Monday, July 18, 2016

Failed Coup in Turkey: Not the Usual U.S. Color Revolution

As Erdogan rounds up his opponents following the failed coup of Friday night/Saturday morning (for a particularly good synopsis read this morning's Foreign Policy Situation Report by Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley), it is worthwhile to question the level of support the putschists received from the United States. According to McLeary and Rawnsley:
How does this end? The Turkish government is lashing out in all directions, with a high-ranking member of the Erdogan government accusing Washington of directly helping to foment the putsch. Turkish Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu bluntly claimed over the weekend that “the U.S. is behind this coup attempt.” The comments “come on top of the long-standing U.S. criticism of Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies, which include opening roughly 2,000 legal cases against political opponents, journalists, comedians, and ordinary Turks accused of insulting the president,”  FP’s Yochi Dreazen writes.
Judging from the reaction to the coup's failure in the U.S. opinion pages, the labor minister appears to be on the money. The Gray Lady's unsigned editorial today calls Erdogan's reaction to the coup attempt a "countercoup" (see "The Countercoup in Turkey").

If the U.S. was involved it must have been in a passive role. The favored U.S. method of regime change after the shelving of "shock and awe" during the Obama administration is the color revolution format witnessed in Kiev's Maidan or the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. In a color revolution there has to be a mass of protesters to act as a foil for the coup plotters. The scheme is to have the protesters elicit a crackdown by security forces. The police overreaction ignites the rebellion. But there was no popular uprising here. There were no Gezi Park protests of three years earlier.

In order for this to work the coup plotters had to take out Erdogan. When they failed to do this the coup could not succeed. Consider this from McLeary and Rawnsley:
Commando raids, F-16s. Some critical details of the scope of the insurrection emerged on Sunday, which included a daring special operations raid on the coastal resort where Erdogan had been staying which just failed to nab the leader, and a harrowing incident where two rebel-flown F-16 fighters followed the president’s plane on its way to Istanbul, locking radars on the jet, but failing to fire.
As the purge of the military continued on Sunday, one of those arrested was Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, the chief of Incirlik Air Base, from which the U.S. military flies missions over Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. Reports have emerged claiming Van asked U.S. officials at the base for asylum, but was refused. The Greek government also finds itself in a tough spot after eight Turkish officers flew a helicopter to Greece in a bid for asylum. Turkey has demanded their extradition.
An attempt is being made to rewrite the U.S. reaction to the coup as one of immediate and fulsome support for the Turkish government. This is not how it went down in real time. Obama and Kerry were mum until it was clear that Erdogan would survive. Then they expressed their support.


  1. Stories in the Russian press, specifically The Duran, that it was a CIA coup plot, that Russia tipped off Erdogan. If in fact it was CIA, Erdogan may well flip back to the Russians. Something to ponder.

  2. My question, Bob, is to what extent this was CIA planning as opposed to CIA knowledge of Gulenist plans. It could be that the Gulenists and the CIA are largely one and the same entity now, which makes the question irrelevant. But you have to admit it does not follow the usual CIA coup template. Maybe the Agency was filling to forego the standard phony vox populi color rev stuff because of the precedent for military putsches in Turkey, but even then it was so badly bungled and reeks so strongly of overreach it doesn't ring Langley to me.