While the narrative voiced by Erdogan and echoed by the Turkish press blamed Gülen exclusively, many Turks and diplomats quietly harbored suspicions that Erdogan planned and staged the coup himself as a Turkish equivalent of the Reichstag Fire. That may once have sounded like a fringe conspiracy, but increasingly it seems the likely genesis of events last July.
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute just gave us a pat on the back confirming our original assessment of July 2016 that Erdogan had staged the July 2016 coup. Several career Turkish military officers make a persuasive case that Erdogan’s narrative is false and that the coup was essentially Turkey’s equivalent of the Reichstag fire.
So, if Erdogan’s narrative is flawed, what are the alternative theories? On the surface, much doesn’t add up. Now, several career Turkish military officers — none of whom are followers or supporters of Gülen — have compiled from open sources a lengthy report analyzing the coup. They have authorized me to share the Dropbox link where they have made it accessible.
When tanks blocked bridges in the heart of Istanbul and F-16s bombed Turkey’s parliament in Ankara on July 15, Western diplomats were caught by surprise. So too were U.S. forces stationed at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The U.S. intelligence community had not an inkling that anything was amiss until the troops started moving.
Once forces loyal to Turkish President Erdogan had put the attempted takeover down, he called the coup attempt “a gift from God” because it provided an excuse to crack down on competitors and opponents. Using enemies lists prepared well in advance, his purges have touched more than 100,000 and sparked widespread conspiracies among Turks that the July 15 coup was Turkey’s equivalent of the Reichstag fire.
FDP leader Christian Lindner said he saw parallels between Erdogan’s behavior and the aftermath of the Reichstag fire in 1933 portrayed by the Nazis as a Communist plot against the government and used by Adolf Hitler to justify massively curtailing civil liberties. “We are experiencing a coup d’etat from above like in 1933 after the Reichstag fire. He is building an authoritarian regime tailored solely to himself,” Lindner said.
Unfortunately, the botched coup is likely to act like the infamous Reichstag fire under the Nazis and accelerate the Erdogan government’s race to the dictatorial bottom. He is likely to become more vindictive and paranoid—because he does have enemies everywhere. Never mind that he bears responsibility for the authoritarian policies and corrupt practices which have energized his most fervent opponents.
Social media users have compared the coup attempt in which more than 160 people are thought to have died to the Reichstag fire – the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building which Hitler used as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests of his opponents.
On the evening of July 15, 2016, a friend called around 10:30pm and said that both bridges connecting the Asian and European sides of Istanbul were closed by military barricades. Moreover, military jets were flying over Ankara skies. As someone living on the European side of Istanbul and commuting to the Asian side to my university on a daily basis and spending many hours in traffic in order to do that, I immediately knew that the closure of both bridges was a sign of something very extraordinary taking place.