Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Are ISIS’ Online Terror Guides Really Training ‘Lone Wolves’?

Jamie Tarabay with Amit Weiss and Gilad Shiloach report for Vocativ:

[…] ISIS is only the latest group to flood the internet with “how-to” guides, yet the plethora of material has not led to more terrorist bombings abroad.

The manuals and instruction guides and lists of chemicals and equipment needed to create explosives have been online and accessible for decades. They’ve been put there by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Abdullah Azzam, who led resistance fighters in Peshawar in the 1980s.

Many have tried to construct booby traps, mix chemicals to make improvised explosive devices, connect detonators and test them remotely with mobile phones. Most have failed. Those who have succeeded, were trained, at least in part, by others in person.

“One likely reason why al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists have not made better use of the Internet’s training potential is that its value as a source of real-life terrorism knowledge is, at least to date, quite limited,” wrote Michael Kenney in 2010, when he was a fellow at the International Center for the Study of Terrorism at Penn State University Park. He is now an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.


France to send heavy artillery to Iraq in fight against ISIS

Al Jazeera reports:

French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.

Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.

The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.


U.S. Insists Airstrikes Against Syria’s Manbij Will Continue Despite Civilian Deaths

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

With growing disquiet among their allies over a Tuesday morning flurry of airstrikes that killed scores, and potentially hundreds, of innocent civilians around the Syrian city of Manbij, the US was facing calls from its own allies within Syria to immediately suspend their air campaign for the sake of an investigation.

US officials, however, insist that’s not going to happen, with Army Col. Christopher Garver insisting that the US airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria will continue unchanged despite the reports of huge civilian casualties.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, as the US rarely reacts to their most glaring blunders with actual policy changes, instead doubling down and offering a series of blanket denials and flimsy excuses for what happened, and spurning any suggestion of a change being necessary.


ISIS Attack on Afghan Shi’ite Protest Kills 80, Wounds 231

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A public protest by Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Hazara minority in Kabul turned tragic today, when ISIS launched a suicide bombing against the demonstration, killing at least 80 people and wounding at least 231 others.

The Hazaras were protesting over the planned route of a power transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul, calling for it to be rerouted through a pair of provinces with large Shi’ite populations to ensure the electricity supply there. The government has argued this change in route would take years and cost millions of dollars more.

ISIS was quick to claim credit for the attack, saying a pair of suicide bombers with explosive belts got into the crowd and detonated, causing huge casualties. The death toll is the single deadliest attack on the Shi’ite minority during the entire US occupation.


Turkey’s secret pact with Islamic State exposed by operative behind wave of ISIS attacks

Nafeez Ahmed reports for INSURGE INTELLIGENCE:

New evidence has emerged that the Turkish government under President Erdogan is covertly providing direct military, financial and logistical support to ISIS, even while claiming to fight the terror network.

The evidence comes in the form of testimony from an ISIS terrorist captured by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, widely recognised as the most effective force confronting ISIS on the ground.

The testimony has been reported by two Kurdish news agencies, the Syrian-Kurdish Harwar News Agency (ANHA) based in Rojava, and the Turkish-Kurdish Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê (Firat News Agency or ANF News). The latter’s head office is based in Amsterdam.

Websites of both news agencies are blocked in Turkey.

Interviews with the ISIS fighter, captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), reveal that Turkish military and security forces are facilitating ISIS operations within Syria, as well as ISIS terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

The new testimony corroborates similar claims made by other former and active ISIS members, as well as Western and Middle East intelligence sources.

Yet Turkey is a leading member of the NATO alliance. And while the Western members of NATO have gathered mounting intelligence confirming Turkey’s sponsorship of ISIS, they have refused to act on this intelligence.


63% of casualties in 2014 Gaza War were civilians, says B’Tselem report

Eliyahu Kamisher reports for the Jerusalem Post:

Two years after Operations Protective Edge, a B’Tselem report said 1,394, or 63 percent, of the 2,202 Palestinians killed by the IDF did not take part in the conflict.

This is lower than the figure cited by the United Nations and other NGOs of 70% but is still higher than Israeli intelligence estimates of 50%. Sixty-six soldiers and seven civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

The data gathered by B’Tselem, and released on Wednesday, was collected from field researchers in Gaza, cross-referenced with publicly available data.

This report is the first time B’Tselem has collected data on the war. Prior to this all casualty numbers were based on outside figures.

According to B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli the purpose of the report is to inform the Israeli public of the war’s high death toll.


Saudi Arabia’s PR Machine Uses the 28 Pages to Blame Iran for 9/11 Attacks

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Last Friday the U.S. government finally released 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report that detail possible ties between the Saudi Arabian government and the 9/11 hijackers.

The document lists various forms of assistance provided by Saudi agents to the hijackers, including help finding a flight school and various forms of financial support when the hijackers arrived in the United States. Many of the findings in the report have not been fully vetted as several of the Saudi agents named in the 28 pages have refused to cooperate.

But that has not stopped Saudi-funded lobbyists and media outlets from claiming that the disclosure of the 28 pages ends all speculation about the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 terror attacks. Several outlets controlled by Saudi Arabia’s vast public relations machine are trumpeting the document as a vindication that closes the door on any suggestion that the Saudi government had any ties to the 9/11 terrorists.


Anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq and Syria hit 2016 high

Oriana Pawlyk reports for Air Force Times:

31 FW supports Operation Inherent ResolveAirstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria last month surpassed 3,000 weapons dropped for the first time since 2015, according to the latest statistics from U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

The Air Force in June worked round the clock to support allied ground forces on three fronts — Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria — to diminish the Islamic State stronghold in each location. For such campaigns, dispatching air support well ahead of a ground fight has been a critical maneuver in advancing the air war against the extremist group, the head of AFCENT said in late May.

“The model that we use … in the combined joint operating area, as the air component, we’re able to strike ahead of the ground movement, so that’s my goal,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, the head of the air war against the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.


Civilian Death Toll From Coalition Airstrikes in Syria Could Be Single Largest in US-Led War on ISIS

Ryan Devereaux reports for The Intercept:

Scores of civilians trapped in Islamic State-controlled territory in northern Syria were reportedly killed Tuesday by airstrikes from Western coalition aircraft. The reported death toll, potentially the highest ever to result from a coalition bombing in the international campaign against ISIS, continued to climb as The Intercept reached out to monitoring groups tracking operations in the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 56 civilians were killed when their convoy of vehicles attempted to slip out of an area north of the city of Manbij in the predawn darkness, as U.S.-backed forces pushed forward in an increasingly bloody offensive in the area. In a brief phone interview, a representative from the Britain-based organization said that while coalition aircraft were believed to be responsible for the air raid, the group suspected it was a “100 percent mistake.”

Airwars, a nonprofit that tracks claims of civilian casualties resulting from the international air campaign against ISIS, said incoming reports indicated the death toll may prove to be well over 100 civilians — potentially making it the largest single loss of civilian life resulting from coalition airstrikes since the U.S.-led campaign to destroy ISIS began nearly two years ago. Tuesday’s reports were the latest in a string of recent incidents in which coalition aircraft have been implicated in the deaths of civilians in the Manbij area.

“Really these civilians are in a desperate situation,” Chris Woods, head of Airwars, told The Intercept. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”


Israeli Parliament Passes Law Enabling Ouster of Legislators

Isabel Kershner reports for The New York Times:

The Israeli Parliament passed contentious legislation early Wednesday that enables the suspension or ouster of members accused of racial incitement or of supporting armed struggle against Israel. Critics said it was intended to target Arab legislators and harmed democratic principles like freedom of expression.

The legislation, which was approved by a vote of 62 to 47, with several members absent, after a stormy debate, requires the support of 90 out of the Parliament’s 120 lawmakers to oust someone. Setting such a process in motion requires the votes of 70 lawmakers, including 10 from the opposition, which makes the process difficult to carry out. Lawmakers voted out of Parliament would be able to appeal to the Supreme Court.

But the law has added to the sense that Israel’s conservative government is pushing populist and questionable measures that some opposition politicians have called discriminatory and even indicative of “budding fascism.”


EU eyes Israeli technologies for spotting militants online

Dan Williams reports for Reuters:

European powers are trying to develop better means for pre-emptively spotting “lone-wolf” militants from their online activities and are looking to Israeli-developed technologies, a senior EU security official said on Tuesday.

Last week’s truck rampage in France and Monday’s axe attack aboard a train in Germany have raised European concern about self-radicalized assailants who have little or no communications with militant groups that could be intercepted by spy agencies.

“How do you capture some signs of someone who has no contact with any organization, is just inspired and started expressing some kind of allegiance? I don’t know. It’s a challenge,” EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters on the sidelines of a intelligence conference in Tel Aviv.


Erdogan Moves to Consolidate Power After Failed Military Coup: Interview with Baris Karaagac and Ariel Salzmann

Sharmini Peries speaks to Baris Karaagac and Ariel Salzmann who discuss the July 15th coup attempt and say the Turkish president will use the crisis to eliminate all dissent from the judiciary and the military. (The Real News)


9/11 report 28 pages are ‘cause for reassessment of relations with Saudi Arabia’, says former U.S. Senator Bob Graham

The formally classified 28 pages of the 9/11 commission report that were recently released indicate a very close relationship between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi royal family, as well as George W Bush and the Saudis. Former US Senator Bob Graham (D- Florida) told RT that the information contained within the 28 pages borders on “embarrassing” and may be “cause for reassessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” (RT America)

Why were the Saudis “bulletproof” even AFTER the 9/11 Attack?

Daniel Hopsicker, author of Welcome to Terrorland, writes for Mad Cow Productions:

The first hugely shocking revelation in the 28-page secret chapter of the Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee Inquiry into the 9/11 attack occurs less than half-way down the very first page, and raises the chief question arising out of the release.

The story of the 9/11 attack is a story of Saudis in Florida.  But the until-now classified pages report show that fully one year after the attack the CIA and FBI remained inexplicably uncomfortable with the essential fact of any real 9/11 investigation: that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. 



As the report states, the “gap” in U.S. intelligence is unacceptable. But it is also—and more importantly—inexplicable.  

The big question is not whether the pages “prove” or “disprove” Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 attack, but what —absent massive bribery—explains what made the Saudis “bulletproof” from investigation for so long, even after the attack?


28 Pages Raise ‘Scores of Troubling Questions’ on US-Saudi Ties

Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams:

The just-released 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report into Saudi Arabia’s possible ties to the 9/11 hijackers have stirred speculation about the U.S. government’s continued relationship with the Gulf kingdom.

Amnesty International criticized the White House’s statement that the pages, hidden from public view for 13 years, have not changed the government’s assessment that “there’s no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi individuals funded al-Qaeda.”

“We stand with survivors of this crime against humanity: They deserve justice and the whole truth,” the human rights group tweeted.

As Murtaza Hussein wrote for The Intercept, the 28 pages “redacted in parts, detail circumstantial evidence of ties among Saudi government officials, intelligence agents, and several of the hijackers,” including by providing financial and housing assistance to those living in the U.S.


28 Pages Reveal Evidence of Saudi Govt Involvement in 9/11

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has finally released the notorious “28 pages” from the 9/11 Report, which had been kept classified, and which detail more or less exclusively with the culpability of the Saudi Arabian government in the attacks.

Though the White House claimed, even after the release, that the pages “proved” the Saudis had nothing to do with it, they did anything but that, providing considerable evidence that the hijackers had contact with two probable Saudi intelligence officers in advance of the attacks, and had received support from those officers.

The information centers on two men, Omar Bayouni and Osama Bassman. Bayouni was said to have provided “substantial assistance” to the hijackers in 2000, and had extensive contact with the Saudi government at the same time.


Erdogan could use the coup against him to turn Turkey towards full-scale Islamisation

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

an102884259epa05427172.jpg[…] The programme of Mr Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) since they won their first general election in 2002 has been to reverse the secularisation introduced by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic in 1923.  As the AKP has tightened its grip on power, it has chipped away at the secular institutions of the state and encouraged the Islamisation of education and social behaviour as well as seeking to cull non-Islamist officials and officers.

Mr Erdogan has said that he wants to see “the growth of a religious generation”, which would replace long-standing secular domination in Turkey. His foreign policy since the Arab Spring in 2011 has been to support the largely Sunni Arab uprising in Syria in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, though his efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad have so far failed. This strategy included tolerance for extreme Islamist jihadi movements such as Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, enabling them to establish networks of support inside Turkey. However, in the summer of 2015 the Turkish government agreed to let the US and four other states, including the UK, use Incirlik air base in south east Turkey for air strikes against Isis. Gunmen and bombers from the Islamist group attacked Ataturk Istanbul airport in June killing 42 people.

The failed coup will enable the implementation of Mr Erdogan’s long-desired presidential system based on Islamic values. It is unlikely to face much resistance now from people who do not want to be labelled as coup sympathisers. Not only are large numbers of soldiers and officials being arrested, but they are being publicly humiliated by being beaten, forced to strip to their underwear and lie crammed together on the floor of wherever they are being held. The commander of Incirlik air base, Gen Bekir Ercan Van, was shown on film handcuffed and being bundled into the back of a van.


Welcome to the Turkish Winter: The Great Purge is Just Beginning

Burak Kadercan writes for War on the Rocks:

Crowd-Flag-Turkey-Coup[…] Put bluntly, we have just entered a new phase in the ever-dramatic and hardly predictable story of Turkish democracy, a chapter that could easily be called the “Turkish Winter.” The coup attempt and Erdogan’s reactions to it will be the key drivers of this phase, but they are merely the symptoms of the real disease that troubles Turkey. The ever-struggling Turkish democracy is dying a slow and painful death, and no single political actor has the will, power, and the right set of incentives to prevent this decay. The road ahead is stark: either an absolute presidency that will not only further ossify but also institutionalize Erdogan’s one-man status, or civil strife that will either take the country down the road of Syria or lead to yet another coup attempt.

I wrote about this phase, “Turkish Winter,” for the first time three years ago amid the Gezi Park protests and later here on War on the Rocks last September. Back then, my predictions appeared to many as mere hyperbolic and dystopian nonsense to some. In the wake of the failed coup attempt, the claim that Turkish democracy is on its deathbed is no longer hyperbole, but rather an obvious statement. Dystopia has become how many Turks have come to define the state of Turkish politics. At the time, I was trying to warn spectators about the coming of a political firestorm (or ice age, if I am to stick to the winter terminology). The coup attempt and its immediate aftermath suggest in no uncertain terms that we have entered a new phase in Turkish politics. Welcome to the Turkish Winter. And it is only beginning.


Turkey Coup: Erdogan Purges 20,000 As EU Commissioner Voices Concern Over “Prepared Arrest Lists”

Tyler Durden reports for Zero Hedge:

[…] In total, approximately 20,000 political opponents “purged” just days after the conclusion of the failed coup.

At the same time speculation that the terribly planned “coup” was anything but came from the European Commission itself. As Reuters adds, the swift rounding up of judges and others after a failed coup in Turkey indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand, according to EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said on Monday.

“It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage,” Hahn said. “I’m very concerned. It is exactly what we feared.”

It is also exactly what Erdogan has expected and hoped for. And with broad western support for Erdogan over the weekend, his mission to concentrate all Turkish power in his own hands is now assured.


Erdogan: Death Penalty, Detentions to Cleanse Turkey After Failed Coup

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The first 48 hours after Friday evening’s failed coup d’etat in Turkey has seen the launching of a massive crackdown on anyone even suspected of being involved, with some 6,000 from the military already detained in relation to the attempt, including the commander of the Incirlik Air Base, where US troops and a substantial number of US nuclear arms are stationed.

This appears to be just the beginning, with Erdogan openly talking about bringing back the death penalty, saying the public wants to see the coup plotters executed and that “in a democracy, whatever the people want they will get.”

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag also hinted that the mass detentions are going to go quite a bit further, saying that the operation “is continuing” and that the number could soon surpass the 6,000 being reported.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is vowing that the entire country would be cleansed of the “virus” responsible for the coup attempt, attempting the pin the effort on former ally and current exile Fethullah Gulen.


The 50 American H-Bombs in Turkey

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, writes for The New Yorker:

B-61 nuclear bombs, the same model as those stored by the U.S. at airbases in various NATO countries, often under lax safeguards.[…] According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The nuclear yield of the B-61 can be adjusted to suit a particular mission. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had an explosive force equivalent to about fifteen kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the “dial-a-yield” of the B-61 bombs at Incirlik can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as a hundred and seventy kilotons.

Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War. With a flight time of about an hour to the Soviet Union, the base hosted American fighters, bombers, tankers, and U-2 spy planes. And, like many NATO bases, it stored American nuclear weapons. NATO strategy was dependent on nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the perceived superiority of Soviet conventional forces. The threat of a nuclear attack, it was assumed, would deter Soviet tanks from rolling into NATO territory. And granting NATO countries access to nuclear weapons would strengthen the alliance, providing tangible evidence that the United States would risk a nuclear war for NATO’s defense.


Despite Early Tensions, US-Turkey Ties Remain Unchanged After Coup Attempt

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

The immediate wake of Friday evening’s failed military coup in Turkey looked like it was going to have a significant impact on US-Turkish relations, with power cut to the airbase at Incirlik, from which a significant number of US forces operate. There were even suggestions that the US might’ve been involved in the coup attempt.

Secretary of State John Kerry denied such claims, and insisted it was “irresponsible” to even suggest the US might’ve been involved with the coup, despite all those coups the US has been covertly involved with over the years.

Indeed, much of the speculation related to Kerry’s own statements in the early hours of the coup effort, in which he emphasized a US desire for “stability and continuity.” It was only when it became apparent that the coup was failing that US officials began issuing statements condemning the effort.


Turkey Coup: How an iPhone Defeated the Tanks

David Hearst writes for Middle East Eye:

To mount a coup, senior Turkish army officers from the commando units, land forces, the first and fourth armies, and the airforce went to extreme lengths to seize power.

They occupied two airports and closed a third. They attempted to separate the European from the Asian sides of Istanbul. They bombed the parliament in Ankara nine times. There was a pitched battled outside the headquarters of MIT the Turkish intelligence agency. They deployed tanks, helicopter gunships and F16 jets.

To defeat the coup, the Turkish president used his iPhone. Mosques used their loudspeakers, broadcasting the call to prayer hours before dawn. Political leaders of all creeds, some staunch opponents of the president, called unambiguously for the coup to be defeated. Policemen arrested soldiers.

Unarmed people recaptured CNN Turk and the bridges across the Bosphorus, braving gunfire to recapture democracy for their country.


A Hillary Clinton presidency could end up letting ISIS and al-Qaeda off the hook

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

hillary-clinton-springfield.jpgAs political leaders across the world swear to engage in total war against Isis in the wake of the massacre in Nice, not enough notice is being taken of the fact that the long-term prospects of the group will be boosted if Hillary Clinton is elected as the next US President. President Obama and the Pentagon have been giving priority to first weakening and then eliminating Isis, and have been having a fair measure of success. The Iraqi army backed by US-led air strikes have recaptured Fallujah and the self-declared Caliphate has suffered a series of defeats in both Iraq and Syria.

But Hillary Clinton’s expected choice as Defence Secretary, Michèle Flournoy, has just co-authored a report by the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington that recommends that the destruction of Isis should no longer be the overriding objective of the US in Syria, but that equal priority should be given to taking military action against President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Army. A new pro-US armed opposition would be built up to fight Assad, Isis, al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda clones, a process that the report admits could take years – and “during that time the dangers posed by Isis will remain”. This is not a marginal opinion among hawks in Washington, as a recently leaked memo from 51 serving State Department officials argued very much the same thing.

This proposed change of policy by a Clinton administration is all too likely, going by her past record of choosing military solutions to complex problems even when it means fighting more than one war at a time and when the outcome is unclear. As a Senator, she voted for the Iraq war in 2003 and, as Secretary of State in 2011, she was the driving force behind the Nato military intervention in Libya that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and handed over the country to criminalised warlords. Her opinions normally coincide with those on the hawkish end of the US foreign policy establishment, whose policies Obama contemptuously described in a famous interview with The Atlantic Monthly as “the Washington Playbook”.


Erdogan Had It Coming: Turkey’s Coup May Have Failed, But History Shows Another Will Succeed

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

turkey-soldiers.jpgRecep Tayyip Erdogan had it coming. The Turkish army was never going to remain compliant while the man who would recreate the Ottoman Empire turned his neighbours into enemies and his country into a mockery of itself. But it would be a grave mistake to assume two things: that the putting down of a military coup is a momentary matter after which the Turkish army will remain obedient to its sultan; and to regard at least 161 deaths and more than 2,839 detained in isolation from the collapse of the nation-states of the Middle East.

For the weekend’s events in Istanbul and Ankara are intimately related to the breakdown of frontiers and state-belief – the assumption that Middle East nations have permanent institutions and borders – that has inflicted such wounds across Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other countries in the Arab world. Instability is now as contagious as corruption in the region, especially among its potentates and dictators, a class of autocrat of which Erdogan has been a member ever since he changed the constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds.

Needless to say, Washington’s first reaction was instructive. Turks must support their “democratically elected government”. The “democracy” bit was rather hard to swallow; even more painful to recall, however, was the very same government’s reaction to the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s “democratically elected” government in Egypt in 2013 – when Washington very definitely did not ask Egypt’s people to support Morsi and quickly gave its support to a military coup far more bloody than the attempted putsch in Turkey. Had the Turkish army been successful, be sure Erdogan would have been treated as dismissively as the unfortunate Morsi.


Turkey’s President Survives Coup Attempt, Thanks in Part to Social Media He So Despises

Robert Mackey writes for The Intercept:


[…] The plotters failed, despite following a script that had might have succeeded in the 20th century, in part because Erdogan was able to rally support for democratic rule using 21st century tools: video chat and social media.

After the officers claimed control of the country in a statement they forced a presenter to read on TRT, the state broadcaster, the country’s internet and phone networks remained out of their control. That allowed Erdogan to improvise an address to the nation in a FaceTime call to CNN Turk, a private broadcaster the military only managed to force off the air later in the night, as the coup unraveled. In his remarks, the president called on people to take to the streets.

Minutes later, the president repeated his plea for protesters to defend democracy on his own Twitter feed.



The Counter-Coup in Turkey

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

It was ironic that, as members of the military launched a coup against him on Friday night, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey resorted to guerrilla media tactics — broadcasting via the FaceTime app on his cellphone — to urge Turks to oppose the plotters. Mr. Erdogan has been no friend to free expression, ruthlessly asserting control over the media and restricting human rights and free speech. Yet thousands responded to his appeal, turning back the rebels and demonstrating that they still value democracy even if Mr. Erdogan has eroded its meaning.

That erosion now seems likely to accelerate, exacting a terrible price from Turkey’s citizens and posing new challenges to international efforts to confront the Islamic State and halt the killing in Turkey’s neighbor, Syria.

Given the chaotic and bloody events of the last two days, there is little doubt that Mr. Erdogan will become more vengeful and obsessed with control than ever, exploiting the crisis not just to punish mutinous soldiers but to further quash whatever dissent is left in Turkey. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said, chillingly. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”



A Short History of Modern Turkey’s Military Coups

Turkish Coup 1960As Turkey was roiled on Friday by an attempt by the military to seize control of the nation in a coup, some of its older citizens may have a sense of déjà vu.

Though Turkey has had a long and illustrious history as a regional power—the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Istanbul, was long a major power—the Republic of Turkey itself is a relatively young nation, founded less than a century ago. And yet it has seen more than its fair share of coups.

That high rate of turmoil isn’t exactly an accident. In fact, one of the reasons behind the string of coups has to do with something baked into the Turkish system of government. As TIME explained after one of those coups, the nation’s constitution leaves the military with the authority to “step in” when needed; military leaders are not beholden to political leaders.

As the magazine put it in 1960, after autocratic premier Adnan Menderes was deposed in a largely bloodless military coup: “The Turkish army has long scrupulously observed the admonition of the late great Kemal Ataturk that the army should stay out of partisan politics. But it also remembered that Ataturk charged it with guarding the constitution.”


A failed coup in Turkey could tip the country into authoritarianism

Ezra Klein writes for Vox:

Could the coup attempt in Turkey against President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan’s government end up empowering… President Erdogan? Some analysts think so.

To see why, go back to this excellent July 5th New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise outlining the growing fears that Erdogan was moving towards “seizing the title of president for life.”

At the time of the article, the concern was that Erdogan sought — and could perhaps achieve — authoritarian power in his office. He was trying to purge hundreds of judges from Turkey’s top courts, cracking down on freedom of the press (the editor of the state’s largest newspaper was forced to flee the country), and forging a closer alliance with the country’s military (“the [military’s] chief of staff was a witness at his daughter’s wedding”).

The story paints a picture of a country teetering on the brink of authoritarianism. “Pray for us,” Ergun Ozbudun, a constitutional expert, told the Times.


How Turkey’s military launched coup against President Erdogan

Protesters stand on an armoured vehicle in Istanbul.Even before soldiers appeared on Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge and tanks were positioned at the entry and exit points for the capital’s Ataturk Airport on Friday night, there had been a sense of unease in the air in the Turkish capital.

On a warm sunny day Gabriel Turner, a 23-year-old management consultant from north London who was on holiday in Istanbul, had been strolling through the city and remarked on how many police seemed to be patrolling the streets

“I thought that was normal but the two Turkish girls I was with told me it wasn’t,” he told The Telegraph on Friday night. “We were walking around the centre of Istanbul, at the Grand Bazaar there were police at every entrance and exit with lots of guns.”

A few hours later, at about 8pm, a police helicopter was seen buzzing low over the rooftops, as if it was searching for something – another sign perhaps of what was to come – but it was not until nearly 10.30pm that the true import of the military manoeuvres became clear.

Suddenly in the thriving heart of Istanbul where friends had gathered for a Friday night out, everyone was looking at their phones – word was filtering out – Turkey was once again subject to a military coup.