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Cablegate: Turkey: Military Machinations Alleged, Criticized

VZCZCXRO3389
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #1170/01 1780351
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 260351Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6667
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 1255
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0108
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/425ABG IZMIR TU//CC// PRIORITY
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5// PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP:PDUSDP/ISA:EUR/ISA:NESA/DSCA// PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 001170

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/19/2023
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: MILITARY MACHINATIONS ALLEGED, CRITICIZED

REF: A. ANKARA 1167
B. ANKARA 0680
C. ANKARA 0430

Classified By: A/DCM Kim DeBlauw for reasons 1.4 (b,d).

Summary
-------

1. (C) Chastened by the unintended consequences of its April
2007 "e-memorandum," Turkey's military has refrained from
publicly commenting on politics for well over a year.
However, a series of media reports suggest the brass has been
busy behind the scenes seeking to influence key institutions
and public opinion. These revelations have subjected the TGS
-- and prospective Chief of Defense Gen Ilker Basbug -- to
unprecedented criticism, including from erstwhile allies.
Staunch secularists, meanwhile, are praising the military
machinations as essential to protecting the state from
Islamist subversion at the hands of the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP). Most Turks expect the military to
continue to exercise its influence behind the scenes through
sympathetic NGOs, academics and journalists. More direct
military intervention is unlikely as long as AKP legislative
initiatives, and the party itself, remain boxed in by the
judiciary. End Summary

Clandestine TGS - Judiciary Meeting
-----------------------------------

2. (C) For all its efforts to stay out of the political
limelight since AKP's stunning victory in July 2007
elections, the Turkish General Staff (TGS) has been
implicated in a series of political scandals suggesting
considerable behind-the-scenes machinations. The
acknowledgment by both Constitutional Court deputy chief
justice Osman Paksut and Land Forces Commander (and
prospective Defense Chief) Ilker Basbug that they met out of
public view in early March, just ten days before the
initiation of the closure case against the AKP (ref a), is
only the most recent revelation of covert and potentially
conspiratorial relations between the military and other state
institutions.

Allegations of Coup Plotting
----------------------------

3. (SBU) The Basbug-Paksut brouhaha follows a series of
disclosures of clandestine military plotting over the past
four years, including the April 2007 publication in the
weekly magazine Nokta of the purported diaries of former
Naval Chief Ozden Ornek. The "Ornek diaries" describe
anti-government coup plotting at the highest levels of the
General Staff in 2004, when Gen Hilmi Ozkok was CHOD. Ornek
and Ozkok denied the legitimacy of the diaries and Nokta was
shut down by its owner soon after, presumably under pressure
from quarters angry at the magazine's revelations. Still,
many commentators believe Nokta's reporting reflected a coup
in the making.

4. (SBU) The independent liberal daily Taraf has recently
published an alleged TGS secret memorandum dated March 2006,
which listed sympathetic journalists, academics and NGOs
(including retired military personnel) and offered guidance
on how to use them to influence public opinion against the
governing party and in favor of the armed forces. The memo
also listed NGOs the TGS believes are financed by the U.S.
and EU, including through the Soros Foundation and Jewish
organizations, and which are exploited by Western powers to
change the secular regime and divide Turkey. The memo
alleges as well that German-funded institutions had as their
goal the provocation of ethnic and religious disputes in
Turkey. Many commentators assert that the Basbug-Paksut
meeting and alleged TGS attempts to influence public opinion
against the government are proof that such a TGS document not
only exists but is being implemented.

5. (SBU) Former military officers are also implicated in the
so-called "Ergenekon" conspiracy (ref b), uncovered earlier
this year. The government's investigation has yet to run its
course, with indictments expected soon. Press reporting
portrays the Ergenekon conspiracy as a well-organized and
highly secretive effort to recruit and control academics and
NGOs, as well as other legal and illegal groups, to be used

ANKARA 00001170 002 OF 003


in anti-government activities. Papers have also asserted
that evidence gathered so far during the Turkish National
Police's Ergenekon investigation confirm the coup-plotting
described in Ornek's diaries.

6. (SBU) In April 2008, Taraf and other papers reported on
former Naval Forces Commander Yener Karahanoglu's
intervention with the Constitutional Court in April 2007, as
the Court was preparing to rule on the quorum requirement for
the presidential election. The court subsequently ruled
against the AKP, making it impossible at that juncture to
elect Abdullah Gul as president and paving the way for early
elections. Similar allegations of inappropriate interference
followed the initiation of the closure case against the AKP
in March 2008, with media outlets alleging that the TGS had
covertly provided the Constitutional Court with "evidence"
that could be used to charge AKP with anti-secular
activities.

Unconvincing TGS Rebuttals...and Threats
----------------------------------------

7. (C) The TGS has done itself no favors with its belated and
vaguely worded rebuttals of such allegations. The military
was forced to acknowledge the Basbug-Paksut meeting, but
characterized it unconvincingly as a friendly call to discuss
the February cross-border ground operation against PKK
terrorists in northern Iraq. In the case of the alleged
March 2006 memo on influencing civil society, the TGS merely
said headquarters had never approved any such document,
leaving open to speculation whether such a document was
nevertheless prepared and circulated. The TGS has drawn
criticism for threatening to prosecute journalists reporting
such activities.

Tensions Between Military and Secular Opposition
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (SBU) In the midst of these revelations, the military has
found it cannot necessarily rely on old allies -- the
Kemalist Republic People's Party (CHP) and ultra-right
Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Both parties criticized the
brass for appearing to accede to U.S. demands to end the late
February 2008 ground operation against PKK terrorists in
northern Iraq following the visit of Defense Secretary Gates
to Ankara (ref c). The TGS issued a sharply-worded rebuke,
suggesting the opposition's criticism was tantamount to
treason. The AKP closure case subsequently refocused the
military and opposition on their common interest in hobbling
the Erdogan government, but considerable bitterness remains.
MHP chairman Bahceli told his parliamentary group on June 10
that "the only place we should look for solutions to the
problems of Turkey is the Turkish Grand National Assembly."
Bahceli was also openly critical of the military
intransigence embodied in CHOD Buyukanit's comment that the
closure case against the AKP was a "declaration of an already
known fact." Meanwhile, civil society groups have taken to
the streets to protest the military's political maneuvers:
several thousand activists demonstrated peacefully June 21 in
Istanbul against military involvement in politics (septel).

9. (SBU) Voices in favor of the military's political
prerogatives remain strong if shrill, with Kemalist daily
Cumhuriyet and ultra-rightist Yeni Cag excoriating any who
dare criticize the military's right to take any measures to
protect the secular state founded by Ataturk.

Comment
-------

10. (C) Repeated allegations of military plotting and
influence peddling with other government institutions, and
the General Staff's awkward rebuttals and threats of judicial
retaliation, are meeting with increased criticism from
mainstream opinion-makers and ordinary Turks of all political
persuasions who believe 21st century Turkey has outgrown the
need for military paternalism. No longer represented as
before in key governmental or judicial bodies due to
legislative reforms, frustrated by the fecklessness of the
political opposition, and offended (in one commentator's
words) by public skepticism of its tutelage, the military
will likely intensify its efforts to convey its views through
sympathetic media, academic personalities, and NGOs -- some
with dubious civic credentials. (A prominent Ankara academic

ANKARA 00001170 003 OF 003


and embassy contact reports he and selected colleagues are
periodically summoned to TGS headquarters to be lectured on
TGS views on political issues.)

11. (C) More direct military intervention in politics remains
unlikely as long as the judiciary continues to stymie the
government's legislative initiatives and the AKP remains
under threat of closure. General Basbug, now under a cloud
himself, will inherit a military organization that retains
wide popular respect, but whose political role is subject to
increasing public skepticism.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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