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Cablegate: Public Intellectuals Urge Vigorous Ergenekon

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FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISTANBUL 000499

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINS PREL TU
SUBJECT: PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS URGE VIGOROUS ERGENEKON
PROSECUTION

REF: A. ANKARA 1194
B. ANKARA 1217
C. ANKARA 1223
D. ANKARA 1337
E. ANKARA 680
F. PORTICO 19 FEBRUARY 2008
G. 04 ANKARA 6000

Classified By: CONSUL GENERAL SHARON A. WIENER FOR REASONS 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary. Conversations with professors at various
Istanbul universities reveal a fear among the left-wing
intelligensia that the ruling Justice and Development
Party (AKP) and Turkey's military establishment have arrived
at a modus vivendi that, in order to protect the interests
of both, will result in a detrimental limitation of the
so-called "Ergenekon" prosecution. End summary.

A Public Call for Vigorous Investigation
----------------------------------------
2. (U) On August 14, a statement appeared in several national
papers, signed by some 300 artists, journalists, academics
and civil society actors, regarding the so-called "Ergenekon"
indictment (Refs A-D). In relevant part, the statement
reads: "Despite its shortcomings and some of its
controversial
aspects, the indictment includes very important accusations
and documents, and by deepening the investigation,
democracy can benefit from a chance that was missed after the
Susurluk and Semdinli incidents" (Ref D). The statement
further "calls upon all of Turkey's institutions, both
civilian and military, to show the necessary determination to
keep the case alive and follow it to reveal the rest of
Ergenekon's connections."
3. (C) Comment. The "Susurluk incident" of 1996 arose out of
a fatal car accident, as a result of which it was learned
that the Deputy Chief of the Istanbul Police was intimately
involved with organized crime figures. The "Semdinli
incident"
of 2005 involved a bombing in the eponymous town, officially
attributed to the PKK but widely believed to have been
committed by Turkish Jandarma provocateurs. As noted in Ref D,
"Both cases evaporated without serious legal consequences for
those allegedly involved." End Comment.
4. (U) Many Turks view the Ergenekon prosecution as the AKP's
response to the (recently terminated) AKP closure case (Ref
C). We accordingly met with three signatories of the
statement, senior professors at local universities, to find out why they
think the AKP might not have the "necessary determination to
keep the case alive and follow it": Sevket Pamuk, Professor of
Economics and Economic History at Bogazici University (and
older brother of Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk);
Halil Berktay, Professor of History at Sabanci University;
and Murat Belge, Professor of Comparative Literature at
Istanbul Bilgi University. All have extensive teaching
experience at major U.S. universities and are very well-
regarded in their fields of endeavor. All are self-described
"leftists" with little sympathy for the social policies of
the center-right the AKP, but recognize that for the time
being there is in Turkey no serious alternative to the AKP.
As They begrudgingly support the AKP, in the hope that its
success will lead to EU accession for Turkey and thus firmly
ground Turkey in the West.
5. (C) All three professors stated that they, like many of
their co-signers, were concerned that the AKP and the Turkish
military had already or might in the future strike a deal,
whereby in exchange for the AKP not pursuing the Ergenekon
investigation "all the way," the military would cease or
moderate its attacks on the AKP policies.
Ergenekon Rooted in Turkey's "Love-Hate" Relationship with
the West
--------------------------------------------- -------------
6. (U) Professor Berktay offered a detailed exposition of the
historical underpinnings of the Ergenekon conspiracy.
According to Berktay, since the 19th century Turkey and
before
it the Ottoman Empire has had a "love-hate" relationship with
the West. Even Ataturk, he said, the great Occidentalist,
tolerated a certain degree of anti-Westernism within Turkish
nationalism, believing it necessary for the creation of a

ISTANBUL 00000499 002 OF 003


unified Turkish identity. According to Berktay, Turkish
nationalists chose independence over liberty and eventually
the Western values of liberty and human rights came to be
seen
as a treasonous plot to divide Turks. During the cold war,
this anti-Western strain was suppressed, because Turkey had
to make common cause with the West. However, with the fall of
Communism, and with Europe's increasingly vocal demands that
Turkey honor human rights (particularly minority rights), this
"bruised and defiant" Turkish anti-Western nationalism was
revitalized.
7. (U) According to Berktay, this anti-Western nationalism
found a receptive host in the Turkish military which, from
the time of Demirel and Ciller (in the mid-1990s), and under
justification of the war against the PKK, started to claim a
priority in setting national policy. Throughout the 1990s,
said Berktay, the military was backing an "increasingly
puerile and absurd series of coalitions," in an attempt to
maintain its position. When the AKP came to power in 2002,
Ergenekon "came into its own," and its influence reached to
the very top ranks of the military. In 2005, in response to
the de-emphasis of the National Security Council (Ref G), the
military leaders began to hold weekly press conferences,
expostulating on all kinds of policy questions - acting, said
Berktay, as an alternative government. The media magnified
this "national line" and the Ergenekon nucleus was able to
operate under this "umbrella."
8. (U) Shortly after the military's aborted "e-coup" of
April,
2007, Prime Minister Erdogan met with then-JCS Chairman
Buyukanit. The purpose of that meeting has never been made
public, and speculation in the press runs the gamut from
innocent to conspiratorial (such as the theory of former
minister Fikrei Saglar that the PM blackmailed Buyukanit with
a file of extraordinary spendings by his wife). Ten weeks
later, the AKP achieved a stunning victory in the general
elections and, said Berktay, "the wind went out of the sails"
of the nationalists, and the military began "delinking"
itself
from Ergenekon.
9. (U) On June 24, 2008, six weeks before the August 1 High
Military Council (YAS) meeting at which General Basbug was
expected to be named as Buyukanit's successor, Erdogan met
with Basbug. A short official statement after the meeting
said the two discussed the fight against terrorism and "some
issues that recently came to the agenda." Press speculation
is that those issues included the closure case, Ergenekon,
and Basbug's future.
The Theory: High-Level Military Involvement in Semdinli...
--------------------------------------------- ----------
10. (C) Berktay's theory is that Erdogan had proof of
Basbug's involvement in the Semdinli incident of November
2005, and used it to force the military to stop protecting
Ergenekon supporters within the military. As evidence that
Buyukanit, Basbug and Erdogan reached an accommodation,
Berktay points to two extraordinary occurrences: First, the
military permitted civilian authorities to arrest two four
star generals living on a military compound (Refs A, D). (The
military had for years refused to assist civilian prosecutors
investigating Ergenekon, asserting that the military justice
system had sole jurisdiction over any crimes committed by
military personnel.) Second, in its August 1 meeting, YAS
failed (for the first time in 12 years) to expel any officers
for anti-secular activities. And, of course, notes Berktay,
the Constitutional Court (which includes among its
members at least one former military officer) decided not to
ban the AKP.
11. (C) While Berktay recognizes that it may not be in the
best interests of the AKP to pursue the Ergenekon
investigation to the bitter end, he believes that neither
Turkish democracy, nor the AKP itself, can survive "another
cover-up." Thus, the investigation must be pursued
sufficiently far, and obtain sufficiently detailed
confessions, that such extreme nationalism will not rise up
again. Berktay is cautiously optimistic that this outcome
will be achieved.

... But A Simpler Theory Fits the Facts
---------------------------------------
12. (C) Comment. Berktay's theory that the Ergenekon
conspiracy reached the highest levels of the TGS (cf. Ref. F)
suffers from the common fault that a simpler explanation
accounts for the known facts: It is in the mutual interests

ISTANBUL 00000499 003 OF 003


of the AKP and the Turkish General Staff to find a modus
vivendi (Refs B, E). While many in the military undoubtedly
loathe the AKP, they surely recognize, in light of the wide
public support that the party enjoys, that closing it would
be but a temporary victory. And, given the military's ongoing
spat with the People's Republican Party (CHP), the military
does not currently have any alternative to the AKP. At the
same time, the humiliation to the military of having many of
its officers, including two retired four star generals,
sentenced to long prison terms for coup plotting would be
unbearable; indeed, such a result probably would be
unacceptable as well to a wide swath of the voting public,
which reveres the military.
13. (C) Comment Continued. The AKP, for its part, has a great
desire to neutralize the military in the AKP's fight against
the traditional ruling elite. Such a victory likely would be
viewed by the AKP as well worth the cost of limiting
Ergenekon
convictions to lower-level conspirators. As long as the
outcome of the case is not seen to be a complete sham, most
Turks likewise probably would be more than happy to see the
Ergenekon investigation resolved in a manner analogous to
that in which the AKP closure case was resolved: With
penalties imposed but without mortal harm done. End comment.
WIENER

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