The Turkish armed forces’ attempt to overthrow the authoritarian rule of President Tayyip Erdogan was largely extinguished Saturday morning July 16 after less than 24 hours – due to three major miscalculations:
1. They first seized the country’s power centers and state television when their first priority should have been to immobilize Erdogan who was out of the capital on vacation.
2. Although out of control in Ankara and Istanbul, he used his mobile phone to reassert his authority through a private television station and called on the people to take to the streets in protest against the plotters. Civilians responded by surrounding the tanks and tying them down until loyal troops moved in.
3. They relied too heavily on the air force to cow the regime, the jets zooming low over the two main cities while the two main airports were closed. It was soon evident that control of Turkey’s skies was no guarantee of control of the ground. Indeed, the coup leaders did not prevent him from landing at Ataturk airport and declaring immediately that he was in charge, demonstrating that he was on top of events,
in the clashes that followed, Gen. Umit Dundar, the newly appointed acting chief of the general staff, said more than 190 people died in clashes: 41 police officers, two soldiers, 47 civilians and 104 people described as ‘‘coup plotters.’’ Dundar said officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units were mainly involved in the attempt.
At the same, the attempt by part of the Turkish armed forces to topple Erdogan in the name of democracy and the return of ‘secular law’ was impressive and evidence of social and political malaise under his rule. It was led by at least half a dozen generals, as may be judged the arrest of Gen. Memduh Hakbilen, the chief of staff of Turkey's command for the important Aegean region, among the more than 1,500 alleged plotters and the suspension of another five generals.
That elements of the air force joined the attempted uprising is unprecedented in Turkey, whose army is NATO’s second largest.
Erdogan will no doubt want to know why his MIT intelligence failed to scent the conspiracy afoot. He will certainly lose no time in executing a massive purge of Turkey’s armed forces, and especially the air force and intelligence arms, after accusing the coup leaders of treason.
debkafile followed the coup bid from the start:
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted by large crowds at Istanbul's main airport early Saturday, as forces loyal to him battled to fend off a military coup that left at least 42 reported killed and dozens more injured.
In a press conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said the architects of the coup attempt would "pay a heavy price" and vowed he would "not surrender this country to intruders." Government “is at the helm”’ he said.
Despite claims by multiple Turkish government officials that the takeover attempt had been repelled, reports of ongoing fighting indicated that the authorities did not have full control of the situation.
All Turkish airports are closed and a nationwide curfew was imposed as a section of the armed forces claimed to have taken the country over. It is not clear if this coup has succeeded. The coup leaders have seized national television and the phone network. Gunfire was heard in Ankara and military jets flew low over Ankara and Istanbul where the bridges over the Bosphorus were blocked. The situation appeared fluid as Erdogan in his first response told a local news service that a minority in the army had tried to remove the government and would face retaliation. Speaking from an unknown situation, he said he would soon return to the capital.
In Istanbul, Turkish Gendarmerie and soldiers blocked entrances to bridges over the Bosphorus while tanks blocked Ataturk airport. A TV announcer read out a statement saying that a ‘peace committee’ had taken over the country against autocratic rule and will write a new constitution restoring democracy, whose institutions have been eroded by autocratic rule, and restore secular law.
According to unconfirmed reports Turkish generals are being held hostage at Istanbul HQ, including the chief of staff. This indicates the coup was staged by junior officers. Much depends on the response of the intelligence service and army units loyal to the president including the presidential guard.