Coup unfolds in Turkey *UPDATE* Soldiers surrendering en masse; fatalities total at 42 for now

Coup unfolds in Turkey *UPDATE* Soldiers surrendering en masse; fatalities total at 42 for now
Erdogan makes his appeal via social media. (Image via Twitter; Sky News relay of Turkish broadcast)

The feature image will have to become iconic for the modern coup.  A president, being ousted by his military, addresses supporters via Skype on Face Time.

That tells us Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no access to the conventional broadcast media.  Which would comport with the other reports we’re getting: that the Turkish military has closed Ataturk International Airport and shut down all flights; a military curfew has been imposed; Turkish troops are holding the bridges to the European continent across the Bosphorus and allowing no one to pass; troops are being stationed around Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city; and troops have entered the offices of Erdogan’s ruling AKP party in Istanbul, and ordered everyone to leave.  (I haven’t seen much on what’s going on in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.)

That last action tends to confirm that this is a coup by elements of the traditional military who have survived a decade of effective political “purges” by Erdogan.  The traditional Turkish military would tell AKP functionaries to go home – as opposed to taking them hostage or treating them with brutality.

The reports summarized here have come over Twitter.  Things are moving too fast for print or story-line media to have comprehensive narratives going at this point.

Erdogan is asking supporters to turn out in the streets and demonstrate on behalf of the current government, which is led by Prime Minister Benali Yildirim, an Erdogan lieutenant.

He is said to be in an airplane which was denied permission to land in Turkey this evening, and is now seeking asylum in Germany.

In the last hour, the coup directors have announced that Turkey is now under a “peace council,” and that all foreign agreements remain in place and will be honored.  The coup statement says the move is in reaction to “rising autocratic rule” and the increase in the threat of terrorism in Turkey.

These concerns would parallel the reasons the Turkish military has given in the past for seizing power.  The last time a coup like this one occurred was in 1980.  In 1993, there was an alleged coup; in 1997, the military issued a memorandum that basically served as an ultimatum to the sitting government, and caused it to break up, and the prime minister to resign.

The full character of the coup has yet to be seen.  Helicopter gunfire has been reported over Istanbul in the last half hour; it’s too soon to be certain what the circumstances of that were.  It’s improbable that the military will actually have to fight within itself at this point, but not impossible.

I’m not worried about the safety of our American forces in Turkey, incidentally.

– Just heard on Fox that tanks have surrounded the Turkish parliament building, and shots have been fired at the building. This at 6:10 PM Eastern.  No details on that.

A big effing deal, as our vice president would say.  Developing.

*UPDATE*: As of 6:40 PM EDT, tanks are reportedly advancing toward the presidential palace in Istanbul.  Although Erdogan himself is seeking refuge in Europe, that’s where his (fairly massive) senior staff works.  It being Friday night in Turkey, we can assume most of them aren’t there, and sensibly won’t be headed there either.  The military will take over the building.

There have been one or two images of pro-Erdogan/AKP demonstrations, but it doesn’t look like a massive turnout right now.

*UPDATE 2*: “Loud explosion” reported by multiple sources in the capital (which would be Ankara).  Unconfirmed reports that civilians tried to take down a tank in the streets.  There’s also been a flood of new images in the last few minutes showing Turks pouring into the streets in Istanbul to protest the coup.  Assuming these reports are correct, it’s hard to see how the military doesn’t have blood on its hands before this is done.

Taksim Square:

https://twitter.com/ANEETAPREM/status/754083340165185536

(Note: Subsequent tweets in the stream have said the image at this (above) tweet was “a fake.”  That appears to mean it was not from tonight (Friday 15 Jul).  For completeness, I’ll just leave the tweet here with this note appended.  Other tweets do appear to show crowds forming, although it’s not clear that there’s a massive turnout in Taksim Square itself.)

God help them all.

*UPDATE 3*:  6:50 PM EDT — Theme spreading across Twitter that the coup has failed.  The overall tactical situation can’t be assessed, but there are at least two separate reports of the military firing on civilians, in Ankara and at one of the bridges over the Bosphorus.  This video shows police arresting a soldier who was participating in the coup.

If the soldier was unable to retain control of the local situation, that does sound like a bad omen for the coup.  (Normally, one would not get hopes up about a coup, but Erdogan is an Islamic extremist who’s been actively repressing consensual government and freedoms in Turkey, and sowing instability in the region.  He represents “democracy” the way Hitler did.  It would be better for everyone if his hold on Turkey were to be broken.)

Again, however, we can’t assess the overall situation without knowing more.

*UPDATE 4*: Whoa: could be a big clue here.  I saw a report a few minutes ago of a coup participant being seized by local army forces in one of the provinces.  Now this tweet from a Turkish journalist:

Starting to sound like this coup was not by the top officers in the military — or at least not by all of them.  Hard to believe the coup pullers would have even tried this without an operational vision for pulling it off.  But did they rely on having a preponderance of sentiment only in one area of the country, perhaps?  Again, not enough information.

If the coup is defeated, it can only go even worse for Turkey.  Erdogan’s crackdown will get more brutal.

*UPDATE 5*: Images and video of previously reported armed attacks starting to come out.  There are multiple reports of 17 police officers killed by military fire in Ankara, and helicopter gunfire on a crowd in Taksim Square.

This is presumably the big explosion reported earlier in Ankara.  (Note: it looks like you can still view it by going to the URL, but the social media crackdown is affecting many of the links coming out of Turkey.  I can’t embed the tweet now.)

https://twitter.com/sayed_ridha/status/754092591264608256

This could be the gunfire from helicopter(s) reported at the bridgehead on the Bosphorus.

This is a fight that can’t last very long, but it looks like at least some of it will involve live firefights.  If General Dundar is correct, the coup pullers will be going down.

*UPDATE 6*: 7:48 PM EDT — Within the last half hour, there have been reports that the government has reestablished control.  But in the last 10 minutes, tweets have flooded in saying the parliament building has been bombed.  It’s not clear who might have been behind that, but one source reports that MPs are inside the building and insist they won’t abandon it.  That suggests the bombing is NOT a counterattack by military or police forces against an occupying force inserted by the coup pullers.

*UPDATE 7*: 8:00 PM EDT — The Aviationist thinks Erdogan’s plane is now doing doughnuts over western Turkey waiting to see if he can land.

That level of confidence that the coup will be repressed quickly is certainly a useful data point.  Sounds like Erdogan has faith in the promises of his loyal cadre in the top brass.

*UPDATE 9*:  8:24 PM EDT — Only one plane has approached Ataturk International in the last two hours.  It’s the one Cenicotti thinks is Erdogan’s.  Probably correct.

(Screen cap of FlightRadar 24)
(Screen cap of FlightRadar 24)

Social media reports have been indicating that civilians have “taken over” Ataturk within the last hour.  Is Erdogan about to have a dramatic “moment”?

*UPDATE 10*: 8:35 PM EDT — Video of coup soldiers being disarmed by unarmed civilians.  The soldiers are putting up very little fight here.

It’s only one data point; we don’t have visibility on what’s happening elsewhere.  But this doesn’t show soldiers brutalizing civilians, or even seeming to have much purpose or leadership.  We’re going to hear a lot of “lessons” being spun out of this whole thing.  We need to be careful what we think we’ve “learned.”

*UPDATE 11*:  Just after midnight 16 Jul, U.S. Eastern time — There is little dispute at this point that the coup is being put down, and appears to be just about flattened.  Turkish state media are back on air showing footage of coup soldiers surrendering en masse in Istanbul.  Erdogan has been broadcast speaking on state media as well.  (He did indeed land at Ataturk airport, as suggested earlier, once it was in the hands of airport security and civilians on-scene.)

What’s going on in the rest of the country is less certain, but it did not appear earlier that the coup had much support outside of soldiers in Istanbul and Ankara anyway.  A new chief of the Turkish general staff has been named this morning (it’s after sunrise in Turkey).  More than 300 military members have already been named as suspects in the coup (which is pretty darn fast to be naming names).

Erdogan is one of the most anti-democratic leaders west of Iran.  His putting down a coup is the opposite of a triumph for “democracy”; he had to ban his most successful political opponents to avoid decisive losses for his AKP (Justice and Development Party) in the last election.  (And AKP took big losses anyway; it merely held on to put a governing coalition together.)  Things will get worse faster now in Turkey.

It’s an object lesson in the triumph of appearances over reality that so many on social media are celebrating the outcome in Turkey as if it represents “people power.”  They’re children imagining that they live in a fairy tale.  It’s not even clear what happened here: maybe this was a last, poorly-conceived gasp from the old independent military which was constituted early on as a keeper of secularism and constitutionality for the Ataturk republic.  But if so, it was awfully poorly conceived.  It’s hard to believe military planners really started something they clearly had no way to carry forward or finish.  The ineptness of this doesn’t ring true to me.

But there’s still a lot we don’t know.  If Erdogan is back firmly in the saddle, we will probably never know it.  It’s his narrative that will prevail now.  The die is cast.

Good night all.  Be safe out there.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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