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Revolt in Turkish military
Jul 16, 2016

The coup attempt in Turkey is the latest flashpoint in the often tense relationship between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country's military. Historically the Turkish military held considerable sway over politics. It's a popular institution with relative autonomy, which poses itself as a guardian of Kemalism, the country's founding ideology, and secularism. The rise of Mr. Erdogan to power in 2002 had challenged the military both ideologically and institutionally. In terms of ideology, Mr. Erdogan's AK Party's Islamist politics was fundamentally different from the military's Kemalist secularism. Mr. Erdogan's government also took a series of steps in its initial years such as limiting the jurisdiction of the military court and bringing the appointment of senior military figures under civilian control to weaken the military's influence in society and over state.

But things have changed over the last two years. The paradigm shift in Turkey's foreign policy and its disastrous outcome, growing insecurity in the country, and the increasingly authoritarian nature of the AK Party rule all weakened Mr. Erdogan's once enviable political stature. When crisis broke out in Syria in 2011, Mr. Erdogan was one of the first leaders who called for President Bashar al-Assad's resignation. Since then he actively backed Islamist rebels in Syria. This was largely counterproductive. First, it deepened the Syrian civil war, sending a huge number of refugees into Turkey. Second, the hands of Islamic State were strengthened by the Syrian conflict. The IS is now occasionally attacking Turkey. Third, Turkey's involvement in Syria had turned Russia against the country. The Russian sanctions had seriously impacted the country's Central Asia plans. Lastly, the worsening of the ethnic tensions within Turkey is also linked to the Syrian crisis. Mr. Erdogan resumed attacking the Kurdish rebels in the country's Southeast after Kurds emerged as a major ground force in the war against IS, drew international support and their political wing posed electoral challenges to the AK Party.


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