ACCRA — On Friday evening July 15, Ankara time, the world witnessed for the first time the live feed of a coup as it took place. Facebook, Twitter, traditional and other forms of social media presented live feeds of the dramatic events taking place in Ankara and Istanbul as it took place. The initial reports broadcast on the state TV TRT that had been seized by the coup plotters said that a so-called Peace At Home Council representing the Turkish Armed Forces had taken over power to preserve the secular nature of the Turkish state and the fundamental freedoms guaranteed to Turkish citizens by the secular constitution.
In the fog of unknowns swirling in the air, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım who had managed to escape the coup plotters announced on a private TV station that certain sections of the armed forces had attempted to take power but the government was still in control. This is quite interesting since the classic playbook of coups indicates as one of the first steps, to seize the national or state broadcaster. But in an era of dispersed media many private and not under the control of the state, this step outlined in the coup playbook became redundant. Which media should coup plotters seize?
Another interesting piece of the puzzle was that, an anchor of CNN Turkey managed to get Turkish president Erdogan on FaceTime an iPhone app which was broadcast live to the world, where Erdogan called on the Turkish people and his supporters to come out onto the streets to defend democracy (interestingly, he said to defend the Democratic Order, not his government). The call galvanized his supporters and influential Islamic clerics who ordered the FaceTime app call to be relayed in the mosques. This led to thousands of people pouring out onto the streets to protest the coup. The most dramatic events of this action were seen in Istanbul arguably the most important city in Turkey.
Therefore the Turkish government led by Erdogan which initially seemed to be on the grim end of the coup managed to regain the initiative and suppress the coup. Let us look at the sequence of events which when connected can shed light on the coup, cui bono.
Turkish armed forces in the evening hours of July 15 seized and closed the two bridges linking Istanbul and the Asian side of Turkey. They also seized the Turkish national broadcaster TRT in Istanbul, taking control of the military general staff headquarters in Ankara, major airports in Istanbul and Ankara, and attempting to storm the parliament in the course of the night which was in fact bombed from the air. In the confused reports coming out, Erdogan was no where to be seen or heard from until that fateful FaceTime call through CNN Turkey. In the early hours of the coup events when the coup plotters seemed to have the upper hand, the US embassy in Ankara put out a strange twit on their Twitter account saying Turkish Uprising. They did not say a Turkish coup, interesting how a military coup can be viewed as an uprising. An uprising is indicative of a popular mass movement rising up to effect change.
Let us now get back to the events surrounding the coup. Reports coming out now indicate that coup special forces had been given the task to neutralize Erdogan in his hotel in Marmaris in Southwest Turkey on its mediterranean coast. It seems that Erdogan informed of the events unfolding managed to escape his hotel 15 minutes before the coup commando forces arrived in helicopters to neutralize him. The commando forces killed Erdogan bodyguards left at the hotel.
It gets interesting from there. Erdogan manages to get into his gulf stream jet accompanied by two F16 fighter jets protecting his plane and circles in the air in Turkish airspace probably contemplating his next course of action. We learn that his plane is refused landing rights in Istanbul. Now, two F16 planes of the coup forces fly from the Turkish airbase of Incirlik which also host US and NATO forces and stores 90 percent of the American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. These figher jets track Erdogan’s plane and lock their radars on Erdogan’s plane and the two F16 jets protecting him. But for some strange reason, they do not shoot down his plane. These coup F16 jets are then refueled in midair by an airtanker which also flies out of the Incirlik airbase.
Why did the coup F16 jets not shoot down Erdogan’s plane? My thinking is that, due to the mass public rejection of the coup by the populace, the four major political parties of Turkey including the main Kurdish party and also the Islamic clergy, the forces behind the coup gave the order to the F16 jets not to shoot down Erdogan’s plane. They probably rationalized that, with lack of public support, If they had shot it down, it could have resulted in a bigger unpredictable crisis possibly leading to the risk of a civil war in Turkey between pro Erdogan and anti-Erdogan forces. We remember what happened in Rwanda in 1994 when president Habyarimana was killed when his plane was downed.
The US Obama led government after an agonizingly long time came out to declare their support for Turkey’s democratically elected government. Why did they not do so immediately and why did the US embassy in Ankara call the coup the Turkish Uprising? American Secretary of State John Kerry one hour after the coup started, said while in Moscow, that he wished for stability in Turkey. He did not say he condemned the coup and was supporting the democratically elected Erdogan government but rather he wished for stability. Another telling sign.
Russia and Iran came out quickly to condemn the coup while the US and its western allies in Europe kept silent for a relatively long time. There were rumors spread very early on in the course of the coup by anonymous US intelligence and military operatives to MSNBC that Germany had denied asylum to Erdogan. Another interesting fact was that Russian news channel RT which was broadcasting live the events of the coup and clearly sympathizing with the democratically elected Erdogan government came under a massive DDOS attack on their servers. It is very doubtful that coup leaders in Turkey would have had the time and resources that night to organize a massive DDOS attack on RT servers that night.
Current reports indicate that the former chief of the Turkish Airforce General Ali Ozturk, second army (under direct control of NATO) commander General Adam Border, the commander of the Incirlik air-base General Bekir Van and a host of generals, admirals and other middle ranking officers were deeply involved in the coup. In fact General Bekir Van, the Incirlik airbase commander, asked for asylum in the US but was refused. General Van was only arrested after Turkish forces cut off power and blockaded the Incirlik airbase and refused to allow US war planes to fly into or out of the base. It is inconceivable that US military and CIA operatives at the Incirlik airbase would not have known about the coup before it happened. It is telling that they did not inform the Erdogan government about the coup.
Rather, as the Iranian news agency FARS reported, the information about an impending coup was relayed to the Turkish intelligence service MIT by Russian intelligence services. The Russians had intercepted Turkish military communication links which was discussing the plans for the impending coup and passed the information on to MIT. Because of the leak, the coup plotters were forced to start the coup hours earlier than planned. It is certain that if the Russians could break into Turkish military communications and listen in, then the Americans certainly could do the same considering the powerful electronic eavesdroping capabilities that the Americans posses.
So the question is, why did the US and its western European allies operationalize the coup in Turkey. The past couple of months has seen a 180 degree alignment of Turkey’s geopolitical axis which resulted from Turkey’s growing realization that the Americans were intent on building a Kurdish state in parts of Syria, which state, Turkey viewed as an existential threat due to the problem of Turkey’s large Kurdish minority seeking a seprate state. Erdogan had apologized to Russia for the shooting down of the Russian figher jet and had began to take steps as a pre-condition by Russia to stop its support of Jihadi fundamentalist forces fighting the Assad government in Syria. This had resulted in Syrian government forces trapping Jihadi forces in a caulderon in Aleppo the largest city in Syria. These Jihadi forces now trapped in the boiler would be slowly boiled to death since they could no longer get supplies into the part of Aleppo that they controlled. With the collapse of anti-Assad resistance in Aleppo and the city in its entirety under Assad’s control, we would be seeing the death throes of the anti-Assad rebelion in Syria and a major geopolitical defeat for the US and its allies intent on removing Assad and controlling a balkanized Syrian state.
Another dimension was the announcement by Erdogan’s government that Turkey was keen to restart talks on the Russian Turkish stream gas pipeline to bring Russian gas into Europe through Turkey while skirting the Ukraine. This would mean that with the North stream pipeline which supplies Russian gas to northern Europe and with a Turkish stream pipeline supplying Russian gas to southern Europe, Russia in geoeconomic terms would hold Europe in an energy vice and could begin to dictate economic and political terms to the EU, this could cause the EU to begin to re-evaluate its Atlanticist ties to the US and could catalyze its gravitation toward the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union and China’s grand economic Silk Road Belt crisscrossing Eurasia. A weakening of American hegemonic power over the EU and its getting shut out of the power-play in Eurasia was and is unacceptable to American global strategic planners. Eurasia is the most populous and economically the most powerful continent in the world. Control over Eurasia means global control.
Therefore to stop Turkey’s geopolitical alignment toward Russia and China, the American deep state kick-started the coup against the Erdogan government but things went badly for them as they underestimated or did not factor into play the reaction of the Turkish public which was in no mood for military coups. It is interesting that Erdogan and Putin have brought forward their planned meeting from September to early August in Moscow where they promise interesting developments.
What are the lessons for Africa from the failed coup attempt in Turkey. The first lesson is the importance of developing a widely dispersed independent media which has the capacity to function and protect the democratic order even in the case when national government owned news media is taken in the event of a coup.
The second lesson is to seriously evaluate the practice of sending African military personnel to American and western military academies and institutions for training. Officers ideologically shaped to the western world-view in these institutions can become a fifth column ready to serve foreign interests against their own people. It is telling that many of the Turkish high ranking coup plotters were trained by or had very extensive contacts with American and western military and security circles. These are important lessons that African countries can learn in order to better preserve the constitutional order that expresses the popular will of the African people.