The ABCs of Turkish Affairs of State: Always be Conspiring
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A couple of commentators on Turkish affairs now lean toward the Gulen Cult of the Poconos really being behind the coup fiasco in Turkey.

One analyst is Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, who came to dislike the Gulenists while he was investigating the show trial of his father-in-law, an old-fashioned Kemalist general. Much of the testimony against the generals in the big purges while Erdogan and Gulen were allies was forged by Gulenists in the police. (After Erdogan and Gulen turned on each other in late 2013, Rodrik’s father-in-law was released by Erdogan as part of a rapprochement between Erdogan and the military.) Rodrik now writes:

… And in any case, there was no reason for Kemalists to act now or to rush into what was clearly an ill-planned coup. The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer [show trial] verdicts had been reversed and Erdogan had long distanced himself from these trials, explicitly acknowledging they were plots against the military. Erdogan was also reversing many of his foreign policy actions that must have grated on the military: he had just reconciled with Russia and Israel and was pulling back on Syrian adventurism.
The Kemalists got along fairly well with Israel over the decades.
… For its part, the Gulen movement has a long history, going back to the 1980s, of trying to place its sympathizers in the military ranks. And while the high command systematically tried to purge them, it is quite likely that the Gulenists were able to outwit them. To evade suspicion, Gulen is said to have instructed his sympathizers to go to great lengths, including not letting their wives wear the headscarf – a telltale sign of religiosity in Turkey – and even to drink alcohol. The steady stream of document leaks that enabled the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, as well as the mysterious way in which investigations of these leaks have been blocked, also suggests the presence of a large number of Gulenists in the military.

All of this points to the Gulen movement as the immediate culprit behind the coup attempt. Gulenists had both the capability and the motive to launch the coup. The timing – just after military officers began to be detained and before a major sweep – also supports this theory. Many have suggested that the Gulenists decided to move early and quickly because they learned that the impending sweep had been moved forward. This is plausible, and also helps explain why the coup attempt seemed rushed and poorly planned. Under this theory, the botched coup was a last-gasp, desperate attempt to reclaim their one final remaining institutional bastion and ensure their survival in Turkey.

My best guess is that the coup was planned and organized by Gulenists but that they were joined by quite a few others as well. The joiners may have had diverse motives: personal ambition, hatred of Erdogan, or simply the belief that they were obeying orders from the higher-ups.

One of the curious aspects of the coup attempt is that it had no public face or apparent leader. …

This lack of a public face is a lot less anomalous from the standpoint of Gulenist modus operandi. Gulenists always prefer to operate in the shadows, behind the scenes, and never take direct ownership of operations they launch and control.

So, that’s not hugely convincing, but it is interesting.

Meanwhile, in the NYT, Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol (whom I think I’ve had lunch with) writes:

Mr. Gulen strongly denies the charges. Some in the West seem to think that this is yet another of the many bizarre conspiracy theories peddled by Mr. Erdogan. But this is not merely propaganda. There are good reasons to believe the accusation is correct.

The Gulen community is built around one man: Fethullah Gulen. His followers see him not merely as a learned cleric, as they publicly claim, but the “awaited one,” as I have been told in private. He is the Mahdi, the Islamic version of the Messiah, who will save the Muslim world, and ultimately the world itself. Many of his followers also believe that Mr. Gulen sees the Prophet Muhammad in his dreams and receives orders from him.

Besides Mr. Gulen’s unquestionable authority, another key feature of the movement is its cultish hierarchy. …

Given the Gulen community’s hierarchical structure, all of this makes Mr. Gulen a prime suspect. Of course, the truth can come out only in a fair trial. Unfortunately, Turkey is not good at those — especially given Mr. Erdogan’s control over the judiciary and the ferocious polarization in the country today. But the United States government can try to negotiate with its Turkish counterparts to extradite Mr. Gulen, as Turkey’s government is now requesting, on the condition of a fair trial.

I dunno. I’m not excited about the U.S. turning over to Erdogan his arch-enemy on the promise of a fair trial. The evidence that Gulen was behind the coup is, at present, far from overwhelming. And, having seen Midnight Express, I’m not sure how much to trust the testimony that will likely come out of Turkish interrogation chambers in the near future incriminating Gulen.

Erdogan is going to do what he’s going to do, but I don’t see much reason to help Erdogan take vengeance upon his foes.

Instead, I’d rather see the FBI relaunch its investigation into the Gulen Cult’s skimming and immigration fraud in running the largest chain of charter schools in America. A couple of years ago, the FBI was enthusiastically raiding Gulen charter schools across the U.S., carting away evidence. But then you stopped hearing about the investigation. Perhaps somebody at CIA or State told the FBI that ripping off American taxpayers to fund Gulen was part of Washington’s grand strategy to make sure the Bosporus was in friendly hands?

I’d rather see Gulen answer to charges of defrauding Americans in open American courts than to turn him over to Erdogan’s sense of fairness.

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