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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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Some Russian monarchists want Tsar Vladimir Putin

Latest news from Russian monarchists highlight the debate over bringing the Russian Empire back to life in modern times.

Seraphim Hanisch

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A December 13 report in The Wall Street Journal shone light on a notion that has been afoot in the Russian Federation since the fall of Communism in 1991 – the restoration of the Monarchy as the form of government, complete with a new Tsar of all the Russias.

Of course, some of these monarchists have a top contender in mind for that post, none other than President Vladimir Putin himself.

This idea has long been used in a pejorative light in the West, as various shadowy and not-so-shadowy elements in the American media speculated over the years that Mr. Putin was actually aspiring to become Tsar. This was thrown around until probably the time that the Russian president spoke, lamenting the fall of Communism, and since then the prime accusation has been that President Putin wants to bring back the Soviet Union.

This is not true. It also does not appear to be the case that the Russian president wants to be Tsar. But the monarchists are not fazed in the slightest. Here is excerpted material from the WSJ piece, with emphases added:

The last time term limits forced Russian leader Vladimir Putin to step down from the presidency, he became prime minister for a few years.

This time around, a group of pro-Kremlin activists have a different idea: Proclaim him Czar Vladimir.

“We will do everything possible to make sure Putin stays in power as long as possible,” Konstantin Malofeyev, a politically active businessman, said recently to thunderous applause from hundreds of Russian Orthodox priests and members of the country’s top political parties gathered at a conference outside Moscow. They were united by one cause—to return the monarchy to Russia…

Even among those who want a monarchy, however, there are splits over what kind it should be. Is an absolute monarchy better than a constitutional monarchy? Should a blood line be established or should the czar be elected? For those who favor male succession, would it be a problem that Mr. Putin reportedly only has two daughters? Some have even suggested others besides Mr. Putin should accede to the throne.

There is a very keen interest indeed among some in Russia that propose various options as to who might best become Tsar in the event that the Monarchy is restored.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and his mother, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, together with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Department of External Relations

One candidate that has received significant attention is a man by the name of George Mikhailovich Romanov. He is an actual member of the Royal family, the heir apparent to Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, Grand Duchess of Russia. There are other heir apparents as well, and the issue as to who it should be has not been settled among the surviving members of the Romanov family.

The restoration of the Russian monarchy is unique because to carries strong religious significance. As far back as the 8th and 9th centuries, A.D., a host of saints and prophets appear to have foreseen the advent of the Soviet times and the restoration of the Tsar after their conclusion.

Some such prophecies are attributed to anonymous sources, but some are named. Here are two with rather extensive editing, so please go to the site linked for the fullest description of the prophecies.

Monk Abel the Prophet (+1831).

In a conversation with Tsar Paul I (+1801), after prophesying the destinies of all the Tsars from Paul I to Nicholas II:

“What is impossible for man is possible for God. God delays with His help, but it is said that He will give it soon and will raise the horn of Russian salvation. And there will arise a great prince from your race in exile, who stands for the sons of his people. He will be a chosen one of God, and on his head will be blessing. He will be the only one comprehensible to all, the very heart of Russia will sense him. His appearance will be sovereign and radiant, and nobody will say: ‘The Tsar is here or there’, but all will say: ‘That is him’. The will of the people will submit to the mercy of God, and he himself will confirm his calling. His name has occurred three times in Russian history. Two of the same name have already been on the throne, but not on the Tsar’s throne. But he will sit on the Tsar’s throne as the third. In him will be the salvation and happiness of the Russian realm.”

“Russian hopes will be realized upon [the cathedral of Hagia] Sophia in Tsargrad [Constantinople]; the Orthodox Cross will gleam again; Holy Rus will be filled with the smoke of incense and prayer, and will blossom like a heavenly lily.”

And from one of the most famous saints in Russian history:

St. John of Kronstadt (+1908):

“I foresee the restoration of a powerful Russia, still stronger and mightier than before. On the bones of these martyrs, remember, as on a strong foundation, will the new Russia we built – according to the old model; strong in her faith in Christ God and in the Holy Trinity! And there will be, in accordance with the covenant of the holy Prince Vladimir, a single Church! Russian people have ceased to understand what Rus is: it is the footstool of the Lord’s Throne! The Russian person must understand this and thank God that he is Russian.”

“The Church will remain unshaken to the end of the age, and a Monarch of Russia, if he remains faithful to the Orthodox Church, will be established on the Throne of Russia until the end of the age.”

What may surprise those in the West is that there are a great many people in Russia and in Orthodox Christian countries in general who take these prophecies quite seriously.

Interestingly enough, when the idea of restoring the monarchy was brought to President Putin’s attention, he regarded the idea as “beautiful” according to Lt. General Leonid Reshetnikov, but also expressed concern that it would lead to stagnation within the country.

A second statement, this one by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, noted that President Putin does not like the idea of bringing back the monarchy, but offered no comment on the conversation with Mr. Reshetnikov.

The idea of restoring the monarchy is not completely absurd. Britain overthrew its own monarchy in 1649 during that country’s Civil War, but it was restored shortly afterwards under King Charles II. Spain cast aside its monarchy in 1931, with its king, Alfonso XIII going into exile, but after sixteen years this monarchy, too, was restored.

Both of these monarchies have become largely ceremonial, with most governing functions carried out through some kind of Parliament and Prime Minister. It is therefore not clear what a ruling monarchy in Russia would look like.

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US confirms pullout from INF treaty, Moscow will respond if missiles placed in Europe – deputy FM

Moscow will respond to possible attempts to place short and intermediate range nuclear-capable missiles in Europe if the US decides to go on with this plan.

RT

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Via RT…


Washington has confirmed its decision to withdraw from the INF treaty is final, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said, adding that Moscow will ‘take measures’ if American missiles that threaten its security are placed in Europe.

“Washington publicly announced its plans to withdraw from the treaty (the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) already in October. Through the high-level bilateral channels it was confirmed to us that this decision was final and wasn’t an attempt to initiate dialogue,” Sergey Ryabkov told the Kommersant newspaper.

The Deputy FM said that Moscow will respond to possible attempts to place short and intermediate range nuclear-capable missiles in Europe if the US decides to go on with this plan.

“We’ll be forced to come up with effective compensating measures. I’d like to warn against pushing the situation towards the eruption of new ‘missile crises.’ I am convinced that no sane country could be interested in something like this,” he said.

Russia isn’t threatening anybody, but have the necessary strength and means to counter any aggressor.
Back in October, President Donald Trump warned that Washington was planning unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty because “Russia has not adhered to the agreement.” The US leader also promised that the country would keep boosting its nuclear arsenal until Russia and China “come to their senses.”

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington will suspend its obligations under the treaty within 60 days if Russia does not “return to compliance.”

Signed in late 1988, the INF agreement was considered a milestone in ending the arms race between the US and the USSR.

In recent years, Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other of violating the INF deal. While the US has alleged that Russia has developed missiles prohibited by the treaty, Russia insists that the American anti-missile systems deployed in Eastern Europe can actually be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles.

The deputy FM said that Washington “never made a secret” of the fact that its INF treaty pullout “wasn’t so much about problems between the US and Russia, but about the desire of the Americans to get rid of all restrictions that were inconvenient for them.”

The US side expressed belief that the INF deal “significantly limits the US military’s capabilities to counter states with arsenals of medium-range and shorter-range ground-based missiles,” which threaten American interests, he said. “China, Iran and North Korea” were specifically mentioned by Washington, Ryabkov added.

“I don’t think that we’re talking about a new missile crisis, but the US plans are so far absolutely unclear,” Mikhail Khodarenok, retired colonel and military expert, told RT, reminding that the Americans have avoided any type of “meaningful discussion” with Moscow in regards to its INF deal pullout.

While “there’ll be no deployment of [US missiles] in Europe any time soon,” Moscow should expect that Washington would try to void other agreements with Russia as well, Khodarenok warned.

The INF deal “just stopped being beneficial for the US. Next up are all the other arms control treaties. There’ll be no resistance from the NATO allies [to US actions],” he said.

“The neocons who run Trump’s foreign policy never have liked arms reduction treaties,” former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT. “The new START treaty which comes up for renewal also could be in jeopardy.”

“The risk of a new nuclear buildup is really quite obvious” if the US withdrawals from the INF treaty, Dan Smith, the director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told RT.

“I think the relations between the great powers – the US and Russia as well as the US and China – are more difficult than they’ve been for a long time,” he added.

However, with Washington having indicated that it wants China to be part of the new deal, “there are still possibilities for negotiations and agreement,” according to Smith. Nonetheless, he warned that following this path will demand strong political will and tactical thinking from the leadership of all three countries.

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US Pressures Germany To Ditch Huawei Over ‘Security Concerns’

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

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Via Zerohedge


First it was Australia, New Zealand and Japan, now the US is pressing the German government to refuse to use equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as Europe’s largest economy seeks to build out its 5G infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, a US delegation met on Friday with German Foreign Ministry officials in Berlin to talk about the security risks presented by Huawei’s equipment, which the US says is vulnerable to spying. The meeting in Germany follows a report from late last month claiming the US had launched an “extraordinary outreach campaign” to warn its allies against using Huawei equipment (while its vulnerability to Chinese spying has been cited as the reason to avoid Huawei, it’s also worth noting that the US and China are locked in a battle for who will dominate the global 5G space…a battle that Huawei is currently winning).

Germany is set to hold an auction early next year to find a supplier to help expand its 5G network. The Berlin meeting took place one day after Deutsche Telekom said it would reexamine its decision to use Huawei equipment.

US officials are optimistic that their warnings are getting a hearing, though any detailed talks are in early stages and no concrete commitments have been made, according to one of the people.

The US pressure on Germany underscores increased scrutiny of Huawei as governments grapple with fears that the telecom-equipment maker’s gear is an enabler for Chinese espionage. The Berlin meeting took place a day after German carrier Deutsche Telekom AG said it will re-evaluate its purchasing strategy on Huawei, an indication that it may drop the Chinese company from its list of network suppliers.

France is also reportedly considering further restrictions after adding Huawei products to its “high alert” list. The US has already passed a ban preventing government agencies from using anything made by Huawei. But the telecoms equipment provider isn’t taking these threats to its business lying down.

U.S. warnings over espionage are a delicate matter in Germany. Revelations over the scale of the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence, including reports of tapping Merkel’s mobile phone, are still fresh in Berlin five years after they came to light.

Huawei is pushing back against the accusations. The company’s rotating chairman warned this week that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt the emergence of new wireless technology globally. Ken Hu, speaking at a Huawei manufacturing base in Dongguan, cited “groundless speculation,” in some of the first public comments since the shock arrest of the company’s chief financial officer.

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. In an editorial published Sunday, the Global Times, an English-language mouthpiece for the Communist Party, warned that China should retaliate against any country that – like Australia – takes a hard line against Huawei. So, if you’re a German citizen in Beijing, you might want to consider getting the hell out of Dodge.

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