Is NATO’s Islamic Anchor Headed for a Coup?
Turkey’s increasingly dictatorial president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, scored yet another domestic victory Thursday, with the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, his former ally who nominally holds the reins of the country.
Erdogan is now free to push for a change in the constitution that would transfer more power to himself. But this act also highlights his growing political isolation, which many believe will spell the end his career — an outcome of great concern to the US and its European allies.
Western leaders desperately need Turkey to remain stable. As a key NATO ally in a volatile region — NATO’s second-largest army, in fact — and the country that is supposed to protect Europe from another flood of refugees, a lot is riding on Turkey’s stability. But the oppressed half of the country does not share the same sentiments, and talk of a possible coup against Erdogan is growing louder.
Perhaps the surest sign of trouble for his political future is the sarcasm pouring in on Erdogan from all sides — from the cover of the leading German magazine Der Spiegel to an “Insult Erdogan” contest sponsored by a prominent British magazine to homegrown social media.
Put simply, Erdogan may be turning into more of a liability for the West than a solid defender of NATO’s eastern flank that he was once touted to be.
Of course, his fate will be decided not in Washington or Berlin or Brussels but in the Byzantine politics of Erdogan’s palace court. His political survival instincts have proven themselves time and again in the past. But now either a political coup or a military intervention may be in the offing because Erdogan has polarized the country to a breaking point while at the same time removing, one by one, all legal means available for people to dissent.
At home, his failed policies have resulted in a string of bloody terror attacks in Turkey’s major cities that have claimed hundreds of lives over the past few months. He has repeatedly ignored the country’s constitution, defied the top court, fired police and prosecutors investigating his allies for corruption, reignited a bloody civil war with the Kurds in the country’s southeast, and steamrolled over free speech.
Internationally, he stands accused of supporting Islamist extremists (possibly all the way up to colluding with ISIS), helping Iran avoid international sanctions, trying to maneuver NATO into a conflict with Russia, and extorting European leaders over the refugee deal. More recently, he has even tried to persecute critics in Germany and elsewhere.