imperialist ventures that can, in no way, benefit the Turkish people but that could have immense dangers to them while, at the same time, allowing Turkish infrastructure to lag behind that which is needed in the 21st century.
All of this would be justification on the part of the nationalists to launch a coup against Erdogan. However, there has been no evidence – beyond the fact that Erdogan has arrested many of the members of this faction in the aftermath of the coup – that they were actually behind it. Thus, the possibility that the coup was initiated by Kemalist nationalists is becoming one of the least likely scenarios.
The Gulen Movement
Turkish President Erdogan has leveled the blame for the failed coup on the backs of the Gulen Movement, a “religious and social group” that Turkish officials have, in the past, claimed has attempted to “create a parallel state inside of Turkey.” The group is led by Fethullah Gulen, a Sunni cleric living in “self-imposed” exile in the United States ever since 1999. Erdogan himself was once allied to Gulen but that partnership fully broke down in 2013 and, ever since, he has attempted to remove all vestiges of the organization from power in Turkey.
Unfortunately for Erdogan and for the Turkish people, Gulen’s members are not card carriers. Instead, they are largely secretive and opaque. They do not generally identify themselves publicly and thus they are harder to purge from the government.
However, Gulen is much more than a mere Islamist organization vying for power in Turkey from abroad. There is much evidence that Gulen is actually a front for the CIA. Having had a number of reports – from WikiLeaks releases showing Turkish intelligence officers admitting knowledge of CIA connections to Gulen to statements from whistleblower Sibel Edmonds stating the same – revealing that Gulen is essentially controlled by or, at the very least, working with the CIA.
A classified communication reveals that many secularists in Turkey are convinced that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the creation of the United States Government (USG), and that Washington bolsters and funds the Fethullah Gülen movement.
Is the CIA or another agency in the USG using the Gülen movement to fund “cold war” operations overseas? Is the USG using the Gülen Islamic schools to influence Central Asia with a more “moderate” version of Islam to rival more racial Islamic sects?
If there is anyone who knows the truth about the inner workings of U.S. and Turkey relations it is FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds.
Edmonds is considered the “the most gagged person in American history.” The USG invoked “state secrets privilege” in her case and she is prevented from revealing government corruption and cannot discuss certain aspects of her knowledge regarding her case. The DOJ’s Inspector General stated her claims are credible and Edmonds says her claims can be backed up by FBI files.
Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook asked Edmonds via email about her thoughts regarding Gülen. Edmonds has been covering the Gülen movement for years and has extensive research on her website.
Cook asked Edmonds, is Gülen a threat to US interests?
“This has to do with Gülen’s role in terrorism,” said Edmonds. “Under the guise of schools [Madrasas] in Central Asia & Caucasus his network is involved in training terrorists [from Chechens to other Islamic Jihadis in the area]. The bureau had him under investigations since 1998. However, they were prevented from pursuing the cases [despite all evidence collected] due to direct pressure from the CIA/State Deptment. How do I know? Some of the case files were under the division where I worked [counterintelligence]. Other investigations were being conducted under the FBI’s crime & terrorism division.”
Cook asked, “Is the CIA using the Gülen network to fund CIA ops in Turkey?”
“They did,” said Edmonds. “It was also a channel for money laundering for their $20 billion worth network. They bring teachers from Turkey. They provide them with decent/high salaries, but then, they force them to voluntarily and individually contribute over 50% of their income to their various front charity organizations … I met with several ex-teachers and spoke with them in 2006-2008; however, because of overt and covert threats from Gülen’s network to their families in Turkey, they were not willing to come forward or go on record.”
While under oath during a legal disposition, Edmonds, was asked if she had any information regarding Fethullah Gülen.
“He landed on the Turkish government’s wanted list and was going to be persecuted for wanting to replace Turkey’s secular government with an Islamic/Sharia-type of government. When he was wanted in Turkey for that and was going to go jail, he actually got on a plane and came to the United States, and was given immediately a visa to stay in the United States,” said Edmonds.
Edmonds states that Gülen has close ties to training militant Muslims.
Edmonds claims in her testimony that “Gülen established more than 300 Madrasahs in Central Asia and what he calls universities that have a front that is called Moderate Islam, but he is closely involved in training Mujahideen (Al-Qaeda) – like militia Islam who are brought from Pakistan and Afghanistan into Central Asia where his Madrasahs operate, and his organization’s network is estimated to be around $25 billion, and that he has close ties to training militant Muslims.”
When asked if she considers Gülen a threat to U.S. interests, she responded, “100%, Absolutely.”
In addition, in his book Witness To Revolution and Near Anarchy, retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes says the Gulen Movement “sheltered 130 CIA agents” at the organizations’ schools in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan alone.
Dr. Aland Mizell of Kurdish Aspect, while arguing that there is a relationship between Gulen and the CIA, stresses that he believes this relationship is more mutual than dominant-submissive. Essentially, he argues that the relationship is symbiotic. Mizell writes,
In the past Dr. Necip Hablemitoglu, professor of history at Ankara University studied the relation of Fethullah Gulen’s community with the CIA. In his study he claimed that the CIA used Fethullah Gulen or that Gulen worked for the CIA. Dr. Hablemitoglu was assassinated in 2002, and his case has still not been solved. Regarding Gulen’s connection to the CIA, former Turkish Intelligence Chief, Osman Nuri Gundes, in his memoir claimed that Gulen’s movement has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s, and that in the 90s, the movement sheltered 130 CIA agents at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone. The memoir revealed that the CIA operates in Central Asia by using the Gulenists’ movement. Furthermore, the Washington Post, hastening its news sells, printed the partial and prejudiced coverage of this recently published memoir by Chief Gundes. I think that the publication was an important piece although not a fair, objective news analysis, but rather a marketing tool and a kind of propagandistic journalism for the Gulenists. I think that the author failed to demonstrate the intense secrecy of the organization and neglected to conduct further investigation to see if the Gulenists do have a connection with the CIA.
. . . . .
It is no secret that the CIA and Washington support Gulenists in Central Asia to counter the Iranian version of the Shia religious influence there. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, there was a social, political, and religious vacuum. Central Asian states were weak, so obviously the world would ask who would fill that vacuum.
Even at that time when Gulen sent his followers to Central Asia, he asked them to hasten, urging, “If you don’t go now, later this door could be closed, and others will fill your place.” It was not a surprise that Islam filled that vacuum because the majority of the Central Asian countries have a Muslim heritage. Having recently emerged from an atheistic Communism, they more readily embraced their traditional religion. But after the collapse of Soviet Union the balance of power changed as well. Before this downfall, the East was dominated by the Soviet Union and the West by America, but afterwards the United States became the single superpower and thus had its chance to extend its power to Central Asia.
. . . . .
The story of the CIA’s involvement in this strategy emerges at this point. In the short run the Turkish social and economic model would restrain the Iranian model of Fundamental Islam and thus slow the growth of Fundamentalism in Central Asia and would prevent a confrontational approach to the region’s problems. But Washington did not calculate the long-term US interest in the region because in the long run aligning with Turkish Islam could backfire and could damage the U.S.’s economic interests in the Central Asian and Middle Eastern regions. For example, in 1979, the U.S. supported the small evil Taliban regime in order to contain the seemingly larger evil of the Soviet Union. After defeating the bigger evil, the small evil became problematic for the U.S. in that region. The U.S.’s interest in Central Asia would be affected long-term by the new growth of the Turkish version of Islam. Today this version of Islam has become almost a dominant power in Central Asia especially in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. The political space to gain such power may have resulted from Gulen’s courtship with the CIA in those countries.
. . . . .
As for his relation to CIA, it is clearly mutual and symbolic one. As in Biology, the two live in association with one another. The specific from of symbiosis is mutualism in that both benefits. The CIA believes that it ameliorates radicalism by associating with Gulenists, and Gulen receives the protection and a foil by the CIA’s involvement
Regardless of whether the relationship between Gulen and the CIA is symbiotic or one in which the CIA controls Gulen entirely, there nonetheless seems to be a relationship. Consider what Osman Softic wrote for Open Democracy, itself a foundation-funded Soros operation, in February, 2014 where he stated,
In 1953, the US clandestinely helped to overthrow the nationalist Mossadiq government in Iran. It had its hands in Sukarno’s downfall in Indonesia in 1965 and in 1973 it overthrew President Salvador Allende in Chile. Instead of those popular leaders, the US installed some of the cruellest dictators of the twentieth century: Shah Reza Pahlavi, Suharto and Pinochet.
In connection with this analogy it may be worth mentioning another set of allegations to the effect that some of the Gülen schools in Central Asia have served in the past as convenient cover for 130 CIA operatives in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, who spied for the US government while working as English teachers.
In his memoirs Osman Nuri Gundes, former head of the Istanbul branch of the Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) even mentioned “Bridges of Friendship” as the code name of those operations. This particular case of alleged abuse of the Gülen schools by the CIA was later elaborated on by Cibel Edmonds in her memoirs Classified Woman: Sibel Edmonds Story. Edmonds is a former FBI translator who later became one of the most well-known American whistle blowers in the domain of national security.
Edmonds claimed that the key link between Fethullah Gülen and his movement with the CIA was Graham Fuller, a prominent intelligence analyst at the RAND Corporation, former CIA station chief in Kabul and Vice President of the National Intelligence Council.
Although he dismissed the allegations about the role of Gülen’s schools in hiding CIA operatives, Fuller admitted that he provided a reference to Gülen at the time the US immigration authorities planned to expel him in 2006.
Fuller wrote a letter to the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security in defence of Gülen. Fuller wrote that he believed Gülen was not a threat to America. Due to this support, Gülen was allowed to stay in the United States. Another person who also wrote a similar letter in defence of Gülen was Morton Abramowitz, former CIA operative in Turkey who later served as a US ambassador in that country.
If the Gulen Movement is thus responsible for the failed Turkish coup, we must then look at the possibility that the CIA and other branches of U.S. intelligence were involved as well. Just as the nationalists have their reasons for wanting to see Erdogan deposed, the Western intelligence/imperialist factions might very well have their own, albeit 180 degrees different from those of the nationalists. Keep in mind, Erdogan’s Turkey has, over the last several weeks, expressed greater tendency toward reconciliation with Russia both in terms of geopolitical issues as well as economic projects. After having apologized to Russia for the downing of a Russian jet, relations between the two countries seemed to have warmed despite the continuation of a deep rift between them on the issue of Syria and terrorism. With the issue regarding the shoot down of the Russian jet now largely solved, both Russia and Turkey are now able to use the recent warming of relations to get back to business setting up and developing the Russia-Turkey gas pipeline. It is for this reason that some researchers have suggested that the United States is behind the Turkish coup, perhaps using Gulen as the battering ram against Erdogan so as to disrupt the potential Russia-Turkey cooperation and Turkey’s political move toward Russia.
Essentially, this is the position of researcher and geopolitical analyst with the Katehon think tank in Moscow and writer for Sputnik News, Andrew Korybko.
“The US leveraged its influence over the Turkish military via the Gulen faction to stage the coup attempt. Washington was shocked at the Russian-Turkish detente and wanted to offset Ankara’s new foreign policy rethinking,” Korybko says. “Turkey will more than likely shut down the Syrian border and implicitly agree to President Assad remaining in office, despite whatever face-saving statements they make to the contrary.
“Furthermore,” Korybko adds, “Russia is organizing a regional coalition of powers between Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, which could also possibly be used in dismantling the US’ attempt to militantly create a “second geopolitical Israel” out of “Kurdistan.” Also, Russia and Turkey are on the brink of resuming the Balkan (Turkish) Stream pipeline, and this regional megaproject could seriously effect geopolitical change if it’s completed, as I’ve repeatedly written about in many interviews.”
Korybko also argues that the handprints of U.S. intelligence are all over the coup. “The coup perpetrators want to overthrow Erdogan and reverse his recent foreign policy shifts,” he says. “They also want to implement a ceasefire with the Kurds that would give them autonomy, “federalism”, or perhaps even independence (whether de-jure or de-facto). This would make it much easier to dismantle Syria through the YPG’s unilateral “federalization” attempt. Truth be told, there are many reasons that Turks and their military have to be seriously upset at Erdogan, not least because of his Islamization attempt to transform the constitutionally secular country, but the language used during the coup (“democracy” and “human rights”) clearly points to a hidden American hand. None of this is surprising though, since I had been following this strategic undercurrent for nearly a year now and have posted excerpts for all relevant articles during this period on my Facebook page.”
Korybko adds that “This coup attempt was engineered as the US’ unipolar fallback plan for salvaging their regional foreign policy in the Mideast and reversing the multipolar inroads that Russia had made with the Russian-Turkish detente.”
The Fourth Option – U.S. Intelligence Launched Coup WITH Erdogan
But perhaps there is a fourth option available that is able to explain exactly what happened in Turkey over the weekend. While the Turkish nationalist may have had a number of reasons that would provide a rational motive for attempting to overthrow Erdogan, the evidence, at least at this time, does not support the case that they actually did.
There is, however, evidence, that one of the second or third options or a combination of the two were indeed involved heavily in the coup attempt. But, if the United States or the Gulen Movement or the United States through the Gulen Movement had attempted to overthrow Erdogan, we are seeing a puzzling response from the Turkish government. Thus, the fourth option is that Erdogan and the United States conspired together to stage a coup that was destined to fail in order to use it as a justification for a major purge in the Turkish government and military.
Indeed, as Tony Cartalucci writes in his article “Turkey’s Failed Coup A Gift From God,” if the United States was truly involved in the Turkish coup or even if the U.S. had merely facilitated the coup via the Gulen Movement, Turkey’s response has been “disproportionately subdued.” “No one is suggesting that Turkey would “go to war” with the United States,” writes Cartalucci, “but even amid diplomatic rows of far lesser significance, nations have expelled diplomats and withdrawn the use of their territory for specific uses by the nation in question. Turkey, so far, has done none of this in regards to the United States.”
If the U.S. was truly involved in the Turkish coup one would expect a number of actions to follow the incident. First, as Cartalucci suggests, we would expect to see the expulsion of diplomats and the expulsion of U.S. forces from Turkish territory, namely Incirlik Air Base. We would expect the closure of the rather large American embassy in Ankara. Likewise, Turkey would then be forced to rethink its membership in NATO since, despite the organization being based upon the concept of “collective defense,” no one came to Turkey’s aid even though the coup would be considered an overt act of war against the Turkish government. We would also expect to see Turkey move closer to Russia, Iran, and possibly China as well as some elements of Europe. At this time, however, we have seen none of these actions taking place.
So there now stands as a distinct possibility that the United States was indeed involved in the coup but that it was not alone. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the other party was Erdogan himself.
But why would Erdogan support a coup against himself?
The answer to that question may lie in simply asking “Who benefits?” from this entire situation. One need only consider the words of Erdogan shortly after the coup where he stated “They will pay a heavy price for this. This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”
With Erdogan a member of NATO who has done nothing but NATO’s bidding in the extreme and who has not responded with even the slightest punitive measures against the country it is claiming is responsible for an attempted coup on its government is now receiving a “gift from God” which gives him the pretext and justification for purging his military and government of nationalist elements on a scale that has not been seen since the mid -20th Century. This purge of nationalists has been the desire of both Erdogan and the United States as well as NATO for decades. Now, they get their wish.
As Tony Cartalucci writes, “It [the coup] will represent a 21st century ‘Reichstag fire’ leading to a 21st century ‘Hitlerian purge,’ removing the last remaining obstacles to President Erdogan and the corrosive institutions he has constructed in their collective bid to seize absolute power over Turkey.”
At this point in time, we can only watch and gauge the reactions of Turkey and the subsequent behavior of the Erdogan government. Will Turkey engage in punitive measures or will it double down against Syria, Russia, Iran, and political dissent within the country? Without being privy to inside information, Turkey’s behavior will tell us all we need to know in regards to who was behind this coup.
If Erdogan did indeed conspire with the United States to stage a coup and provide a pretext for a massive crackdown and purge of his political enemies, then the man known for narcissism and delusions of grandeur made one hell of a gutsy move that appears to be paying dividends in the form of solidifying his control over the country. If this is case, then Turkey is in for an even rougher ride and, unfortunately, so is Syria.