A coup may be under way in Turkey. Both bridges over the Bosphorus have been closed without any stated reason, and there are reports of tanks in the street in the capital of Ankara. This amazing video shows what appears to be a Turkish F-16 making a very low show-of-force pass in afterburner down a major thoroughfare in Turkey’s capital.
If the news of an attempted coup is true, the repercussions could be absolutely massive. Turkey is a key NATO member state and ally of the U.S. If a coup were successful, the deep diplomatic ties Turkey currently enjoys with Western Europe and the U.S. could surely be greatly degraded, if not cut altogether. Currently, U.S. forces are using bases in Turkey and transiting its airspace in the ongoing fight against ISIS in Syria; this access could also be put at risk if the Turkish government is militarily overthrown.
Tensions between President Erdogan and the Turkish military are well known and have increase in recent months. The terror attack on Istanbul International Airport only elevated these tensions in the last few weeks. It is possible we are seeing these tensions come to a head right now in Ankara.
We will keep this post updated as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: 2:10pm PST- The Dogan Turkish New Agency has reported that the Turkish Armed Forces have seized control and that they did it "to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated." The statement continued "all international agreements and commitments will remain. We pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue."
Just because this statement was made does not mean the country's government has actually fallen. Prime Minister Binali Yildririm told another Turkish network: "There are certain groups who took the arms trusted to them by the state and pointed them toward state employee... We shall determine soon who they are. Our security forces have acted against these groups."
So as it sits right now it seems that a coup attempt has been made, and remains in progress, but there are no clear reports as to how far along it is.
Meanwhile photos of tanks rolling through Istanbul are popping up and the country does seem to be falling into a state of emergency.
It is not clear how such an overthrow would be regarded by the Obama Administration. They turned their back on the el Sisi government after the military overthrow of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt even though el Sisi's views would be much more closely aligned with those of the US. Although Turkey is a NATO partner, the idea that the military can just unseat a similarly elected government at will is likely to be a major issue when it comes to US-Turkish relations going forward if this coup is indeed a success.
Update: 2;55pm PST- Possibly soon to be deposed President Erdogan made his first post-coup address via Skype, which is not a good sign. In his statement he told Turkish citizens to go outside. This is a big contrast to the military's declaration of martial law, telling citizens to stay inside.
Meanwhile soldiers have been seen taking over local news outlets while full-on armor columns are rolling through the streets of Istanbul:
What's most concerning is that weapons fire has been widely reported, including this video supposedly showing a helicopter firing at a target below:
There remains no clear individual or military faction that is responsible for this coup and it is very possible that a counter-coup may evolve with opposing factions within the military or the police taking up arms. In fact that may already be happening considering the reports of gunfire and the video coming out of the region. Such a situation has the possibility to evolve into a very bloody and protracted affair.
UPDATE: 4pm PST- Reports stated that Twitter, Facebook and Youtube are being blocked within Turkey's borders but now it seems that these social media services are available and operating. Meanwhile, the commanding general of Turkey's 1st Army has said that this coup was orchestrated by a small faction within the military and is not indicative of the military's stance country-wide. Obviously that faction cannot be that small considering the amount of armor, helicopters and F-16s being put to use over and in major population centers in Turkey.
Images of Turkey's National Intelligence Headquarters burning have been circulating and protestors have been shot with multiple wounded reported just at the bridgehead of one of the key bridges that crosses over the bosphorus alone,
There have also been reports that an F-16 shot down a helicopter, possibly a Black Hawk, in the infighting.
Update: 5pm PST- Here is another F-16 low-pass:
The besieged Erdogan Government has setup a no-fly-zone over Ankara.
The US and NATO have come out with separate statements siding with the democratically elected Erdogan Government, which is not a surprise.
Many thousands of Turkish citizens have defied the military's supposed curfew. Photos of protesters climbing over main battle tanks and what looks like a sea of people congregating in Istanbul are splattered all over the internet right now.
Update: 5:30pm PST- Erdogan's Gulfstream IV Jet has landed at Istanbul Airport. Awaiting confirmation that he is onboard. It is the first aircraft to land there in four hours.
UPDATE: 5:50pm PST- It appears that Turkish Parliment in Ankara has been attacked by some sort of missiles or explosives. Most reports say the damage was caused by attack helicopters. Here is video of one of the blasts:
Update: 6:40pm PST- Erdogan makes public statement, and is defiant and vengeful against those to executed the coup. He also made it clear that this will work as a catalyst to purge the military once again.
It is odd that we still don't know who are the leaders of the coup. Also puzzling is just how poorly it was executed beyond its initial deployment. Using helicopters while knowing full well the Air Force and its fighters are not on your side?
For a coup to be successful you have to first arrest the current leadership, take control of all key government buildings, control all media and knock out social media, and finally, and most horrifically, you have to be willing to fire on the opposition and in some cases citizens. None of that has happened. This does not mean the coup is a total failure, it could morph significantly in the coming hours, which makes the situation only that much more volatile. Yet the whole series of events remains peculiar to say the least.
Contact the author Tyler@thedrive.com
UPDATE: 7:50pm PST- Here is a picture that supposedly shows the bomb damage done to Turkey's parliament building:
Reuters reports that over 130 military personnel have been detained by the Turkish Government in connection to the coup. Also video has emerged showing bodies strayed across a curbside with what looks grave injuries from heavy weapons.
Erdogan claimed that the hotel he was staying at on the Aegean coast was bombed right after he left, although this claim remains unconfirmed.
What also remains unclear is why Erdogan did not go back Ankara, Turkey's capital, instead of going to Istanbul? This brings into question the state of play of Ankara and the security situation there as a whole. Also, we should start seeing pro-government military units being deployed to confront the coup-related units deployed in Turkish cities. That is if this coup was indeed spurred by only a small faction within the Turkish military.
You can also expect Erdogan to reach for emergency powers to deal with the situation, making him more powerful than ever before. An empowered Erdogan would mean the coup actually backfired horribly. That is if this coup is as it appears in the first place.
UPDATE: 8:44pm PST- Soldiers blocking bridge across the Bosphorus walk away from their armor with their hands up in surrender:
Erdogan speaks outside Ataturk Airport in front of a crowd of thousands. Says democracy picks Turkey's leadership not the military, makes it clear he wants revenge.
Contact the author Tyler@thedrive.com