With Turkey out of the Mideast power equation, what next for its neighbors, including Israel?

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Norman Bailey

HAIFA, Israel — In 2015 column on Turkey, I wrote: “At the point that chaos threatens, the army will step in and take over”.

Well, the army stepped in nine months later, but did not take over. The recent coup attempt was so badly planned and executed that it beggars belief.

Security officials at the offices of the Zaman newspaper in Istanbul. / AP
Security officials at the offices of the Zaman newspaper in Istanbul. / AP

If the head of the regime you wish to overthrow is vacationing in a town on the coast, the number one task is to neutralize him, then go on with the rest of the operation. This was not done, despite the apparent fact that rebel fighter planes later had his aircraft in sight on its way to Istanbul, but failed to shoot it down.

President Erdogan, using a social media network, rallied his supporters while the coup plotters failed to rally anyone. This is very strange, since the Kemalists, the alevis, the Gulenists and the Kurds, taken together represent about half the population, detest him.

Other criticisms of the coup could be written about and may be, when I publish ‘Coups d’etat for Dummies’, but for the time being it is sufficient that it failed.

Ignoring completely international pleas that the plot not be utilized by the regime for a widespread crackdown and imposition of open dictatorship, Erdogan is doing just that. He is, in fact, decapitating the Turkish intellectual elite, while blaming the event on the U.S. and Fethullah Gulen, who denies the accusation and who immediately denounced the coup.

At this point tens of thousands of officers, soldiers, police, judges, bureaucrats, schoolteachers, university faculty and deans and many others have been arrested or fired from their positions, including a large number of provincial governors. Anyone, in other words who could possibly threaten the regime as well as a large number who could not but who might sympathize with those who could. Since almost 3000 judges had already been fired on July 21, those who are arrested will remain in custody for months or years before they can be tried, assuming the government has any real interest in trying them.

One wonders if the Turkish prisons have enough room for all the detainees. Aside from issues such as these, however, the most important results of the failed coup are the vital weakening of Turkey’s position in the Middle East and the world.

Related: There are a few serious problems with the Israel-Turkey deal, July 5, 2016.

It will be a long time before the military, once the strongest in the Middle East after Israel, can be reconstructed; the economic situation, already difficult, will become much worse. Large blocs of the population, already alienated, will become even more so. And finally, the Kurds will be able to take advantage of the situation to step up their anti-regime activities.

In short, Turkey for the time being, has been taken out of the power equation in the region. What does that mean for Israel?

Right after signing a deal to restore normal diplomatic and political relations with Turkey, the Israeli government is faced with a radically new situation. Any reliance it might have placed on Turkish promises to rein in Hamas in Gaza cannot now be relied upon. The damage done to Israeli relations with the Kurds will look even more like a questionable risk.

However, that said, Israel cannot afford to be the party seen as terminating the deal. It has to wait until it is clear that Turkey cannot do what it promised to do and then reassess the situation.

All this at a time when many crucial developments are taking place involving Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and with a startling increase in anti-regime activity in the Kurdish region of Iran.

What can always be expected in this part of the world is the unexpected. But a rational actor, such as the Israeli government, must be prepared for any contingency, no matter how unlikely it may seem at any moment. How many commentators inside or outside Turkey foresaw the failed coup that just took place? How many can now foresee the consequences?

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C., and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa. He was formerly with the U.S. National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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