Turkey in Turmoil
Loyal Turkish forces, allied alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quelled a coup attempted by around 6,000 radical members of the Turkish military. Almost 300 died with another 1,500 seriously wounded, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. This militia was squashed almost instantly by the Turkish government, but not before they inflicted some damage among the people of Turkey’s capital, Ankara and throughout Istanbul.
As armed forces, including tanks, helicopters and other armored vehicles, moved throughout the cities inciting violence upon government buildings rally in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Most of these “protesters” are waving Turkish flags and taunting the military. The three main social media outlets, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, were down for around an hour as chaos ensued around Turkey. Turkey Blocks, a censorship group, also found that the Turkish lira plunged dramatically over the course of the weekend, resulting in foreign commerce concern. This specific faction of the military declared that the political administration had lost its legitimacy and been forced to withdraw.
Only hours after the coup began, Turkish President Erdogan spoke to an anchor on CNN Turk via Facetime. Urging people to take to the streets in protest against the lower ranking officials in the military faction behind the rebellion. These lower ranking officers were at the base of the coup, rebelling against higher ranking, senior officers.
Around 1:50am in Turkey, gunshots and helicopters were reported firing on the presidential complex and the national intelligence headquarters in Ankara. Crowds of protesters marched through the streets facing off against tanks and other armored vehicles as groups gathered at the location of the previous incident of terror, the airport in Istanbul. Around daybreak the coup ended with President Erdogan landing in Istanbul, declaring the militia treasonous, claiming it was a stain on democracy and blaming the attempt on rival Fethulla Gulen. President Erdogan demanded the United States arrest Gulen. Where does this incident land with the United States and rest of NATO?
In Turkey’s long history with NATO, since 1952 to be exact, they have been involved in several military coups and other institutional turmoil that questions the call of their allies. As a member of NATO, Article 5 protects Turkey against any armed attack amongst its members is an encroachment amongst all of its members. It is agreed upon by each member that if one is attacked, the others will come to the attacked member’s aid. However, this does not specifically state, nor was it intended, to defend against domestic affairs such as a coup. As a member of NATO, the United States remains a supporter of the democratically elected institutions. The creation of a dilemma may ensue, as archaic laws, such as Sharia, may dictate the actions of the current president. This, however unlikely, may result in the call for an execution of Gulen and the upholding of those laws. Fundamentally, those set of laws constrict nations involved in NATO’s ability to interfere or adhere to set NATO laws. When it comes down to it, the coup falls under domestic affairs and needs to be handled both under Turkish law structure as well as the group they confide in, NATO.
The question for United States involvement grows more prevalent and the people want answers. Do we interfere with democracy if they utilize Sharia Law? What’s to become of Gulen if the current administration calls for his execution?
Currently, the United States and other members of NATO are in discussion over these questions, as they pose a serious concern due to the major foothold the United States has in the Middle East, provided by Turkey. Throughout the incursion members of NATO have suggested taking actions such as supporting the current democratic government via military power as they transition through the coup and the contrasting opinion of letting them struggle singularly as a nation in hardship. Overall, the United States seems to be taking the position of the watchful observer, monitoring movements in the Middle East, as they have for decades, as well as supporting the current president of Turkey.
To conclude, the United States’ involvement, as well as all of NATO, revolves around the next step in President Erdogan’s plan to deal with the coup members.