In the last two weeks, we have witnessed massacres of civil police in the United States, and of Bastille Day revelers in France...and the spectacle of Turkey's dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan surviving a "coup attempt". That last is in quotes for the simple reason that it was a scam, played for a Turkish audience, only.
In the world of 'realpolitik', however, it makes perfect sense.
Erdogan has survived conspiracy plots before, but he and his nation's military had come to some level of truce. However, as has become increasingly clear, Erdogan has big dreams, and is willing to take big risks to do it, including actively aiding one of the most savage and brutal terrorist groups seen in the last century.
But, why? What prize could be so valuable, as to risk wars on multiple fronts, with some of the largest, most powerful nations in the world?
The case for this is fairly straightforward.
Erdogan began injecting Turkey into Levantine politics as far back as 2010, with Turkey's tacit support of the Palestinian relief flotillas. No one with any experience in the region expected those flotillas to accomplish much, but its tacit support reintroduced the world to Turkey as a political player.
This was followed by the appearance of the so-called 'caliphate', also known as the 'Islamic State'. Although ISIL had its genesis from many authors, as the video above clearly demonstrates, its major bases and overland supply corridors originated in southern Turkey.
But again, why? How does active support for ISIL lead to Turkey reforming the Ottoman Empire? The secret is revealed in an ISIL video, since removed by YouTube, but which still lives at Heavy.com. The video's emphasis in its monologue is almost exclusively about destroying the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, drawn up during World War 1, created the modern map of the Middle East as we know it today. The modern nations of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel-Palestine, and Saudi Arabia were all the children of that agreement. "Destroying" Sykes-Picot would result in absolute anarchy -- an anarchy into which a "strong leader on a horse" could step, bringing unity, stability and ultimately, peace.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, no matter how legitimate a candidate for Caliph he may be, will never be able to bring that peace and stability; the idea that he could bring any kind of unity to the region is simply laughable on its face.
However, a restored Ottoman state, headed by a Turkey with a comparatively untainted reputation, would fit the bill, as it could make the claim that Sykes-Picot was imposed on the region illegally.
But, as possession is always 9/10th of the law, how was this supposed to play out in the military arena? Refer to the video above, one more time.
The main targets of this Turkish 'grand plan' were Syria and Iraq. None of the nations in the region would be willing to jump into Turkey's bed 'just because', so some 'motivation' needed to be applied to those countries' peoples.
The so-called 'Arab Spring' provided the opening. Bashar al Assad's regime was considered to be very stable before the unrest began -- but there were still too many US troops in Iraq for the push to start there.
As Syria collapsed into civil war, Iraq consequently fell into even more instability. Two years later, as ISIL exploded out of obscurity, both nations were so badly weakened, they could do little against the terrorist tsunami.
As IS gained ground, rolling over all the opposition before them, they began to edge southeastward, as if attempting to surround Baghdad, but they never seemed able to close the pincers. Doing so was the logical military move, as it would have cut Baghdad's only route of ground supply, and would have forced a major battle with Iraq's Shiite-dominated government -- a battle the weak Iraqi government was in no way guaranteed of winning.
The impending collapse of Shiite Iraq would, so the thinking went, have drawn in Shiite Iran, which should have sent the main-force heavy units of the Artesh (the Iranian Army) in a US Army-style assault all the way to Baghdad, riding like the cavalry to the rescue in a John Wayne movie, with Arabic subtitles...which would, naturally, have allowed IS to scream for help to rest of the Sunni world against the heretic Shiite aggressor...
That is, of course, not what happened.
The Iranians - the Persians of Biblical and Greek history - have been in the war business for several millennia, and saw that trap for what it was. Their response was -- to do nothing. When things got very tight, the Iranians sent in their Quds Force (the Iranian version of special forces), because the Quds Force is seen as an advisory group, not a garrison force.
This left ISIL withering on the vine, as no one could openly support such a savage and bestial regime as al Baghdadi's. Worse, for ISIL, at least, was first Iran's and then Russia's not-very-covert aid to the Assad government. Hardening resistance by Kurdish groups like the Peshmerga and the YPG began to slice away ISIL gains, resulting in increasing repression by Erdogan's regime. Then, everything almost came completely off the rails when the Russians intervened, an event that nearly caused NATO to choose between Turkey - an event that could have caused World War 3 - and dissolution, if it failed to back a member nation.
This failure of ISIL to fulfill its role as sacrificial lamb to the Iranian lion also exposed the dark underbelly of the world of realpolitik, revealing Turkey's clear role of support, and implying support (tacit or direct) from other countries. In this atmosphere, it would appear that at least some of Erdogan's military commanders began to whisper about the possibility of a coup. From the stunted development of the coup, it is clear that the coup plotters in the field had little to no direction. In the end, the instant Erdogan put in an appearance, the foot soldiers began giving up.
As a result, Erdogan has now cemented his position within Turkey, as the "hero" who stood up to the military, and prevented the return of military rule...and, of course, disrupted the desultory Allied air campaign against ISIL.
But what about the possible "other" actors? Those foreign powers that may have been - or may be - supporting ISIL directly? Why would they do this? Simply: the myriad of Middle Eastern nations are too fractious and chaotic. Replacing them with one state is easier to manage.
That really is the bottom line.