The failed coup in Turkey doesn’t just represent a challenge to American policymakers. It’s nothing less than a milestone in geopolitics. And according to one of the world’s leading experts in Middle Eastern politics and biblical prophecy, it could be a marker for the end times.

That’s the analysis of Joel Richardson, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and the director of the new teaching series “The Coming Battle for Jerusalem,” produced by WND Films. Richardson argues the failed coup in Turkey will empower Islamism within the once secular country, leading to massive global consequences.

“Whether we are speaking of the role of the nations in last days biblical prophecy, or merely examining current Middle East geopolitics from a secular analysis, understanding what is presently unfolding in Turkey is absolutely critical,” Richardson told WND. “For the past 20 years, American foreign policy has looked to Turkey as the model for what we would like to replicate throughout the region. Turkey, it was thought, was a model of success of a moderate Muslim nation.”

Richardson said the current history of Turkey is a graphic illustration of the failure of President Barack Obama’s policies when it comes to battling extremism in the Muslim world.

“In fact, it was the Turkish model that was the inspiration behind President Obama’s dramatic shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “Rather than dealing with various military strongmen and Middle-Eastern dictators who could maintain control over their people, the Obama administration began to seek the ouster of these various autocrats and looked to replace them with what they viewed as moderate Islamist government. The results of course have been beyond devastating.

“Undeniably, it can be said that Obama’s (and by extension Hillary Clinton’s) designs for the Middle East have produced the absolute chaos that we are now seeing throughout the world. Not only has it led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, but also the global refugee crisis, and worst of all, the increasing radicalization of large swaths of the Sunni world. Further demonstrating the folly of the Obama model, it has been during the past eight years of his administration that even Turkey itself has emerged as one of the most potentially dangerous Islamist nations in the world.”

As Richardson observes, the Turkish Republic was conceived by its founder as a deliberate counter-example to the problem of radical Islam. The military was specifically designated as the guardian of the Republic’s secular basis.

“In the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Ataturk is simply an honorific title meaning, ‘the father of the Turks’) established the Turkish Republic, he established a genius system of checks and balances guaranteeing that Turkey would never again become controlled by an Islamist government,” said Richardson. “If the government ever become[s] too religious or oppressive, the military would step in and remove them. For most of the 20th century, it worked perfectly. Three times the military engaged in a coup and restored a more secular government to the nation.”

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Richardson suggests this process has broken down.

“Since its inception in 2002 however, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has very gradually and patiently infiltrated nearly every nook and cranny of the government, including the military,” he said. “It was, as it were, an Islamist coup from within. They did this through forming an alliance with a movement known as Hizmet, led by the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, a disciple of the Sufi preacher Said Nursi, preached a form of Islam that is very moderate and service orientated on the outside, but which has clear designs to take over through patiently infiltrating the entire system. Gulen has been famously quoted as once saying: ‘You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers… You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey.’ As such, most of the AKP supporters were also Gulentists. The problem however, is that although Gulen founded the movement, he has been living in exile in rural Pennsylvania for decades.”

Richardson says current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “rode” Gulen’s success to the top. However, there was a split between the two leaders because of Erdogan’s willingness to use force to crush opponents of the AKP regime.

“When government protests broke out in Turkey in 2013, Erdogan led the charge to respond violently,” Richardson recalled. “I can attest to this, as I was actually caught in the middle of the most violent government purge of the historic Taksim Square and Gezi Park on May 14, 2013. That night the government purged over 10,000 protestors from Taksim square and then proceeded to tear gas and beat them with clubs as they sought to flee the square. We managed to duck into a hotel for about 45 minutes until we found an opening and slipped out.

“The next day, the crushing of the more secular-leaning protestors was celebrated by his supporters. From Pennsylvania however, Gulen began criticizing Erdogan’s heavy hand. Erdogan, infuriated, began to lash out at Gulen, accusing him of seeking to overthrow the government and calling for his extradition for prosecution. This was followed by a purge of any[one] within the government whose loyalty lay more with Gulen than with Erdogan. The very organization that facilitated Erdogan’s rise to power had now become a competitor. They had become the enemy.”

Richardson believes the failed coup was the last desperate attempt by residual Gulenist elements within the Turkish military to “save the nation” from Erdogan. However, because of its failure, Ergodan now has more power than ever. Gulen himself has argued the coup was a false flag, as Erdogan is clearly the one figure who benefits most.

But Richardson doesn’t buy it.

“While no one can say for sure, my assessment is that while the coup attempt was legitimate, the ruling AKP party had foreknowledge of what was about to unfold and used it to their advantage,” said Richardson. “Within hours of the coup attempt, the AKP had already removed nearly 3,000 judges. Obviously, the lists were ready long before the coup attempt. Over the past couple of days, there have been over 10,000 various government or military officials either fired or arrested. Many have been noting the similarities of between the failed Turkish coup with the infamous Reichstag fire, which Adolph Hitler used as an excuse to purge his government of any potential dissenters. The comparison seems entirely fair.”

Richardson condemned reports which portrayed the defeat of the coup as a triumph for “democracy.” He observed AKP supporters did not chant slogans in support of freedom or liberty, but instead called “Allahu Akbar!”

“It is important to note that just ten years ago, shouts of the Arabic phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Turkey, even among more Islamist Turks, would be extremely rare,” said Richardson. “Turks pride themselves in being above the barbaric and uncultured Arabs. No more. The popularity of overtly Islamist sentiment should be deeply troubling to the whole world.”

Richardson argues believers should be deeply concerned over these developments because there is an important prophetic significance to the rise of Islamist sentiment in what was once the Eastern Roman Empire.

“What is also fascinating to note is that within Islamic apocalyptic, there is a prophecy that says that Constantinople, (now called Istanbul) would be conquered by the Mahdi, not through military action, but simply through shouts of, ‘Takbir’ (Allahu Akbar),” Richardson told WND. “Surely for the increasingly apocalyptically minded Muslim world, this prophecy may be seen as having been fulfilled in our midst. Kemalism has finally breathed its last gasp. Turkey has fallen to the Islamists. Erdogan is one step closer to his goal of becoming the Caliph of the Muslim world.”