The European Union’s intelligence report on the true causes of July’s thwarted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not going to sit well with Erdogan or his officials.
The EU concluded Erdogan himself was the primary cause of the coup, while his nemesis Fethullah Gulen had little to do with it.
“It is likely that a group of officers comprising Gulenists, Kemalists (secularists), opponents of the AKP and opportunists was behind the coup. It is unlikely that Gulen himself played a role in the attempt. The coups was just a catalyst for the crackdown prepared in advance,” said the report from European Union intelligence center INTCEN, which was prepared in August but has only now been leaked to the media.
INTCEN agrees there is a Gulenist network in Turkey, created with the goal of influencing and controlling the Turkish government, but it was greatly weakened by Erdogan’s purges in 2014.
Gulenists were, if anything, among the least enthusiastic coup participants in INTCEN’s view, but they felt pressured to join in when they saw they would be purged anyway.
As the EU Observer notes, the report is not at all favorable to Gulen or his organization:
The report said teachings published in his name “on the surface … propagate tolerance”, but “at the same time, Islamic scholars expert in usage of language and symbols recognise that they are expressly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian”.
It said Gulen was the “master” of a “worldwide” structure that had branches in some 100 countries in Europe, north and South America, Asia, and Africa.
It said his “orders” were “enforced” by “special imams” and by “convinced” followers who “infiltrated” state institutions.
“It is unlikely Gulen really had the abilities and capacities to take such steps. There is no evidence that the army, (which) considers itself as the guardian of Turkey as a secular state, and the Gulenists were willing to co-operate with each other to oust Erdogan. The Gulen movement is very disconnected and somewhat distant from the secular opposition and Turkish army,” the report concludes.
Instead, when reports of a “far-reaching purge” began rumbling through the Turkish military, it galvanized a variety of dissident groups, including military officers disgruntled by Erdogan’s handling of affairs in Syria, and against the Kurdish separatists of the PKK organization in Turkey. In fact, INTCEN notes Erdogan’s long-desired ground operation in Syria could not begin until the post-coup purge removed a number of senior military officers who were opposed to the action.
The report also points out that those post-coup purges were executed with suspicious speed and ambitious reach, leading to the conclusion that “the huge wave of arrests was already previously prepared.”
The leak of the intelligence report could prove to be a big story in its own right, as the EU Observer notes it could “harm EU-Turkey and US-Turkey relations at a time when Erdogan is building closer ties with Russia,” not to mention damaging the confidence of EU member states that INTCEN can keep their secrets.