The Turkish Coup, Part II

The Turkish Coup, Part II
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Last week, we began a three-part series on the attempted Turkish coup that started on Friday, July 15. In Part I, we examined Turkey’s history to frame the historical conditions that affected the failed coup. As promised, this week’s report will discuss the actual coup.

The Coup
Around 7:30 p.m. Eastern European Standard Time (EEST), there were reports that key bridges that cross the Bosporus had been closed by soldiers. About 20 minutes later, military jets and helicopters were flying over Ankara and Istanbul. Gunshots were also reported in the capital. At 8:00 p.m., Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced a coup was underway and called for calm. He indicated that a group within the military was behind the coup and noted that loyal security forces were being mobilized. At 8:25 p.m., the rebels issued a statement indicating that the military was taking over to “protect the democratic order.” The same statement indicated that Turkey’s existing foreign relations would be maintained.

The first inkling that the coup was not going smoothly came around 8:40 p.m., when CNN Turk announced that President Erdogan was “safe.” At 8:50 p.m., the military’s Chief of Staff was reported to be in the custody of the rebels. By around 9:00 p.m., the rebels in Ankara had entered the buildings of TRT, the state broadcaster. At 9:05, a Turkish state broadcaster read a statement on orders of the military. The statement indicated that a new constitution was being prepared and accused the Erdogan government of “eroding democratic and secular rule of law.”

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In what was perhaps the most dramatic event of the coup and what signaled the onset of the countercoup, at 9:26 p.m., President Erdogan, speaking to a CNN Turk reporter via FaceTime, indicated that the coup would meet a “necessary response.” He called on citizens to take to the streets. About 10 minutes later, the state broadcaster TRT went off the air but resumed service later in the evening from London.

At 10:03 p.m., the Justice Minister accused elements loyal to Fethullah Gulen of being behind the coup. This was the first official accusation against the cleric and his followers. Over the next hour, numerous reports of tank movements, military flights and explosions were reported. At 10:37 p.m., the Commander of the First Army indicated that he was still loyal to the regime and that the coup plotters were a small part of the military. Near 11:00 p.m., reports indicated that a helicopter being used by the rebels was shot down by a Turkish Air Force warplane. This action was the first clear indication that the military was starting to attack rebel forces. Over the next hour, President Obama called on all parties to “support the elected government.” Gulen called reports that he had instigated the coup “highly irresponsible” and condemned the coup. There were numerous reports of explosions hitting the parliament building.

Shortly after midnight, Erdogan landed in Istanbul. At 12:45 a.m., the rebels finally entered the building of CNN Turk and halted broadcasts. Fifteen minutes later, Erdogan addressed supporters at the Istanbul airport, urging them to stay on the streets. Near 1:00 a.m., mosques in Turkey began singing the “call to prayer” and telling followers to take to the streets. Around 3:45 a.m., first reports of rebels surrendering were noted. By 5:10 a.m., military headquarters were under the control of loyalist forces. Near 6:00 a.m., Turkey’s intelligence agency was attacked by military helicopters. This was the last significant military action by the rebels. By 9:00 a.m., the Acting Army Chief of Staff, First Army commander Umit Dundar, told the media that the coup was “90% under control.” Before noon, the coup was effectively over.

Questions and Conspiracies In the aftermath of the coup, questions and conspiracies abounded. We will go through some of the more important ones and examine the issues.

Why did the coup fail? This question has numerous facets. Here are some of the mistakes that were made:

The plotters failed to capture President Erdogan. There are reports that Turkish intelligence had uncovered the plot a few hours before it was launched. The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News and al-Jazeera both claimed that a “senior military figure tipped off Erdogan” an hour before the coup went operational.1 These reports noted that the president was moved to another hotel before rebels could capture him. The president rode by helicopter to the Dalaman Airport and, from there, boarded a private jet for Istanbul.2 According to reports, rebel warplanes locked their radars on Erdogan’s plane, but the pilot was able to convince the rebel pilots that it was a Turkish Airlines flight.3

There are unconfirmed reports that Russian intelligence tipped off their Turkish counterparts that the coup was brewing. This cannot be confirmed but there does appear to be solid evidence that Erdogan wasn’t captured because he was warned.

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