As Turkish military helicopter gunships rain lead down on buildings belonging to their own intelligence service, a curious character waits in Saylorburg, Pennsylvania. Fethullah Gulen is a former imam and political figure living in exile in the United States. While Israeli newspapers have recently decried him as an anti-semite, others have described him as a promoter of moderate Islam. As the Turkish military carried out their coup in Ankara, with some reports stating the President Erdogan has been placed under arrest, the military has allied themselves with Gulen and his political party.
Retired CIA case officer, Sam Faddis, has extensive experience working in Turkey and had this to say to SOFREP about recent events:
Turkey has a long history of military coups. The military perceives itself as the guardian of the Constitution and of the secular nature of the state. It is unclear to me right now whether or not the coup has been successful. Regardless of whether or not it succeeds; however I think the coup attempt demonstrates that the military has made the judgment that Erdogan is threatening the basic structure of the Turkish state established by Ataturk and also that he has so gutted the security services that the Turks are no longer capable of protecting themselves against PKK and Isis terrorist attacks.
Erdogan has played a very dangerous game in Turkey by stoking Islamist sentiments, supporting ISIS, attempting to play chess master with both Russia and America, and by trying to install himself as president for life. Most informed observers knew that Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions would not end well for Turkey, but few could have predicted the ongoing military coup.
It also must be noted that there is some similarity between Gulen and Khalifa Haftar of Libya. Haftar lived in exile in the United States after attempting a coup against Gaddafi in 1987. After being released from prison in 1990, he lived a comfortable life in Virginia until Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 by coalition forces. At that time he returned to Libya to take charge of the transitional government.
What comes next, we cannot possibly hazard a guess.
For some deep background on the recent political situation which has led up to the coup, take a look at a previous SOFREP article penned by Eric Jones on the subject.
Turkey: ISIS, Recalcitrance, and Geopolitical Necessities
The European community and the United States, frustrated with Turkey’s seemingly uncooperative posture with regard to the West’s battle to contain, degrade, and destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), have apparently reached a boiling point on the subject. Calls for Turkey’s ouster from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a refugee crisis largely stemming from the Turkish government’s unwillingness to assist in containing the advance of the terrorist group, and the geopolitical hot-button of prospective Kurdish independence and state status continues to calcify arguments on both sides of the debate.
Turkey is an outlier among the NATO member states. While Turkey’s northern territory lies on the European continent, sharing a border with Greece and Bulgaria, the Anatolian Peninsula comprises the overwhelming majority of Turkish territorial claims. Ankara has spent most of its recent and more modern history straddling the worlds of Europe and the Middle East, striving to assume the role of regional hegemon in the Middle East while pursuing integration into the European community. In this respect, Turkey’s own geopolitical interests often run counter to one another.
While the Ankara government has pursued entry to the European Union, it has also sought to attain regional hegemonic status in the Levant and Middle East. As it has looked to balance rising competitors Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Turkish government has often played one against the other. In this respect, we find the current state of affairs in Syria: While Ankara has tacitly allied with Riyadh in the effort to weaken the regime of Bashar al-Assad, it is for the greater purpose of slowing the rise of Iran and preventing Tehran’s influence from extending semi-permanently to Lebanon. It is these alliances, entangled as they have gotten, that explain the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq. The rise of regional hegemonic competitors has caused rifts in relationships and catalyzed alliances between states where fissures had previously characterized inter-state relations.