Government drags military into politics

Lale Kemal
Lale Kemal


Date posted: June 3, 2014

LALE KEMAL

Ironically, it is the same Turkish government that curbed the political power of the military, thanks to reforms in 2003 and 2004, that has now been taking measures to drag it back into politics.

The government set up a de facto alliance with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) soon after the disclosure of a high-profile corruption and bribery scandal on Dec. 17 last year that has implicated some Cabinet ministers as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself. It is now widely believed that the government has forged an alliance with its former foe in its ongoing efforts to stymie the graft probe and put the blame on its one-time ally — the Hizmet movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen. The government has so far failed to produce solid evidence that can support its claim that the graft probe was orchestrated by Hizmet and other international circles with the aim of undermining the prime minister’s 12-year rule.

Yet, the government has been using all its power to silence both Hizmet supporters and the other opposition groups to make sure that nobody would dare to open the graft file. Among the powerful institutions that the government has brought on its side in its strategy of killing the graft probe forever is the TSK, which has itself long perceived the Hizmet movement as an internal threat, accusing it of having the ultimate goal of changing the Muslim-dominated country’s secular system. In the eyes of the Turkish military, not only the Hizmet movement but also the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) itself has been a threat to the country’s secular order. But the TSK does not have adequate political power anymore to put pressure on both Hizmet and the government through various means.

On the contrary, the TSK now badly needs the government’s support to retain its privileged status as well as to ensure that over 300 uniformed men, convicted over charges of making coup plans to overthrow the AK Party’s rule, can finally be acquitted.

Both the TSK and the government have now been pursuing a policy under which “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” hence the forging of an alliance against the Hizmet movement.

For its part, the government has been trying to ensure its survival and wants to make sure that the military will not create any problems in its policy of closing the graft probe forever.

So, the TSK’s economic privileges have been widened, instead of brought under scrutiny. In addition, Erdoğan signed long-stalled military deals with US companies in the early months of this year, including a $3.5 billion multi-purpose helicopter deal with US aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky, while paving the way for an initial order of Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) F-35s, of which Ankara will buy a total of 100, valued at about $16 billion in total.

Erdoğan’s approval of the US projects has not only come as a relief for Washington but also for the TSK, which has viewed delays in the acquisition of military equipment as a factor affecting its modernization plans.

Dispute in US technology transfer to Turkey over the arms to be acquired has long been a matter of tension between Ankara and Washington. Now, Erdoğan appears to have sorted out the dispute.

Turkey’s talks with China for the acquisition of long-range missile systems worth $3.5 billion were further postponed from April to late June, most probably on the Turkish military’s request.

It is not only NATO but also the Turkish military that has been against the acquisition of Chinese missiles out of a concern that they will not be compatible with those of allied systems. In addition, a recent controversial probe initiated in Ankara gives the impression that it might have come as part of a de facto alliance struck between the military and the government.

The probe was launched by an Ankara prosecutor around two weeks ago, followed by a raid by anti-terror police units on the offices of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB), over suspicions that some TİB staff are engaged in spying for foreign countries, including on some locally developed military projects. TİB is the only state agency in Turkey that can conduct legal wiretaps, but only with a court order.

Prime Minister Erdoğan and government media have accused pro-Hizmet bureaucrats of being behind the alleged illegal wiretapping at TİB with the aim of selling state secrets to some unidentified foreign countries. Earlier, there was a separate investigation conducted in Ankara against some civilian and military bureaucrats over charges of selling secrets on locally developed military projects to foreign countries, including Israel and Greece.

There are now serious question marks over whether the government orchestrated the operations at TİB to libel Hizmet for wiretapping with the aim of diverting attention from the separate spying case under way in Ankara and saving those uniformed men from facing judicial scrutiny over charges of spying.

Has the government been trying to kill two birds with one stone by inventing an excuse to further initiate a crackdown on Hizmet while saving some officers from being prosecuted on charges of spying?

Source: Todays Zaman , June 2, 2014


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