As I often do on Sundays I am making the subject of today’s article what I feel was the biggest political story of the week just ended. There was a lot to choose from and my choice may surprise a few readers but it definitely has the potential to have the greatest impact on the world of anything that happened in politics last week.
Friday afternoon (EST) as I was enjoying some time with my wife and mentally planning my Sunday article on a different topic when I received a news bulletin telling me of a possible coup in Turkey. I exclaimed, “Wow! This is huge!”
My regular readers know that for some time I have held firm that Turkey is the key to the entire Middle East region. Turkey has a population of about 80 million approximately 75 million of Turks are Muslim; yet Turkey is officially a secular nation. Turkey was founded in the aftermath of World War I by national hero Ataturk and is about all that remains somewhat recognizable of the old Ottoman Empire.
Turkey is literally the bridge from Europe to the Middle East. Its location alone makes it strategically important. Turkey also has one of the largest and most formidable militaries in the region. It is also a NATO member, the only majority Muslim one.
While Turkey is a Western and American ally it is not on the same page with us on every issue. Western powers, very much including America, look at the Kurds as valuable allies; the Turks have an opposite feeling. This is one of the factors that make the military fight against ISIS complex. Speaking of that fight, the use of Turkish airspace and particularly a strategically located airbase have greatly aided the air effort mounted mainly by the US and the UK.
In a thumbnail Turkey has basically been ruled by its current President and former Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, for over a decade. He has continually been democratically elected, getting 52% of the vote the last time he stood for election.
Erdogan was out of the country on vacation when a portion of the military comprised mainly of elements of the Air Force and Military Police attempted a coup. By all appearance the coup attempt has failed. The plot may have been so ill conceived that it was destined to fail but how it actually happened is very interesting.
Erdogan got on television, via FaceTime on his iPhone, and urged the people to take to the streets to stop the coup. Opposition political parties (and many a sworn enemies of Erdogan) also came out in opposition to the coup. The felling seemed to be any democratically elected government was better than a military dictatorship. (I’m often cynical and have to wonder if the opposition parties didn’t think they were better off in the opposition than in extinction.)
The people took to the streets and were largely supported by the police. Together they appear to have thwarted the coup. In the wee hours of Saturday morning (Turkish time) Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and delivered a message that said in part, “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have to pay heavily for that.” As of Saturday morning (EST) the best numbers available on a death toll stood at 265 with thousands of military taken into custody by civilian police.
The current Turkish government is both far from perfect and far from a perfect ally of America, but it beats the hell out of a lot of possible alternatives. We tend to think of this region in terms of Israel and ISIS; that ignores another factor – Russian overreach. By virtue of its location if nothing else Turkey is a player in that situation. Also no sensible country, including Russia wants the Turks as a foe.
A basically friendly Turkish government surviving is huge for America and world peace!
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