The attempted coup the Turkish government faced on the 15th of July 2016, was distinguishable from the Kemalist armed coups in the last six decades in the country. The Turks and the Turkish Government have blamed the moderate islamist Gulenist officers in the military for the attempted insurgency this time. The Gulenists had strengthened their hold in the army and Governmental institutions by promoting their own officers, and with the support from the West the Gulenist movement had gradually grown. They vehemently opposed the AK party and portrayed the Erdogan Government as autocratic and him a dictator. The pro-U.S and pro-Israel characteristics of the Gulenists that differentiates them from the Islamic extremists and also the United States sheltering the alleged mastermind Fethullah Gulen and the CIA’s unconditional support to him, questioned the stance of the U.S and its involvement in the attempted putsch. The most widely accepted speculation is that the U.S was behind the failed coup d’état against the Government of the NATO ally directly or indirectly, and that it had tried to assassinate the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The U.S-Turkish relationship is in jeopardy as the United States doesn’t seem like it is anywhere close to turning Mr. Gulen over to Turkey. However, the recent Turkish Government’s severe crackdowns against protestors have worried the Western powers, and Turkey has been warned of a possible suspension from NATO. Analysts have opined that it is crucial that Turkey and the West mend their strained relationships in order to tackle other pressing global issues like the European refugee crisis and the ISIS. President Erdogan’s intensified clampdown against the plotters is deviant from the democratic norms and is a major threat to Turkey’s foreign relations.
The intensely polarized Turkish society coming together against the attempted coup and finally defeating it signifies how deeply the Western conspiracy theories of the past are entrenched in the minds of the people. The civilian allies in the judiciary, political parties and the media relied on and aided the military to counter the ‘Islamic reactionary’, ‘Kurdish Separatist’ and ‘communist’ ideological threats. As a result the military has had immense political influence in the country. Ever since 1980 the Turkish democratic institution has struggled with frequent military interventions, and it continues to be labeled a partly free country. Although the military’s political influence has reduced despite its ideological allies, Erdogan’s ruthless purge has cast aspersions on his Government’s value for democracy. Turkey is an important NATO member as it has the second largest army in the security alliance, and it plays a significant role in the war against ISIS and cutting down the uncontrolled influx of refugees.
The Turkish Incirlik air base that reportedly houses tactical nuclear weapons and ammunitions that facilitate the U.S military troops to fight against the ISIS had been closed due to the attempted takeover. This was a major concern to the United States with regard to the protection of their military equipment and forces. The harmed friendship between the NATO countries is a concern to the world at large. The failed coup has engaged the country immensely in fighting for stability of its institutions, thus compromising its abilities to carry out its alliance activities. Nevertheless, NATO has cautioned Turkey that it risks losing its membership as the international organization was reluctant to entertain a military coup in a member state. The NATO Secretary General, however, has expressed his full support to the Turkish Government and the people condemning the coup attempt. Turkey and NATO are very valuable to each other, and the consequences would be deadly if this membership disintegrates. Further, Angela Merkel has warned President Erdogan that the negotiations for Turkish membership in the European Union would be threatened if death penalty is reinstated as a crackdown against the protestors. Hence, the major question isn’t about a threat to the membership of the NATO but the restoration of democracy and peace in the country for the greater good. It is at this moment that the United States must cooperate fully with the Turkish Government to contain the insurgencies and work with Turkey on all fronts as a NATO ally must.
By: Ashwini Shantharam
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