Harold Rhode: In the Middle East, truth is a malleable commodity and regimes invent whatever evidence they need.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a “megalomaniac” and could have manufactured the July 15 coup d’état attempt to rehabilitate his domestic image, Harold Rhode, a former longtime Pentagon official and Turkey specialist, told The Jerusalem Post.
“Giving into the Russians and Israelis in order to repair relations with them was humiliating” for him in the eyes of many Turks and people in the Middle East, said Rhode in an interview on Sunday.
Thus, Erdogan’s contrived victory over the supposed coup attempt shows the world that he is still powerful, said Rhode.
“Turks have a tendency to see themselves as either the most important force in the world or the weakest, and this can fluctuate,” he explained, regarding the Turkish mentality.
“Turkey is a land of conspiracies, even among the most highly educated people,” he added.
“Conspiracy is part of the mentality of fatalism common in Turkey and in the wider Middle East. Sunni fatalism is a belief that Allah determines everything, and that there is nothing man can do to change things.”
Turkish culture belongs to the Middle East, not Europe, and therefore, trying to understand Turkish behavior from a Western prospective is inaccurate, he said.
Furthermore, Ottoman history and other Islamic entities are full of examples of ruthless actions taken by rulers to stay in power.
Asked if this scenario of staging the coup occurred, how it could be kept secret, Rhode responded that even Turkish friends from outside the country are petrified to even discuss this question.
For example, the Turkish government called on academics abroad to return to the country.
“Do you think something nice awaits them?,” quipped Rhode, who is currently a visiting professor at Ariel University and a senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
“In the Middle East, truth is a malleable commodity and regimes often invent whatever evidence they need.”
Regarding Erdogan’s accusation that former ally and US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated the plot, the former Pentagon official said that he is very old and doubts that he could carry out something like this from Pennsylvania.
Furthermore, he noted, “the Americans can monitor Gulen’s activities in Pennsylvania and know what he is doing. They would therefore know if he were involved in the supposed coup.”
“Something smells” regarding the narrative pushed by the Ankara government, he continued, adding that the evidence needs to be evaluated because it is “perhaps invented.”
As to how the Turkish authorities moved so quickly to arrest and dismiss tens of thousands of people from government and other institutions following the coup attempt, he said it is likely that lists and plans had been prepared before the abortive coup.
If these operations against suspected individuals were not prepared beforehand, “then Erdogan and his cohorts are intellectual giants, putting this together in such a short time. This would require abilities not seen by any other people on earth,” said Rhode.
Islamist Erdogan seeks to reestablish the Ottoman caliphate as a step on the road to Islamic world dominion, said Rhode. The oft-repeated Erdogan quote bears repeating – “democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.”
“US President Barak Obama talks about following the democratic way, but the Turkish president is using democracy as a tool to achieve his goal.”
It also should be remembered, he concluded, that according to multiple surveys, most Turks see themselves as Muslims first and Turks second, which helps explain the support Erdogan has garnered since the coup attempt and in past elections.