Erdogan Might Have Known about the Coup but Didn’t Prevent It on Purpose

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John Mauldin: Erdogan Might Have Known about the Coup but Didn’t Prevent It on Purpose


A coup has to be carefully planned for many weeks. It requires endless meetings and preparation. Many thousands of troops, tanks, helicopters, and all the rest, must suddenly appear in the streets and take over.

And all of this planning has to take place in complete secrecy. Without the element of surprise, there is no coup.

So, how did the military organize a coup without a word of it leaking?

It seemed the coup succeeded at first

Turkey’s security and intelligence services are professional and capable. Watching the military is one of their major jobs. With intrusive surveillance, how did the military keep its intentions under wraps?

The only explanation is that the intelligence organizations must have been in on it. If so, then the game was over for Erdogan. A source that Mauldin Economics has in the military, someone fairly senior, said he had no idea the coup was happening.

This source did know that Erdogan was at a hotel in Marmaris on the Mediterranean. The coup was planned while Erdogan was away from Ankara. It would be easy to isolate and arrest him. Perfect planning… without a leak.

Our sources said that very senior officers ran the coup. (Not the chief of staff, though.) Erdogan was held in a resort town. He was unable to return to Istanbul or Ankara as the military took over airports.

The communication centers had been secured. There were even troops in Taksim Square, the major gathering place in Istanbul. That meant the city was saturated.

It appeared to us that the coup had succeeded.

Then suddenly everything changed

Erdogan started making statements via FaceTime on Turkish TV NTV. We thought Erdogan would be arrested soon. Maybe it was just that troops were outside his hotel, and he was still free enough to do this.

Sloppy work on the part of the coup.

Then Erdogan got on a plane and flew in to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. The airport, however, had reportedly been secured by the military conducting the coup.

Again, sloppy work.

It was clear that Erdogan was free, as he was making threats. Then Turkish troops surrendered to policeman in Taksim Square. They also abandoned and reopened bridges.

Erdogan ordered loyal F-16s to shoot down helicopters attacking the parliament building in Ankara.

The situation morphed from a successful coup to a failed one in a matter of hours. Yet, we still have no explanation as to why intelligence services didn’t prevent the coup.

Did Erdogan want the coup?

We could speculate that Erdogan wanted the coup. He knew he could defeat it. The attempt now gives him the justification to utterly purge the army. Perhaps he went to Marmaris for his own security.

Deeper meanings and geopolitical implications, however, lie behind the coup.

Deep tensions exist between Turkey’s secular population and Erdogan’s more religious supporters in Anatolia and elsewhere.

(Anatolia is the rather vast, less densely populated region east of the Bosporus. It’s generally more conservative but also includes a large Kurdish region and a few other minority ethnic groups.)

These religious minorities of Anatolia had been marginalized since World War I.

Erdogan came to power intending to build a new Turkey. He understood that the Islamic world had changed. Islam was rising. Turkey could not simply remain a secular power. He understood that fact both domestically and in terms of foreign policy.

Turkey has reportedly allowed IS to use its financial system. IS was selling its oil in Turkey and moving its people through Turkey. Erdogan has been, until recently, reluctant to attack them.

But, he shifted his strategy in recent months. ISIS, in turn, mounted attacks on Turkey.

Erdogan is caught between two forces.

One is a Jihadist faction that he has tried to manage, so it wouldn’t hit Turkey. This effort severed ties with the United States and Russia simultaneously.

That strategy has put Erdogan under pressure from a domestic secular faction. But recently the strategy shifted.

He reopened relations with Israel and apologized to Russia. He got rid of what many saw as a pro-Islamist prime minister. He appeared to be trying to rebalance his policy. The people who staged the coup likely saw these moves as weakness and sensed an opening.

The room for conspiracy theories is endless now. There actually were conspiracies—and likely, conspiracies within conspiracies. So let’s end with the obvious.

Turkey affects the Middle East, Europe, and Russia. It is also a significant force in shaping jihadist behavior.

Erdogan has been increasingly erratic in his behavior, as if trying to regain his balance. The coup meant that part of the military thought he was vulnerable. His supporters are now trying to reestablish control.

Erdogan must take bold action

The coup appears to be over, but Erdogan’s follow-up is not. He will unleash as much political intimidation as he can. He will conduct political and military purges to frighten the military.

The military seems divided. Erdogan is a master of appearing stronger than he is, though.  He looked weak calling for people to come into the streets to demonstrate their support.

But he can’t afford to look weak, so he has to make a decisive countermove… if he can.

Also, George Friedman did a short video on Friday that is available here.

By the way, you should subscribe to This Week in Geopolitics, George Friedman’s free weekly column on geopolitics at Mauldin Economics.

I find him indispensable.

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