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Why the US Almost Certainly Was Not Involved in the Turkish Coup

All the indications suggest the US had no part in the coup. However Erdogan and the Turkish government think otherwise and it is their opinion which matters.

Alexander Mercouris

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As relations between Turkey and Russia improve following the coup, relations between Turkey and its erstwhile Western allies – the US and EU – are deteriorating rapidly, with claims in Turkey that the US was involved in the recent coup.  That in turn opens up the question of whether the US was actually involved in the coup and if so to what degree.

Before discussing the question it is important to say that the answer so far as Turkey itself is concerned may no longer matter.  The conviction appears to be taking hold in Turkey – including amongst some members of its government and with Erdogan himself – that the US was in some way behind the coup.  That in itself will be enough to cause relations between the US and Turkey to become strained.  In international politics very often it is what people believe rather than what is true that most matters.

Was the US however behind the coup?

The first thing to say is that at this stage we simply do not know.   The information that would enable us to say for sure is simply not there.  The investigation of the coup is still at a very early stage.  Coup plotters are still being rounded up and questioned, and paper and electronic trails are still being followed up.  It will take months or even years before trials follow – if they ever do – and before we start to get definite answers to the questions like the one about the extent, if any, of US involvement in the coup.

The second thing to say is that when people talk about a coup being US backed they are using a blanket term that covers different things.  There are coups in which the US is not initially involved but which it backs after they succeed (eg. the coup which overthrew the Argentinian dictator Juan Peron in 1955).  There are coups of which the US has foreknowledge and to which it gives the green light (eg. the Vietnamese coup against President Diem of 1963, the Brazilian coup of 1964 and the Turkish coup of 1980); and lastly there are the coups which the US actively orders and organises (eg. the coup in Iran in 1953 and – despite continued US denials – the coup against President Allende of Chile in 1973).  All these coups are in a sense “US backed” but they clearly fall into different categories.

There is no doubt that if the coup against Erdogan had succeeded the US would have backed it after the event, just as in 1955 it backed after the event the coup that overthrew Peron, and to that extent it is legitimate to say that if the coup had succeeded it would have been US backed. 

The US has no love of Erdogan, who is far too independent minded for its tastes, and would certainly not have regretted his passing.  Besides the US would not want to sacrifice its longstanding relationship with the Turkish military and compromise its position in Turkey – a key NATO ally – by refusing to back a Turkish military government installed by a coup that had succeeded.  After a few muffled statements of concern and some token sanctions the US would have quickly come to terms with the new coup-installed government, whilst the Western media would by now be full of stories of what an unbalanced, authoritarian, corrupt and dangerous leader Erdogan was and why it was a blessing – and a true expression of democracy – that the Turkish military had acted to remove him.

What evidence however is there that the US either gave the green light for the coup or actually ordered it?  Briefly, at this stage there is none, and everything we know about the situation in Turkey before the coup and about US policy towards Turkey makes it very unlikely.

The US has very extensive and very longstanding links with the Turkish military.  Some of the military officers who were involved in the coup were based at the giant air base in Incirlik, which is the single most important US military facility in Turkey.  It seems that even the Turkish commander of the base was involved in the coup.  It would therefore have been easy for the coup plotters to tip the US off about their plans for a coup, presumably in order to make sure the coup had US backing, and that is what many people think happened.  What evidence is there however that it actually did?  Again the answer is that there is none, and the facts show that it is very unlikely.

The coup plotters would presumably only have tipped the US off if they had been confident of US support.  As it happens in every case I know where the US has given the green light for a coup there have been weeks or even months of intense discussions between the US and the military officials discussing the coup before it takes place.  That was true in Vietnam in 1963, in Brazil in 1964 and in Turkey in 1980. 

In all of those cases the US was willing to support the coup because it was reasonably confident it would succeed.  Would the US have been equally sure the recent coup attempt in Turkey would succeed given Erdogan’s popularity with so many of Turkey’s people and with its business community, and given that Erdogan has the powerful support of the Mosque and of Turkey’s intelligence agencies and of most of its police?  Would the US not rather be worried that if the coup failed – as it might easily do – its whole position in Turkey (a key NATO ally with by far the biggest army in NATO after the US) would be disastrously compromised if it became known it was involved?  Would the US be willing to take that sort of risk by colluding in a coup which might easily fail?

It is not as if the reasons for backing a coup look particularly compelling.  It is true that in the days immediately prior to the coup Erdogan had taken steps to patch up his relations with Russia.  However, as I have explained previously, there would simply not have been enough time to organise a coup in the time available since those steps were taken.

Besides would Erdogan’s fence mending moves towards Russia really have sufficed to make the US want to overthrow him?  If there is one thing one can say about Erdogan it is that he is unpredictable.  He has at various times been Putin’s friend and Putin’s enemy, just as he was once Assad’s best friend only to become Assad’s greatest and most dangerous enemy.  He was also once Israel’s enemy but is now becoming Israel’s friend. 

Only a few months ago there was worried talk of an armed clash between Turkey and Russia, with credible reports of the Russians warning they would use tactical nuclear weapons if Erdogan ordered the Turkish military to attack their forces in Syria.   

How in light of this record could the US be sure that any rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia would be for real?  Given the history of bad blood between Erdogan and Russia, would it not have made far better sense for the US to wait until Erdogan and Russia fell out again – as many before the coup expected them to do – rather than take the extraordinary risk of backing a coup to remove him when there was a serious risk that it might fail?

Would a rapprochement between Erdogan and Russia anyway justify a coup?  Though Erdogan was making moves to mend his fences with Russia, he never before the coup questioned Turkey’s loyalty to NATO.  At NATO’s recent Warsaw Summit he co-signed the appalling NATO Declaration branding Russia an aggressor and he has staunchly supported the US regime change policy in Syria.  He even recently expressed regret for Turkey’s failure to support the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

Whatever view the US has of Erdogan, he was hardly before the coup a disloyal ally, and it is difficult to see why his very tentative moves to patch up relations with Russia would in themselves have made the US want to overthrow him.  On the contrary, if it is true that the conflict between Turkey and Russia over Syria during the winter became so bad that the Russians felt obliged to give Erdogan a nuclear warning, then the US might well have looked upon the limited  rapprochement underway between Turkey and Russia with a measure of relief.

Last but not least, would a coup in Turkey, even if it had succeeded, really serve US interests?  Would it not be far more likely to destabilise Turkey further, with much of the population bitterly resenting the overthrow of a democratically elected and popular President?  Turkey already faces multiple security threats from violent jihadists, from its large Kurdish majority and – potentially – from its large Alevi community, which is known to be unhappy with Turkey’s role in the war in Syria. Is this a good time to add to the instability by overthrowing the country’s democratically elected, constitutional and popular government?  Might that not risk a civil conflict or even a civil war in a country whose cohesion and stability is vital to the Western alliance?

I would add at this point that any US decision to give the green light to the coup would definitely have needed Obama’s approval.  Given the stakes involved it is inconceivable that any US official or agency would have acted without the President’s approval.  In all the previous US backed coups which I have discussed US officials were careful to keep the President informed and to consult him in advance.  Would Obama in the last months of his Presidency, at a time when he gives every impression of wanting to avoid an international crisis so as to secure his legacy and give Hillary Clinton a clear run to the White House, really risk a colossal crisis in a country like Turkey? Would he not have acted instead immediately to squelch the whole crazy idea, just as he has acted to squelch far less crazy ideas for interventions in places like Syria and Ukraine?

Overall, despite what some say, I simply do not see in Erdogan’s moves towards the Russians grounds for the US to take the gigantic – indeed existential – risk of backing a coup to remove him.  Those moves were tentative and carried out within definite limits and did not compromise the US’s position in any fundamental way, whilst the risks involved in backing a coup against him were so enormous as to make it crazy to have done it.

In summary, though it would have been possible for the coup plotters to tip the US off about the coup on balance I think it is very unlikely that they did, precisely because if they had I am sure the US would have told them that it strongly opposed it. In that case it would surely have been impossible for the coup to have taken place.

I suspect the coup plotters knew this perfectly well, which is why they almost certainly did not tell the US about the coup before it happened.

All the same arguments obviously hold true to an even greater degree against any scenario that involves the US actually instigating the coup.  Would the US really have taken the extraordinary risks of planning a coup against the popular leader of a key NATO ally when there were no compelling reasons to do so? Would Turkish army officers really have put their lives and reputations on the line to carry out US orders in such a case?  I can certainly see why they might have risked everything in a coup against someone like Erdogan if they thought they were doing it for their own reasons.  Would they however have done it simply because the US ordered them to?

Before leaving this subject there are two further points I do however want to make.

The first is that my whole case obviously depends on the assumption of at least a measure of rationality on the part of Obama and his officials.  Against that I have to accept that US policy in recent years has become increasingly detached from reality.  Indeed I have written about this at length.  However if US policy makers really are now so detached from reality that they took the frankly crazy step of instigating or colluding in a coup against Erdogan in Turkey, then they are much crazier and more dangerous, and the situation in the world is far worse and far more dangerous, than up to now I or I suspect anyone else has suspected.  It really would be a case in that case of us needing to reach for our fallout shelters.  Fortunately everything we know about the coup suggests otherwise.

My second point concerns the Gulen movement.  Erdogan and his government blamed the Gulen movement for the coup whilst it was actually underway, and have continued to do so since. 

I have previously expressed my doubts about this.  The statements of the coup plotters suggest a Kemalist secular ideology far removed from that of the Gulen movement.  I frankly doubt that the Gulen movement’s penetration of the Turkish state and military can have been so extensive as to enable it to carry out a coup of this sort.

Discussion of the Gulen movement’s exact role in the coup has however diverted attention from the far more interesting question of what it actually is.  No-one so far as I know has explained how Fetlhullah Gulen, a self-exiled scholar and cleric, has managed single-handedly to create the massive organisation that the Gulen movement has become. 

Whilst it seems that Gulen does enjoy some support from the Turkish business community and from Turkey’s Deep State, the most obvious explanation is that he has been able to build up his organisation because he has US backing.  The US after all is the country where he is based and where he lives.  The ideology of the Gulen movement makes it appear rather like the sort of religious based anti-communist pro-business and pro-free market movements the US actively sponsored in order to defeat Communism during the Cold War.  It would not surprise me if the US as part of its “soft power” policies used Gulen to set up that sort of organisation in Turkey to mould opinion there, and possibly also in other neighbouring states under Turkish influence.

If that is correct then it is at least possible that Gulen is a US intelligence asset, in which case that fact is likely to be well known amongst political insiders in Turkey. 

In that case Erdogan’s constant criticisms of the “parallel state” Gulen supposedly runs in Turkey should be understood as coded criticism of the US and its role in Turkey.  Certainly that is how they look to me.

If so, then going back to my original point, it hardly matters anymore in relation to the situation within Turkey whether the US really was involved in the coup or not.  Whilst I think it is very unlikely it was, Erdogan’s comments about the Gulen movement show he thinks it was.  Needless to say it is what Erdogan thinks not what I think that matters, irrespective of which of us is right.

That does not mean that the question of whether or not the US was involved in the coup is not important.  On the contrary it is very important because its likely non-involvement will effect the way the US responds to whatever Erdogan is now going to do.  The nature of that reaction will however depend on Erdogan’s moves, which will become clear over the course of the next few weeks.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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