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Saturday 17 March 2018

This is straight from the coup d'etat playbook - and early hours are crucial to outcome

People demonstrate at the Taksim Square in Istanbul. Reuters/Murad Sezer
People demonstrate at the Taksim Square in Istanbul. Reuters/Murad Sezer

Frank Reidy

It is crystal clear it has the support of significant numbers of the Turkish military. The main government buildings and infrastructure links in the country were taken over. The communication network and TV stations were also targeted.

The principal crossing points into the east and west of the city in Istanbul were secured.

The main airports, Ataturk and Gokcen, were secured and military jets were flying low over the city.

The coup appears to have full military support from ground troops, tank cavalry and the air force. The deployment of fighter jets is a show of strength for those on the ground and also to show they are in control of air space.

The instigators of the coup would have put together a cadre of senior officers involved in planning, who themselves would have their own protection.

They would have had an operational plan, secretly put together with a view to then deploying rapidly.

Friday night would have caught a lot of people on the hop.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wasn't in the capital at the time of the coup as he was in Bodrum on holiday.

Whether the police and the special forces weigh in behind the President will be key.

There appears to be a split between the military command and the police and special forces.

The military traditionally would have been the guarantors of the old constitution and defenders of freedom of speech.

However, the military was being sidelined over recent times by Erdogan.

What you are likely to see is the use of television, radio and social media for both sides to claim they are in control of the country.

The first four or five hours are crucial in any coup as it sets the tone and determines who will emerge in control of the country.

Erdogan will have to get back to the reins of power. He will have to go live on TV and says the coup only has the support of minority elements of the military.

Terrorism has destabilised the whole country, the tourism industry has almost collapsed and the economy is in free-fall.

It's not possible to say what has brought on the coup at this particular time.

There are huge internal problems in the country and Erdogan has restarted the Kurdish problem.

If the coup succeeds, the military will lock down their own borders and not allow people to go through to Syria and Iraq to fight with Isis.

There was always a hint the Erdogan regime was turning a blind eye in this regard.


The leader of the coup will be firmly anti-Islamic State and, in principle, be in favour of greater human rights and personal freedoms.

That's what all military coups are about.

The next stage will be people taking to the streets. There has been discontent within the country for some time as it was supposed to be a liberal and secular state. Erdogan reduced the normal human rights and civil liberties were being impeded upon. His regime became centrist, he got very touchy, he was beyond criticism and became like a king. If the coup fails, it will have terrible implications as Erdogan will crack down heavily.

The military would see themselves as the protectors of the old tradition of the nation state and protection of democracy.

They will promise free and fair elections within the next months.

That never happens, of course.

The phase that is most difficult at a diplomatic level is for the military to achieve recognition internationally.

There is not one Prime Minister or President in Europe who would be happy with Erdogan.

Liberal westerners will denounce Erdogan. The West will ultimately say they don't recognise political leaders, but the state.

It is most unusual for countries in this part of the world, and a member, to be involved in this type of activity.

However, there was talks of coups before in the last three to four years and there have been threats and attempts of a less kind.

This coup has huge implications for and the European Union and for the region as a whole.

Turkey is one of the main backbones of , it is the most powerful army in Europe and it is a very powerful ally of the United States.

Its border with Syria and Iraq make it central to this turbulent region.

The key issue for the next couple of hours is what direction does the coup take and what will the politicians in the rest of the world say.

Washington will carefully measure its response and this is a huge test for British Prime Minister Theresa May and her new government.

After all, Nato is based on a democratic system.

Frank Reidy is a retired Commandant in the Defence Forces and a defence and security analyst focusing on East Africa, Middle East and North Africa.

Irish Independent

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