Talking Turkey: The Attempted “Coup” and Its Aftermath

12 Aug, 2016    ·   5099

Gp Capt (Retd) Murli Menon examines the repercussions of the attempted coup in Turkey

Several years ago, when Turkey opened up its borders, indiscriminately, by declaring visa free regimes with seven neighbouring nations, the beginnings of a troubled existence in the future virtually triggering a “Turkish Spring" of sorts, could be seen. Now, after the attempted coup, the entire politico military edifice has been torn asunder.  President  Erdogan seeks to put the blame on exiled Turkish cleric Fethulla Gulen, seeking his extradition from the US.

Attempted July Coup
From the available inputs such as UN Human Rights fora and some such others, many a doubt exists about the modus operandi of the coup itself and the naïve manner in which the basic tenets for a successful take over – such as that of national media and the shutdown of social media and the internet – were not followed. The bombing of the Turkish Parliament and supersonic fighter jets over the cities at night also appear to have taken place without a larger strategy. It seems that the coup did not have the support of the Kemalist upper echelons of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Western media reports, immediately after Erdogan’s much touted Skype proclamation, talked of a stage-managed affair carried out by Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), to cleanse the military, judiciary and paramilitary of “Gulenists”. Several thousands of senior and junior military officials have since been fired; the same for many jurists, academics and media personnel. Academics were prevented from travelling abroad and several army institutions and schools, some of them a couple of centuries old, have been shut down. Erdogan now plans to channelise the entire training regimen of the TSK through the portals of a Defence University, which is to be closely monitored by him.

What the future portends

Turkey has been NATO’s vital Cold War ally, considering there are 90 nuclear warheads stored at Incirlik, Turkey had also recently permitted the US Air Force (USAF) to undertake aerial missions against the Islamic State (IS), something it had denied them earlier when the Iraq invasion was underway. With NATO’s credibility at stake and its viability critical for situations such as the Russo-Ukrainian stand-off, the West is immensely concerned with what happens in Turkey. With the TSK’s morale and combat leadership adversely impacted, Turkey’s contribution to any NATO operation has become suspect and its membership of the organisation itself seems heading for uncertain times. Along with Erdogan’s attempt to bring back capital punishment (2/3 majority in a Parliament vote is required to amend the Constitution) is another aspect angering the West and the EU. It is learnt that the recent retrenchment of Gulenists has left Turkey woefully bereft of an officer cadre and specialists such as fighter pilots. According to reports, the reservists are being called in to fill in these gaps.

Whither Turkey?

Erdogan has declared a six-month emergency, virtually opting to rule without a government. Whilst his attempts to have Gulen extradited from the US are unlikely to bear fruit, there is a limit to how much longer he could extend his autocratic reign. There is only so much any system or the moderate segments of a society would tolerate before the entire edifice collapses. Many jihadi elements from Turkey have been active in Afghanistan, North Waziristan and Syria. Additionally, with time, the Shia-Sunni factor would accentuate in all the ongoing war zones and Turkey would be subject to more IS attacks. This coupled with the revived Kurdish insurgency would make Turkey’s landscape ripe for a protracted civil war. NATO’s intransigence to accede to Erdogan’s Islamism and a disenchanted civil society would make the erstwhile Ottoman state a crippled political entity. Erdogan is making a great mistake by denigrating his Army establishment in this manner and seeking to browbeat public dissent through high-handed police and intelligence agency action. Conditions would deteriorate rapidly as and when an alternate leadership option becomes available. Then the nation would rally around him or her to hark back to its halcyon days, in this case the Kemalist Turkey rather than an Islamist one.


As for India, several numbers of Gulen schools operate in India in cities such as Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The schools are run under the aegis of the Indo-Turkish Business Association (ITBA).The government needs to review their working and, if suspect, close them down because of their possible hidden agenda. Many Gulen schools have already been shut down by Erdogan post July's attempted coup. Indian soil cannot be allowed to be used for the germination of unconducive ideologies in the future and our own interaction with the TSK, Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and the AK government at large need to be re-calibrated.