So what am I missing here?  Firing judges for their involvement in a coup attempt?  Really?  They too took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul with firearms just like Turkey’s military?  True, Erdogan also rounded up some 3,000 military personnel as well, a much more traditional response to coup attempts rather then targeting the judiciary.  So what the fuck is going on here? 

A backward glance at coups and coup attempts in Latin America helps to explain why Erdogan would target the judiciary.  In the post-coup world in democratic Latin America, what often follows for years, occasionally decades, of prosecution conducted by a nation’s judiciary system in an effort to punish wrong-doers, i.e. folks who abrogated their responsibility to constitutional requirements. 

In Erdogan’s case, he has already taken action to blunt both the Army’s and the Judiciary’s criticism of his rule.  Here’s an excerpt from an April 19, 2014 article in The Economist: 

“THE biggest foes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan were the generals and the judges, who made common cause to try to oust Turkey’s pious prime minister (he was trained as an imam) on thinly supported charges of steering the country towards Islamic rule. But they failed. The army was tamed through a series of court cases against alleged coup-plotters. The judiciary was overhauled after constitutional reforms were approved in a referendum in 2010. Turkey’s democracy was at last on track, many hoped, until Mr. Erdogan began tilting towards unabashed authoritarianism after winning a third term in 2011.
Flush with yet another victory in the March 30th [2014] local elections, in which his conservative Justice and Development (AK) party swept up 45% of the vote, Mr. Erdogan is now back at war with the judges and, say many Turks, with democracy itself. On April 11th [2014] the constitutional court overturned parts of a bill rammed through in February to give the government greater control over the judiciary. The power grab was part of a broader campaign to quash corruption charges leveled against Mr. Erdogan’s children, business cronies and members of his cabinet. The campaign included a ban on a social-media site, Twitter, on which a stream of incriminating recordings of alleged conversations between Mr. Erdogan and his son Bilal were posted.”
“Mr. Erdogan blames most of his recent troubles on his former ally and fellow imam, Fethullah Gulen. He says Mr. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has set up a “parallel state” by putting his followers into powerful positions in the police, courts and security services (Mr. Erdogan has just passed a law tightening his grip on the spooks). Their masters are Israel and others who “cannot digest Turkey’s success” and want to overthrow AK, claims the prime minister. Millions of voters unwilling to risk a decade of economic prosperity under AK apparently believe him. The flow of leaked recordings has stopped since the election. Mr. Erdogan now vows to crush Mr. Gulen’s network of international schools and universities abroad: Gambia has caved in to AK pressure, but the Iraqi Kurds have politely refused. None of this helps Turkey’s image.”

Remember this article was published in April of 2014 over two years ago.

This pretty much explains why Erdogan has dismissed some 2,745 judges and prosecutors after the Army’s coup attempt was quashed.  He is ensuring that the post-coup attempt era will not hinder or constrain his rule.  Such actions take Turkey more distance down the road towards one-man, strong-armed rule.  It’s really as simple as this.  
Erdogan’s request that the United States extradite Imam Gulen for his complicity in the attempted coup, is simply an attempt to indict “foreign influences” as having caused the coup.  This is, of course, the time tested meme to deflect from the actual roots of discontent, in this case, Erdogan’s recent Islamification of Turkey.  In Latin America the hue and cry over coup attempts was “foreign influence,” nearly always directed towards the united States, which, in historical hindsight had some legitimacy.  But in this case, while Gulen might have been successful in fomenting anti-Erdogan sentiment and perhaps even financing anti-Erdogan activities, that he was actually the force majeure behind the Army’s coup attempt, seems far fetched.
Clearly, Erdogan will consolidate – has already consolidated – his power over the Turkish government and the Turkish people.  The impacts on the U.S.?  As a NATO member (Turkey has the second largest military after the U.S. among NATO nations) the U.S. has a long standing relationship with Turkey with U.S. bases there, today a key element in the war against ISIS.  While there is no possibility of the U.S. handing Gulen over to Erdogan, it’s this diplomatic effort rather than any internal shakeup of Turkey’s power structure (Erdogan has already won that battle) it will be how seriously Erdogan pursues this avenue.  And it’s quite possible that he will since blaming an outside force will be a very powerful and very popular theme for his supporters thereby shoring up his control. 
How all of this works out in the end is anybody’s guess at this moment.  But as the U.S. has reluctantly supported the military regime of  Egypt’s Sisi, we are likely to continue to support Erdogan despite his rightward swing towards religiosity and tighter control over the entire Turkish government and the military.  Our stakes in Syria and the Middle East are far too important and strategically vital to turn away from Turkey.  What remains to be seen, howver, is how Erdogan and the Turkish people respond to his claims of U.S. complicity in the attempted coup.  The U.S., however, cannot afford to loose Turkey as an ally.

Should be interesting.


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