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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/20/16

Turkey's 'Arab Spring' moment: No Sisi and no more Gulen

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The Syrian uprising, unlike that in Tunisia and Egypt, was doomed, given the lesson of Libya and Assad's support by the military. It has been downhill for Turkey ever since. Russia lost patience with the mess the West had made, now supported by Turkey, and unilaterally moved to join Iran to support Assad and reverse the ISIL gains in a stunning display of targeted bombings, leaving the US et al speechless, and, finally, relieved, though ungrateful.

In a fit of pique, Erdogan had Russian planes shot down, a futile act, given his real crisis: Syrian refugees. The result of his own doings, they were pouring into Turkey--along with terrorists. Then, when ISIL lost Erdogan's implicit support, their suicide bombings moved to Istanbul and Ankara.

Erdogan's abandonment of Assad recaps the US undermining of the final Afghan leader Najibullah in 1992, paving the way for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the ISIL of the day. Syrians are now living out a replay of the collapse of Afghanistan, complete with millions of refugees, a faux 'Islamic state', and western duplicity. The difference is, this time with Turkey on board the conspiracy, and Russia left to clean up the mess.

Remnants of Kemalists in the military will go, but this is not a pretty future. How could Erdogan get it so wrong?

Which factions and parties in Turkey could have taken advantage of the coup; which could not?

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The Gulen movement, once allied to Erdogan, now fingered behind the coup, has lost big-time. Its many schools and all its assets have been seized, and its members arrested. The coup has broken its back.

Given the heaven-sent reprieve last week, Erdogan is already reinventing himself, returning to the 2003 promise of "Zero Problems" with neighbours. He apologized to the Russians, quickly settled the stand-off with Israel, and renounced any desire to reach accommodation with the ISIL groupings. He is even sending out peace signals to Egypt's Sisi, though there will be no palling it up with Egypt's coupmaker.

Perhaps the long-suffering Kurds, his most important neighbours, will give him a window of opportunity, despite his intransigence there. In 2013, even as Erdogan was launching the attack on the Gulen movement, that bleeding wound on Turkish society looked like it might finally be healing. After tentative olive branches on both sides, Abdullah Ocalan spoke out from jail, appealing to his militant followers the PKK to lay down their arms or take them to northern Iraq.

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The Syrian and Turkish Kurds have proven to be the only reliable local groups who have the grit and will to fight ISIL, pitting the fuming Erdogan against even his western allies, now anxious to end the Syrian nightmare any way possible. The coup is a timely clarion call to cooperate against the common foe, ISIL. Erdogan, the Kurds, the Russians, the Iranians, and--belately--the West have been pushed onto the same page.

The failed coup couldn't have come--and failed--at a better moment. Erdogan was eager for a military coup in Syria against its president. Instead, he got his own coup. But, he has been given a reprieve. Can Erdogan use it wisely? The Turks like to say, "No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back."

Interview by Lachin Rezaian
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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games", "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" and "Canada (more...)

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