Mustafa Akyol writes: When Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., came to power in 2002, they felt threatened by the hard-core secularists who have dominated Turkey’s military since the days of Ataturk, the father of the Turkish republic. Mr. Erdogan viewed the Gulenist cadres in the state as an asset, and an alliance was born. The Erdogan government supported Gulenist police officers, prosecutors and judges as they went after secularists. Starting in 2007, hundreds of secularist officers and their civilian allies were jailed.
This witch hunt was driven by Mr. Erdogan’s political agenda, but the Gulenists were even more aggressive than the A.K.P. More worrying: Some of the evidence turned out to be overblown. Two secular journalists and a police chief who exposed the fake evidence, and blamed the “The Imam’s Army,” were soon themselves imprisoned on bogus charges.
“How can they justify using fake evidence to blame innocent people?” I once asked my disillusioned Gulenist friend. “Since their end goal is so great,” he said, referring to the movement’s global, apocalyptic ambition, “they think all means are justified.”
It eventually became clear why the Gulenists had been so fervent in their persecution of the secularists: They wanted to replace them. Many of the officers who reportedly took part in last week’s coup attempt had been promoted thanks to a major purge of the military in 2009 that supposedly saved Mr. Erdogan from a coup.
By 2012, the old secularist guard had been quelled and the Gulenists and the A.K.P. were left more or less alone to run Turkey. It took less than two years before the two Islamist groups developed distrust and, ultimately, enmity. This tension came to a head in December 2013, when Gulenist police officers and prosecutors arrested dozens of government officials in a corruption investigation, most likely in the hope of toppling Mr. Erdogan, who condemned the inquiry as a “coup attempt.” At the time, this sounded like a self-serving exaggeration.
But the bloody plot of July 15 is far more destructive than anything Turkey has seen in recent years. Notably, the plot came as Mr. Erdogan was supposed to be planning a major purge of suspected Gulenists from the military. [Continue reading…]