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The struggle is won; the war has only started: Erdogan’s chess game

During the military coup attempt in Turkey, there were actions of some participants that on the background of seemingly spontaneous chaos reminded of a classical chess game in their level of calculation and effectiveness. One needs to admit that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overplayed his opponents in this chess completely. But it this the end?

Turkish reality: no clear “confrontation groups”

It is inadmissible to see the July 15 revolt in Turkey as a trivial expression like “the opposition wanted to oust the government.”

First of all, it is necessary to understand that neither members of the government nor members of the opposition, but the medium-level military men were trying to lead the insurgence. Erdogan purged top military ranks long time ago, so there was no big anti-presidential concentration there.

Second, since the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk times, the Turkish Armed Forces have been supporting and guarding the secular society. Erdogan’s attempts to make the army closer to another view are facing powerful rebuff from the side of the army tradition in the country.

Third, Erdogan’s key non-present opponent in a possible row is only preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was forces to leave for the USA because of persecution by the official Ankara. Nevertheless, Gülen is a more complicated figure: a Muslim preacher speaking for secular society and humanism, a true leader of opponents of Erdogan’s ideology, although Gülen himself was against being called a leader and against forceful riots. Such a combination will finally play a leading role in suppressing the riot.

Erdogan’s chess game

The most effective gesture of supporters of the current president was to accuse Fethullah Gülen in staging the coup. Let’s see how this seemingly primitive action made the things in the insurgence coming the other way:

1.       U.S. The U.S. attitudes towards Turkey is clear on the one side: conflicts and splits are no good for it inside a major NATO player in the region. Besides, as Washington might be thinking, for the Syrian campaign possible overthrow of Erdogan is a definite disadvantage. But the general concept of Washington has never changed: might makes right. It means that the USA would not hurry to support Erdogan in order not to spoil relations with a possible successor if the riot succeeds. But accusations against Fethullah Gülen who is in the United States now have deprived the U.S. of any room for maneuver making the U.S. administration determine if they are involved in the insurgence or not.

Let’s follow the chronicles: US State Secretary John Kerry was changing his position from “too few information” to Erdogan’s support right after Fethullah Gülen was accused of staging the plot. Well, the US position is a strong argument influencing decisiveness of the parties in the conflict in Ankara.

2.       Organizers of the mutiny. Based on secret agreements with each other, organizers of the mutiny received information at the critical point that the mutiny is developing in the interests of Fethullah Gülen. And the strike was immediate: Gülen was categorical about his non-involvement and condemned the riot. It is the strongest blow to those who wanted to see Gülen as leader of the mutiny.

3.       Fethullah Gülen. Being proponent of peaceful ways of confrontation and focusing on democratic values, Gülen was left without a space for maneuver too. Before Ankara accused him, he could have accused Erdogan in bringing the country to the verge of civil war, urging to deliver powers to “a peaceful government” with the prospect of elections in future. But the situation (imposed by Erdogan) made Gülen practically take the side of his key ideological adversary.

4.       Undetermined. Most Turkish citizens could understand nothing from the start, but later it was easier to govern and manipulate them. The Turkish authorities spared no effort to eliminate first reports in the mutiny, and the information flow became active only when Fethullah Gülen criticized the riot. Erdogan’s supporters received moral advantage, and potential adversaries were at a loss. The majority turned to be on the side of “most probably Erdogan,” because his position was clearer.

Heterogeneity of Erdogan's “supporters”

There is no single reason for the Turkish military to be united against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but it became more helpful for the president than his opponents. Truly, Erdogan has plenty of opponents, but sometimes they see him not enough a problem to find common language with his other opponents.

For instance, unwillingness of the Turkish military engage in a conflict with Russia is a dramatic contrast to their willingness to act aggressively against the Kurds. It is mostly the Kurds’ blame too: staging terror attacks against the Turkish army they have received a strong enemy that will never forget anything. If the military decide to oust Erdogan (in general, they have nothing against the idea), what will they get in exchange and for what purpose? Until there is no answer, the military will sooner obey orders than support a coup.

The whole pace of the mutiny conflict has shown: the conspirers were allowed to show themselves, but they were too soon suppressed. It looks like the Turkish leadership had known the riot was inevitable (there is nothing new in it), but things have come to provoking a conflict at a controllable time and under a scenario prepared by Erdogan.

But the struggle won by the Turkish president is only a sign of a new war beginning. Winning a chess game while being a figure on the chessboard means to only prolong the game for himself. The game is not over yet.

Gayaz Validi specially for EADaily

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23.09.2016

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