To understand what is going on in Turkey today you really have to know a bit of history. Without this knowledge you will have no understanding whatsoever.
Modern Turkey is the creation, the invention, of one man. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was a great military genius and one of the greatest political superstars of all time. He took on all the world’s great powers and beat them to create the current, modern nation.
Before World War One most of the Middle East and much surrounding land was one country, called the Ottoman Empire, run by one man, the Sultan. Whilst nominally Islamic the Ottomans tolerated all other religions. Far more so than the countries that have replaced them. But the Ottomans were on the losing side of the war and the winning countries planned to break it up into spheres of interest, just as they did with the Hapsburg Austro Hungarian Empire. Look at the Treaty of Sèvres to see some their plans.
Ataturk was a senior army officer and he said no to all this. He set about fighting the Turkish war of Independence from 1919 to 1922, taking on all the great powers. And he won, thus creating Turkey.
Ataturk was brilliant in the way he ran the new country, he made it Westward looking with huge social and economic advances. He moved the capital from Istanbul to Ankara, so the country couldn’t be held to ransom by a gunboat. He protected Turkey from totalitarianism, fascism and communism, which were all popular in the world at that time. He adopted the Western calendar. He adopted the Roman alphabet instead of Arabic script. He educated the nation, starting from nearly zero to Western standards. He emancipated women. He created a modern secular country.
But Ataturk’s biggest problem was Islam, he realised that it was barbaric, intolerant and primitive. So he build a completely secular state, with a Western style legal system. He abolished the Caliphate, the Islamic religious leadership. He closed the religious schools. Turkey became the only civilised Islamic country in history.
As an army officer Ataturk made the army the final guarantor of democracy. The army’s job was to take over whenever any government started to become undemocratic or tried to re-introduce Islam into politics. Over the years they did this on a few occasions and the constant threat of them doing so kept the politicians on the straight and narrow. As part of Ataturk’s legacy Turkey built up one of the best armies in the world. Their armed forces consist of 640,000 with 380,000 reserves, all very highly trained and very well equipped. They were vital to NATO during the Cold War, preventing Soviet expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean.
All was rosy in the garden that is Turkey until along came Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a corrupt, totalitarian, Islamic megalomaniac. He was Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014, since when he has been president. He set about reversing everything that Ataturk had done, so as to ensure his absolute, totalitarian rule. He constantly breaches the Turkish constitution with total impunity, there is nobody to stop him doing so. He is the worst kind of dictator. He has even built a 1,000 room palace and a private zoo for himself.
Human rights are abused, with extra judicial killings being quite normal. Critical journalists end up dead or in prison. Newspapers and broadcast media that are in any way critical are closed down or taken over by the state. Only journalism that praises Erdogan is allowed. And the internet is heavily censored. The people of Turkey do not know the truth. As if this doesn’t endure he wins all elections, he also engages in electoral fraud on a massive scale. By giving more and more power to Islam he has all the Mullahs on his side, telling their worshipers to vote Erdogan. So Turkey is now a very long way away from being a democracy. Erdogan has copied Putin every step of the way. And the weak Western leaders have looked the other way.
So where is the Army? Neutered is the answer. He has imprisoned or removed every senior office who wasn’t in his pocket. The choice is clear to army officers now, become pro Erdogan and get promoted, oppose Erdogan and go to jail.
Which brings us to the two competing theories about last week’s coup. The first is that it was bungled and that the conspirators underestimated the power of social media and the power of the Mullahs to put people on the street.
The second (more likely) theory is that the coup was engineered by Erdogan, using agent provocateurs. He can now use it as a pretext to enforce absolute rule. Which is what he has done ever since it was overthrown. His actions have been so thorough and far ranging that they must have been premeditated.
So where does that lead us?
Firstly Erdogan is highly unpredictable and unstable. He was a danger before, now we really don’t know what he will do. He has repeatedly claimed ownership of many Greek islands, for instance, and regularly sends combat aircraft over them. This is a flashpoint waiting to ignite.
Secondly Turkey is the route for millions of migrants into Europe. Many have claimed that Erdogan facilitates the migrant flow in order to Islamify Europe. Which is probable. So how will the EU handle this with a belligerent Erdogan?
Thirdly Turkey has immense military power. Erdogan is blaming the USA for the coup attempt. This and the disappearance of democracy could see Turkey kicked out of NATO and becoming even more of a lose cannon in the region.
Fourthly Western tourists are really not safe in Turkey any more. With ISIS bombs it was bad enough, but now we have seen AKP lynch mobs out on the street, wound up by their Mullahs. They attack anyone who they think isn’t a fan of Erdogan and that could very easily mean Westerners.
Fifth, many Western companies have built factories and Turkey was en route to EU membership. All this now looks very silly as Turkey sinks back into becoming the next Egypt.
Sixth. Erdogan has been a huge covert supporter of ISIS. Will he now become an overt supporter?
We really do live in very interesting times, and not in a good way. The situation in Turkey is only going to go one way, and that is downhill. It is a matter now of how much collateral damage Erdogan causes as he runs amok.