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The risks of speculation: Turkey’s coup that wasn’t

More than two weeks after Turkey’s dramatic failed coup, what exactly happened remains shrouded in mystery leaving only speculation that has hardened into “fact” in the absence of convincing evidence.

Joe Lauria

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Two main theories have emerged: The first is that this was yet another in a long line of CIA-backed coups. The other is that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan either staged or let the coup happen to give him the opportunity to consolidate his rule through a vicious and ongoing purge of his perceived enemies.

The first theory has now passed into the realm of “fact” because some commentators unquestioningly accept that the CIA tried to remove Erdogan for suddenly seeking to repair relations with Russia, Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad is a man Erdogan has squandered substantial political capital trying to overthrow for five years.

This theory asserts the failed coup was a “victory against the U.S. empire” because Erdogan has defied Washington by suddenly moving Turkey into the multipolar camp with a view towards Eurasian union, rather than the European Union.

“Suddenly” is the key word. What led to Erdogan’s apparent about-face? His Syria policy of supporting ISIS and opposing Damascus, Moscow and Teheran completely blew up in his face. He failed to overthrow Assad. Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane damaged Turkey’s economy. ISIS turned on him, attacking Ataturk Airport. He was on the ropes. Erdogan is a supreme survivor. He’ll switch enemies and friends on a dime if need be. He’s proven no loyalty but to himself.

Tactical or Strategic?

For the moment, Erdogan’s shift instead appears to be a short-term, tactical, move, to ensure his survival. Time will tell whether it is also strategic. It’s too early to declare he’s turned his back on the U.S., NATO and the EU and joined the multipolar world. I doubt Moscow, Tehran and Damascus fully trust Erdogan’s overtures as a long-term commitment, willing as they are to feel him out.

The Turkish government, though not Erdogan himself, has blamed the U.S. for the coup. A hardline conservative newspaper that backs Erdogan, Yeni Şafak, has even named U.S. General John F. Campbell as “one of the top figures who organized and managed the soldiers behind the failed coup attempt,” citing “sources close to ongoing legal process” against those arrested for the coup. It said Campbell “managed’ more than $2 billion to pay for the coup through CIA links with UBA Bank in Nigeria.

Without named sources or documentary evidence, which covert operations by their nature rarely yield, it’s easy to blame the CIA. In this case, the speculation rests on two assumptions, the first is the supposed U.S. reaction to Erdogan’s pivot East. But as Phil Giraldi, a former CIA agent stationed in Turkey, has pointed out the coup plotters and other Erdogan opponents hated his Syria policy and would welcome his rapprochement with Assad and a move East.

The coup’s motive may have instead been to stop Erdogan, who sees a Sultan in the mirror, from continuing his march to one-man rule. The coup leaders called themselves the Peace Council, claiming they wanted to restore democracy and overthrow a tyrant who is ruling unconstitutionally. (Erdogan is already ruling as though Turkey has changed to presidential system, though the referendum he wants hasn’t yet been held.)

The “Terrorists”

The second assumption is that Erdogan’s arch-enemy, the Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen who Erdogan blames for masterminding the coup, is a CIA asset running a “terrorist” organization. Erdogan calls anyone who disagrees with him a “terrorist”: academics, journalists, Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament. I’m surprised he hasn’t called Pope Francis a terrorist for calling Armenia a genocide.

The only evidence offered connecting Gülen with the CIA is a letter written by Graham Fuller, a former CIA agent once posted in Turkey, in support of Gülen’s 2006 U.S. green card application. Fuller himself has condemned the coup and his blog is often highly critical of U.S. Middle East policy.

Gülen communicates daily to his followers around the world in sermons viewed over the internet. These as well as his other communications must be monitored by the Turkish government. Evidence that would stand up in a U.S. court of Gülen ordering the coup is what Washington would need in Erdogan’s frantic extradition request for Gülen. The quality of that evidence could determine whether Gülen was behind the coup. Of course, if you already believe the CIA did it, you won’t believe what a U.S. court says.

Even without proof, it can’t be ruled out that military men inspired by Gülen may have been involved (with secular Kemalists). But Gülenists have been more numerous in the police than the military.

I was the first American reporter to interview Gülen, when I visited him in his Pennsylvania compound in 2010. I’ve studied the group the past six years, getting to know dozens of his followers, visiting schools in the U.S, Turkey and elsewhere. In my research, I have been on the inside living with his followers while teaching English at one of the schools. Religion is not taught. It is not in the curriculum. The idea that these are jihadist madrases, or that Gülenists are extremists or terrorists is beyond absurd as anyone who knows them will attest. One such person is John Esposito of Georgetown University, one of America’s leading experts on Islam. In this video interview, Esposito calls Gülen’s a “pluralistic” movement “unique” to Islam.

Though I disagree with Gülen on certain things, notably his lack of criticism of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, it is ludicrous to accept Erdogan’s branding of his followers as terrorists. The Gülenists have no political party. It is a social movement that does however seek to influence Turkey’s political direction. They were almost certainly behind the leaked audio of Erdogan telephone calls exposing his corruption in a real estate deal. The New York Times reported that my interview with Gülen, in which he took Israel’s side in the Mavi Marmara incident, led to the first open breech in the uneasy alliance between Gülen and Erdogan. The leaked telephone calls were the last straw. Erdogan fired and arrested policemen and judges who dared investigate the corruption allegations.

In response to the coup attempt, Erdogan has shut down every Gülen-affiliated institution in Turkey by decree, including thousands of schools, foundations and charities. He finished the job of shutting down all of its media properties.

“A Gift From God”

In all, 60,000 people in the military, civil service, judiciary and academia, who couldn’t possibly have all been involved with the coup, have either lost their jobs or been arrested in Erdogan’s ruthless retaliation. Amnesty International says some have been tortured. Worse for the coup plotters, their gambit has fortified his mounting absolute rule, which brings us to the other theory: that Erdogan either staged or allowed the coup to happen. Gülen himself alleges it was staged. His followers name an Erdogan-loyal general, Mehmet Disli, who they claim gave the order to start the coup.

Because Erdogan knew of the coup hours before, there is a stronger possibility that he let it happen to smoke out disloyal officers, confident his handpicked brass would crush it. They may have played along with the coup and then double-crossed the coup leaders once it was underway. It would be a seriously amateurish attempt to go ahead without the consent of the top military leadership.

Erdogan seized the chance the coup afforded him, which he himself called “a gift from God,” to solidify his rule over Turkey like a Gulf monarch, while accruing international support and even sympathy.

Erdogan’s Rise to Power

At this point we need to step back a moment and look at Erdogan’s slow rise to power and how he took control of a hostile, secular military. Erdogan deceived plenty of people in Turkey, but especially in the West. He was seen as the leader of a model Islamic democracy who would put the military under civilian control.

Erdogan’s AKP party is essentially part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammad Morsi named his Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood party after Erdogan’s—The Justice and Development Party. The Brotherhood’s strategy is to gain power through elections and then gradually implement an Islamist agenda, as opposed to attempting to seize power violently like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State—like the Mensheviks, rather than the Bolsheviks.

I took part with a small group of reporters interviewing Erdogan at the United Nations in New York in 2009. At the time his strategy of getting the Turkish military out of politics, in which they had intervened in four coups seemed convincing. He sought to root out the Ergenekon underground network of organized crime, military and intelligence officers in the Turkish Deep State in a move that appeared to be in favor of civilian-led democracy.

But as the Turkish opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the People’s Republican Party (CHP), told me in a one-on-one interview in Washington in 2014, Erdogan arrested the wrong people supposedly involved in the Ergenekon conspiracy. Many innocent people were falsely charged at a time the Gülenists supported the move to get the military out of politics.

In fact Erdogan was cleverly replacing the brass with his own military men and seized control of the Deep State. His actions, especially after the failed coup, show that democracy has not been his motive.

Would the CIA have organized a coup without the support of the top brass? Would the CIA have moved so quickly on what might just be a short-term tactical shift by Erdogan? Were Gülenists involved in the coup or was it Erdogan’s version of the Reichstag fire? These are questions that may never be answered leaving us mired in speculation—a poor substitute for the facts.

Joe Lauria is a freelance journalist who has been published extensively in some the top media outlets over the past 25 years.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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