This article has been written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/syria-and-the-coup-in-turkey/
This week has been marked by two major events: the USA and Russia agreed to a common plan for military coordination in Syria and the failed coup in Turkey has been followed by a massive purge of the Turkish elites.
The Russians had really no option but to accept to work with the USA in Syria. They way in which they did it was very elegant, however: Lavrov and Kerry have agreed to a joint long-term ceasefire whose exact terms are to remain secret, which indicates to me that the Russians forced the US into concessions which the latter don’t want to be made public. How do we know that it was Russian who forced concessions on the USA and not the other way around? Simple – there was no US “leak” to the media and the Russian bombers have resumed their operation with a new intensity. Besides, it is pretty obvious that in Syria at least Moscow holds all the cards now and Kerry has therefore no means to put pressure on Russia even if he wanted to.
But the main development for Syria is still the coup in Turkey.
What happened in Turkey is huge. So big, in fact, that I even suspect that the numerous rumors about an Erdogan-orchestrated false flag could have been started by the US propaganda machine (since when to even mainstream media outlets even discuss false flags?). Not everybody bought into the false flag theory, not Sibel Edmonds and not M. K. Bhadrakumar. Not only did these two reject the false flag theory, they also explained in detail the role of the USA in this coup. To their testimony I can only add that I have been contacted by several well-informed readers from countries neighboring Turkey who have also told me that at least a “faction” inside the USA has had advance knowledge of the coup.
There are now reports that Russia also had advanced warning and that Putin personally warned Erdogan. I won’t repost the full FARS article here, but I strongly recommend reading it: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950430001452
If all of the above is true, that might also explain why some have sincerely felt that this might have been a false flag. If the Russians really did warn Erdogan, then his best move would have been to let the coup begin to unmask all the conspirators and their sympathizers and only then to crack down on them.
The magnitude of the purge in Turkey is nothing short of amazing: Erdogan is clearly engaged on a massive and brutal campaign to ruthlessly purge entire social classes which he perceives, probably correctly, as hostile to his rule. So while we can rejoice that a US-backed coup has failed, we should have no illusions about how is now in power in Turkey: a ruthless and unpredictable megalomaniac who should never, ever, be trusted.
There are, however, objective reasons to also welcome these developments.
First and foremost, the Turkish military is now being decapitated and it will be in no condition whatsoever to try to crush the Kurdish resistance or, even less so, to invade northern Syria.
Second, Erdogan and Daesh are apparently on a collision course (the official Turkish version is that they did the airport bombing) and that means that Daesh lost a key supporter.
Third, now that the Turkish threat has been neutralized for the foreseeable future (5 years at least), Russia is in a much better position to deal with the Takfiri crazies in Syria and with their Wahabi backers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Fourth, there is a non-trivial possibility that Turkey will now openly declare the US/NATO/EU as an enemy of the regime. Not only is the USA harboring the CIA-controlled Gulen, but it turns out that some of the aircraft involved in the coup took off from Incirlik. Considering that Incirlik is basically US-run, this means that the US fingerprints are all over the coup. Right now Erdogan is still too weak to take on the US and NATO, but if he succeeds in completely purging his enemies from the centers of power in Turkey, I would not put it past him to simply leave NATO completely. This is not likely, only possible, but should that happen that would be a formidable loss for the Empire.
Fifth, there are interesting conversations taking place in the public debate in Russia. Zhirinovski, who is often used by the Kremlin to “test the waters” for various Kremlin-backed ideas, is now suggesting that Russia should form a trilateral military alliance with Iran and Turkey. Again, there are many formidable obstacles to overcome before anything like that happens but, again, this is now at least possible (maybe not an alliance, but some kind of cooperation is likely)
Sixth, for the Syrian government the failed coup is quite literally God-sent. Not that Assad and Erdogan will ever have a love-fest again, but Assad must now realize that his most formidable adversary has now been neutered and that this completely changes the strategic dynamic of the war for the liberation of Syria from the Takfiris. Add to this the agreement between Russia and the USA which, however insincere and temporary, at least precludes a direct US attack on Syria (as demanded by the 51 Neocon crazies at Foggy Bottom). Add to this the very real possibility that Trump will be in the White House next year and I would suggest that, all in all, things sure look way better today for Syria than they did just a couple of weeks ago.
Seven, no matter what happens next, Turkey as a whole has been tremendously weakened by this coup and the subsequent purge. Not only that, but this one if far from over, Edmonds even speaks of a possible “2nd wave coup”. But even if that does not happen, and even if Erdogan remains in power, the Kurds now will be facing a much weakened enemy and might decide that it is “now or never” for them to try to free themselves form the Turkish yoke. So there is a very real possibility that Turkey will simply fall apart (again, “possibility” is not the same as “likelihood”). But since we are still far away from this possibility actually materializing, it would be premature to go there. However, even if Turkey does not break up, a much weakened Turkey is likely to have to agree to the kind of concessions which a powerful Turkey would never have accepted: this is not only true for the Kurds, but also for the Russians and Iranians. In other words, now is the ideal time to begin some very intense and far reaching negotiations to try to force Turkey to become a responsible and predictable actor in the region.
The biggest problem with all this is, of course, the rise of the kind of neo-Ottoman Islamism which Erdogan has promoted to come to power and which is now infecting large segments of the Turkish society. There is now a real risk for Turkey to go down the terrible path which Algeria had to take to deal with the FIS and, later the GIA (the big difference being that the FIS never really got to power). This is why the neo-Ottoman Islamists are now ruthlessly purging both the secular Kemalists and Islamist Gulenists (a weird de-facto alliance for sure).
Russia and Iran have to be extremely proactive in trying to “channel” Erdogan into some kind of semi-sane form of state Islamism which would not serve as a Petri dish for the kind of horrors which costs so many lives in Algeria. The good news is that Turkey certainly has the potential of finding a unique form of conservative Sunni Islam which does not have to find inspiration in the Wahabi crazies of Daesh or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Maybe Chechnia under Kadyrov could at least in some aspects inspire a modern form of modern Islamic traditionalism?
Again, the main problem is Erdogan himself. But since this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, all the countries neighboring Turkey have to accept this reality, however uncomfortable, and try to make the best of a radically new situation.
For the time being we reasonably can assume that Erdogan will prevail. If that is indeed what happens, he will be way too busy to deal with major international issues. What is certain is that Erdogan has imposed a three months long state of emergency and that he will be meeting with Putin in early August. Whether Putin “saved Erdogan” as some claim, or whether Russia just gave him advanced warning of the coup, it is pretty darn clear that Erdogan now vitally needs Putin’s support and that Putin knows that. Soon the world will find out what exactly Putin had in mind when, following the downing of the SU-24, he announced sanctions against Turkey and then added “Одними помидорами вы не отделаетесь” (you will not get away just with tomatoes). There will be a price to pay for Erdogan and Erdogan knows it. But Putin also knows that now is the time to negotiate with Erdogan, so the price will be substantial, but reasonable. At the end of the day, Russia and Turkey need each other, at least to prevent another, it would be the 13th, Russian-Turkish war.