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Fethullah Gulen: Moderniser or Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Image of President Erdogan holding up his hands

Courtesy AK Rockefeller/Flickr

This article was originally published by S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 19 July 2016

Synopsis

Fethullah Gulen, leader of one of the world’s largest Islamic movements, is accused of attempting to topple Turkish President Erdogan in a failed military coup. Is Gulen a modernist religious leader or a conspirator?

Commentary

BELIEVERS SAY he preaches a new, modernist form of Islam. Critics charge he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing preparing to convert secular Turkey into an Islamic republic. They accuse Fethullah Gulen of being a conspirator who has created a state within the state and attempted this weekend to topple the democratically elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a failed military coup.

That was not how past Turkish governments or for that matter Erdogan in his eight years as prime minister saw Gulen, the leader of one of the world’s largest and wealthiest Islamic movements.

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How Turkey Could Become the Next Pakistan

Arab Street Art

Courtesy Fatemeh/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on 19 July 2016.

The U.S. must recognize the risk a NATO ally may become a safe haven for al Qaeda as Erdogan consolidates power.

The failed coup attempt by elements of the Turkish Armed Forces on July 15 will enable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to establish himself as an authoritarian ruler in Turkey. His priorities in the next few months will be to solidify the loyalty of the Turkish military establishment and complete the constitutional reform necessary to replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an executive presidency, his longstanding goal. A post-coup Erdogan is much less likely to submit to American pressure without major returns. Erdogan immediately demanded the extradition of political rival Fethullah Gulen from the U.S., accusing Gulen of plotting the coup and condemning the U.S. for harboring him. Erdogan will likely deprioritize the fight against ISIS, undermining the counter-ISIS mission in Syria, as he focuses on consolidating power. He may even revoke past concessions to the U.S., including permission to use Turkey’s Incirlik airbase for counter-ISIS operations.

Erdogan has more dangerous options now that his rule is secure, however. A partnership with al Qaeda could grant him a powerful proxy force to achieve national security objectives without relying on the Turkish Military. American policymakers must recognize the dangerous possibility Erdogan will knowingly transform Turkey into the next Pakistan in pursuit of his own interests.

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The Royal Thai Navy: Where to Post Coup?

An AV-8 Harrier “Jump Jet” sits on the deck of The Royal Thai Naval HTMS CHAKRI NARUEBET (CVH 911), a helicopter carrier, near the coast of Thailand. Image: Alex C. Witte/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Center for International Maritime Studies (CIMSEC) on 22 May 2015.

With a coup d’état in May 2014 and the appointment of General Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister, 2014 proved to be a tumultuous year in Thai politics. Still faced with a deeply divided society, it is difficult for the Thai authorities to articulate foreign policy priorities or a grand strategy for the country. Even so, the Royal Thai Navy may soon have important tools available with which Thailand can make its presence felt internationally.

Although often overlooked by most reports in favor of the contributions made by the Chinese and the Russians in years since, Thailand was an important player in counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. In response to an increase in Somali-based piracy, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 was established in January 2009 to secure freedom of navigation along international shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Although comprised largely of vessels and crews from NATO member states, Thailand deployed a Pattani-class off-shore patrol vessel and a supply ship to join the force in 2010-2011. » More

Thailand: a New Constitution for a New Kind of Democracy?

Protesters in Bangkok, December 2013. Image: ilf_/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ASPI Strategist on 4 May, 2015.

For many years Thailand was admired for its rapid economic growth. It was a good security partner for the US and Australia, and many foreigners liked visiting the country. The zigzag course of its political development, alternating between democratically-elected governments and military regimes, has prompted frowns at the appropriate times from Western governments, but the widespread assumption was that there was an underlying upwards trajectory. The election of Thaksin Shinawatra—a wealthy communications tycoon—as Prime Minister in 2001, held out the prospect of a more contemporary and business-oriented style of government. » More

Turkey’s Failed Bureaucratic Coup

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) and Fethullah Gülen. Photo: Hayatin Kendisi Burada/Picasa.

ANKARA – Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intensified his government’s response to the corruption investigations that have been roiling the country since December, restructuring the leadership of the judiciary and police. But it would be a mistake to view this as a fight between the executive and the judiciary, or as an attempt to cover up charges that have led to the resignation of three ministers. What is at issue is the law-enforcement authorities’ independence and impartiality. Indeed, amid charges of fabricated evidence, Erdoğan now says that he is not opposed to retrials for senior military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow his government.

The recent developments reflect the widening rift between Erdoğan’s government and the Gülen movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Islamic preacher currently residing near Philadelphia. The Gülen movement was an important backer of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its efforts to establish civilian control over the military during the AKP’s first two terms in office. Now, however, the movement appears to have been plotting a coup of its own. » More

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