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09:40, 21 May 2018 Monday
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UAE’s Hidden Hand in Last Year’s Attempted Coup in Turkey
UAE’s Hidden Hand in Last Year’s Attempted Coup in Turkey

In connection with the aforementioned clash, Turkey and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) found themselves at different sides of the division within the region

Danny Brown

On the night of 15th of july and specifically after 10.30 pm the world’s eyes went to Turkey watching a storng coup attempt against the current Turkish regime, the known story that was published following that night was that the Gulenist group are behind the attempt, yet this image is not a complete on in the background there were many hidden fingers controlling the scene. 

1 year after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, “Qatar diplomatic crisis” erupted on the 5th of June 2017, obviously, caused a deep disintegration and great standoff within the Middle East, particularly within the Gulf countries. Given the recent crisis, it would not be wrong to identify two emerging camps within the region: The regimes who has had a “counter-revolutionist” manner since the Arap Spring and the others... It is also true to remark that the clash between these two emerging camps has mostly been about how to approach the political Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

In connection with the aforementioned clash, Turkey and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) found themselves at different sides of the division within the region, even though the both of the countries had had warm relationship until they decided to follow different regional policies after the Arab Spring. Furthermore, the dispute between Turkey and the UAE became a kind of “Cold War” which could be observed throughout the region. Considering this dispute, a question comes into prominence: To the which extent did the “Cold War” between Turkey and the UAE reach so far?

In the light of the dispute between both countries, how should we assess the claims regarding the UAE’s involvement in the failed coup attempt, which Turkey faced more or less a year ago, on 15th of July 2016?

The rumours pointing out the UAE’s role in the coup attempt have started to take a serious route. On the 9th of July 2017, during an iftar event of the rulling party’s, AK Party, Istanbul branch, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated: “We know very well who were happy in the Gulf during the coup attempt in Turkey. If they have intelligence agencies, so do we! We know very well how they spent their night. We know very well those who followed the developmentsall night and sought the success of the coup attempt. We know very well the amount of money that has been spent for the sake of this coup attempt!”. In addition to Erdogan’s bold statement, some other politicians and media outlets have spoken on this issue as well.

Was the UAE really part of the setup?

Last June, in some news websites, we came across some remarkable claim: A few weeks before the coup attempt in Turkey, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed decided to transfer a big amount of money to the Gulenists, the rogue group which had infiltrated the state apparatus in Turkey in decades and is led by the so-called cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the US for 18 years and thus, Gulen could set last year’s coup attempt through its sleeping cells in the army and security forces.

According to the claims, Mohammad bin Zayed wanted transfer this money through Mohammed Dahlan, a prominent and controversial Palestinian figure who is known to have infamous connections across the Middle East and, Dahlan is also an ex-member of Al Fatah group who moved to Abu Dhabi after being excluded from Al Fatah and banned from going back to Palestine. Nevertheless, Dahlan is still competing with the current leader of the movement, Mahmoud Abbas and trying to raise his influence over Palestine to facilitate his return.

This claim accords with another claim, which was published in a British news website on the 29th of July 2016, saying that Mohammed Dahlan had got in touch with Fethullah Gulen, the mastermind behind the coup attempt and the leader of the Gulenists, through a Palestinian businessman who lives in the US.

It is hard to say that these claims do not make sense. If we go back in memory, we can easily remember that during the coup night, the UAE’s international media outlets Sky News and Al Arabiya broadcasted distorted news regarding the course of the coup attempt in Turkey and this editorial policy lasted for 12 hours. The media outlets even claimed that the coup attempt succeded while the Turkish people were taking over the streets from the putschits and the President Erdogan had fled from the country while he was actually moving to Istanbul. Even though the UAE’s discourse about the coup attempt in Turkey changed lately and the UAE handed over 2 Turkish generals who were part of the coup plotters to Turkey, it seems to be just an indispensable U-turn after it became certain that the coup attempt failed.

In addition to that, it took a few days for the UAE officials to condemn the coup attempt officially.

Another fact, which is complementary to the claims regarding Mohammed Dahlan’s role in the coup attempt, in some Egyptian media outlets, Fethullah Gulen has been given opportunities for laundering himself from the coup plot, doing his propaganda and spreading disinformation about the coup attempt in Turkey. Recently, at the anniversary of the failed coup attempt, Gulen has been given another opportunity to spread his lies while Al Youm Al Sabi, an Egyptian online news website owned by a businessman close to the Egyptian regime, was publishing his interview. What is important about Gulen’s presentation in the Egyptian newspapers is, that the media outlets allocating their pages to Gulen are claimed to be supported by Dahlan himself and the deep influence of the UAE over these pro-regime Egyptians newspapers is known by almost everybody.

To fully understand the extent of the dispute between Turkey and the UAE, the following can be counted as another important evidence: The leaked e-mails of Yousef al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the UAE to Washington. Those e-mails were manifesting the intriguing relationship between the Otaiba and Foundation for Defence of Democracy (FDD), a think-tank based in Washington DC, the CEO of the FDD, Mark Dubowitz, is considered to be carrying a pro-Israel agenda and against the Turkish government as well. It is clear from the leaked e-mails that Otaiba was not only close to Dubowitz but also to the senior counselor of the FDD, John Hannah who is infamous for having advocated any coup to topple Erdogan in his article at the Foreign Policy, which was published exactly one month before the coup attempt in Turkey. Some Turkish media outlets traced this piece of information, which was unrevealed by the leaked e-mails and even claimed that the FDD was in coordination with the Gulenists in the US for their common goal: Toppling the Turkish government.

If these claims are true, the role of the institutions like the FDD would be only to facilitate a fertile ground for the success of any coup attempt in Turkey by promoting a discourse which would legitimize the coup d’etat against the current government. For example, last January 2016, a Turkish journalist wrote for Gercek Hayat, a weekly Turkish political journal, that the UAE was trying to create public opinion in favour of a coup attempt against the Turkish government and to do that, they were using Mohammed Dahlan. In the frame of these efforts, a four-step strategy was planned to be implemented as follows:

1. Creating a negative image against the Turkish President Erdogan through the Arab and the Turkish opposing media outlets

2. Supporting the opposition in the Turkish government and Erdogan in Turkey and funding them

3. Creating chaos in Turkey, damaging the security and supporting the PKK, the so-called Kurdish armed terrorist group, to deepen the chaos in the country

4. Supporting the factions in the army, which opposses the current government

We have witnessed similar efforts before the recent diplomatic crisis between Qatar and some other Gulf states. It was remarkable that shortly before the diplomatic crisis erupted, in some US media outlets 14 piece of news accused Qatar of supporting terrorism were published subsequently. It was obvious that somebody pushed the button and the anti-campaign started. It doesn’t make it hard to think that the same happened for Turkey before the coup attempt.


If we consider all of the aforementioned claims are true, then this question will emerge: What was the reason behind this deep hostility between Turkey and the UAE?

A Turkish security officer, who chose to be anonymous, gave us the following execlusive statement: “From the point of view of the UAE, the greatest threat in the region is the Muslim Brotherhood and all of other movements affiliated to them. Since 1980’s, the UAE’s leadership has deemed them as a grave threat for themselves because the Muslim Brotherhood has been the only organized movement who could have attempted to change the regime in the UAE. Also, the UAE sees Turkey as a firm supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region. Therefore, they have been targeting every regional actor who are close to Turkey and, of course, Turkey itself… It has already been written in the Turkish media, that they are funding the institutions like the FDD to do black propaganda against Turkey.”

My another diplomatic source, who also chose to be anonymous, says: “We should also take the profiles of the Gulf leaders and the personal relationships among them into consideration. The Crown Prince of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Selman and the King of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Tani… All of them are at their 30’s and very ambitious for leading the region. It is true that Turkey’s and the UAE’s regional policies are colliding at the moment and, unfortunately, the Turkish citizens who are residing in the UAE are facing big difficulties now.”

Is There Any Further Proof?

Well, is there any further evidence to support the aforementioned claims? Can these claims be confirmed?

The security officer, whose sentences were quoted above, clearly confirms that the UAE has been conducting some media operations against Turkey. He says that they are in touch with some journalists and that the Turkish intelligence agency is aware of these connections. According to what he stated, the UAE is using these journalists and some media outlets such as Orient TV, a TV channel was founded in 2009 and currently based in Dubai, to do black propaganda against the Turkish government. Dahlan and a group of Palestinians who are associated with Dahlan are visiting Turkey from time to time and manage this network. He also adds, “if someone follows the Turkish media carefully, then they can identify some journalist who have close relationship with the UAE.”

My another diplomatic source (Source 2) underlines that the cooperation between the Gulenists and the UAE’s watchdogs like Dahlan is just on a pragmatic ground. It is not beyond that.

Talking of the relationship between the Gulenists, who were the core players behind the coup attempt in Turkey, and the UAE, I should quote what my first source (the security officer) told me:

“Listen, Fethullah Gulen’s interviews have been published in some media outlets under the direct or indirect influence of the UAE. And also they let Mahir Zeynalov, the prominent Gulenist columnist, write a column just following the coup attempt in their media outlets. It does not need an explaination. Why do you think that Zekeriya Oz, the infamous Turkish former prosecutor who was part of Gulenist network within the judiciary and has played crucuial roles in the most critical cases, through which the Gulenists implemented their agenda and beat their opponents within the state apparatus, had been visiting the UAE regularly in his vacations?

But what is more important is other things we are aware of, Dahlan is in touch with some elements of the Serbian intelligence service to run policies against Turkey in the Balcans. The UAE also has close relationship with the Greek intelligence for the same purpose. Moreover, in Syria, the UAE did some meetings with the PYD, the Kurdish armed faction fighting in Syria and known to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.”

In addition to what my sources told me, in the previous month we heard that the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu gave a very remarkable statment in a meeting with some journalists and confirmed the involvement of the UAE in the coup attempt. Mehmet Acet, who is Ankara’s representative of the Turkish TV channel Kanal 7, wrote in his column on 12th of June: “While Cavusoglu was giving a speech in that meeting, he mentioned that a Muslim state was involved in the coup attempt in Turkey and fuelled 3 billion dollars to the coup plotters. We asked him which country he meant. He gave the answer we were predicting: the UAE.”

Summing up of all of these facts, unfortunately, it is not possible to turn a blind eye to the conflict between Turkey and the UAE and the setups against the Turkish government. With a little hope, I asked my diplomatic source (source 2): “Isn’t there any little chance for Turkey and the UAE to fix their relationship in the wake of this distrust?”

He answered: “In fact, the relationship between both states was getting better as they were overcoming the dispute erupted between them following the Arab Spring. But after the 15th of July coup attempt, the conflict got deepened again. The other emirates are actually annoyed of Abu Dhabi-led dangerous policies but they do not have enough influence over Abu Dhabi.”


Translated from: Huffington Post Arabi




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