Cablegate: Turkey's New Defense Minister: Vecdi Gonul

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 008505



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2012

B. ANKARA 8252
C. ANKARA 8448

(U) Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch. Reason: 1.5 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: GOT DefMin Gonul's principal political task
is to ensure smooth relations between his Islam-influenced AK
Party and a Turkish military which as adopted a wait-and-see
attitude while remaining on the lookout for any sign AK might
try to alter the current status of civilian-military
relations. The cautious Gonul has the respect of the
Kemalists, but his private criticisms of the military
establishment suggest he will at a minimum try to effect
change at the margins to promote greater civilian oversight
of the Turkish Armed Forces' (TAF) budgetary and other
processes. End summary.

Gonul the State's-man?

2. (C) Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul is a
long-time Embassy contact. His vast experience (below) with
the organs of the state -- and the Deep State (refs A,B) --
have earned him the confidence of many in the Kemalist
Establishment. Gonul also served in the military with
President Sezer, a classic bonding experience. As a result,
he is considered by Kemalists to be one of the most
"acceptable" senior figures in the Islam-influenced AK
(Justice and Development) Party government.

3 (C) It was a given that, as a former high civil servant,
Gonul would figure prominently in any AK government to help
mollify a wary Establishment. We understand that Erdogan's
initial thinking was to hold him as an alternate P.M.
candidate in the event that Sezer rejected first choice
Abdullah Gul; then to pick him as AK's candidate for
parliamentary Speaker (thwarted by the challenge from AK
number three Bulent Arinc, ref C); then to appoint him as
FonMin. In any event, Gonul's principal political task as
DefMin will be to manage AK's relations with Turkey's
politically powerful generals. As DefMin, a notoriously weak
position with little direct control over military matters
(its chief function is defense procurement), Gonul will
function principally as a liaison between the TAF and AK, the
elected civilian government, and Parliament.

4. (C) Nevertheless, Gonul exhibits some of the traits
frowned on in elite society but appreciated in his native
Kocaeli Province and elsewhere in conservative Anatolia.

5. (C) First, we have on good authority that Gonul has ties
to the Naksibendi tarikat. This is a nominally illegal sufi
Islamic order, generally dominated by Kurds and characterized
now by tendencies toward quietism and serious religious
piety. Gonul's patron, the late P.M./President Turgut Ozal
of the Motherland Party (ANAP) was a Naksibendi, as was
Ozal's Islamist brother Korkut -- a long-time Embassy contact
and senior Naksi figure in his own right. Gonul is
reportedly close to Korkut. In private meetings with us,
Gonul has evinced a remarkably intimate understanding of
tarikat history -- he sees the orders as a natural part of
Anatolian society -- and the current trends in tarikat
politics in Turkey.

6. (C) Second, Gonul has repeatedly offered to us a strong
and comprehensive critique of military spending and budgetary
practices -- particularly the problems of accountability and
lack of legislative oversight of these processes. Gonul,
like senior politicians from traditional centrist parties,
alleges that upwards of 40% of military expenditures is
completely unaccounted for, due largely to the TAF practice
of paying for military programs through a variety of
off-budget "funds" -- about which civilians know little. The
day before he became Defense Minister, Gonul noted to us that
given the "sensitivities" of the generals, the AK government
is not eager to push hard for transparency and reform in
these areas any time soon (we have heard much the same from
other senior AK officials). Nevertheless, he has hinted at
an indirect approach to imposing fiscal discipline on the TAF
as part of AK's across-the-board effort to end corruption and
promote accountability in the bureaucracy.

7. (C) General bio data:
-- Born in Erzincan in eastern Turkey in 1939, Gonul
graduated from Ankara U. Political Sciences faculty (then the
premier training ground for future high civil servants) 1962,
later earning an M.S. in Public Administration from
University of Southern California.

-- He then returned to Turkey and joined the Interior
Ministry. After service as an inspector and finishing first
in his class of entering sub-governors, he served until 1970
as a sub-governor in seven districts. Worked in Interior
Ministry 1970-72. Finishing first in the 1972 national
inspector exam, he was appointed to the inspector corps.
Appointed governor of Kocaeli (Izmit) in 1976, assigned to
directorate general of security (National Police) in 1977,
Central Governorship 1978, Ankara governor 1979, founding
member of High Education Council 1981, set up by the then
military regime to promote Kemalist propriety in the
universities. 1984 appointed Izmir governor, 1988 Interior
Ministry Undersecretary (under Minister Abdulkadir Aksu,
again Interior Minister in the new AK cabinet), 1991-98
chairman of the Sayistay (Court of Accounts). Gonul owed his
rise in part to his association with the Ozals. 1999 elected
to Parliament (his candidacy reflected Fazilet's own abortive
effort to move the Islamist movement to the political center)
and chosen as deputy Speaker. After Fazilet was closed by
the courts, Gonul abandoned Erbakan in 2001, joining
Erdogan's AK at its founding and is a vice chairman. Chosen
in 2001 as a member of the Turkish delegation to the Assembly
of the Council of Europe.

-- Married -- his wife does not wear the Islamic headscarf --
with two sons, one daughter; Gonul speaks English fluently.

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