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Cablegate: Turkey: Of Coups and Constitutional Reforms

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 000150

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2020
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: OF COUPS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

REF: A. ANKARA 120
B. ANKARA 130
C. ANKARA 107
D. 09 ANKARA 1582
E. 09 ANKARA 834
F. 09 ANKARA 1839

Classified By: Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Reasons 1.4 (b,d)

Summary
-------

1. (C) Reports of coup plots against PM Erdogan's
Islamist-leaning government have been a staple of the Turkish
media since 2007. Despite protests by Turkey's top brass
that there is no substance to the allegations, a growing
percentage of the population believes that at least some
elements within the military have been plotting to undermine
or even overthrow the AKP-led government. The coup
allegations have served as fodder for the Ergenekon
prosecution team and some of the plots have been included in
the formal indictments against senior retired military
officers. The net result of these allegations has been a
gradual erosion of the public trust toward the military. The
latest reports related to the "Sledgehammer" plan (ref a)
come at a time when the government is preparing the process
of amending the constitution to allow military personnel to
be tried in civilian courts (ref b). With the pro-Islamist
media fanning the flames and the Turkish General Staff's
consistently inadequate responses to each allegation, public
opinion is becoming less unquestioning vis a vis the
military; this could help strengthen AKP's position as it
mulls steps to amend the Turkish constitution in order to
affect a shift in the civil-military balance in its favor,
although AKP,s own support has eroded considerably over the
past year. End Summary.

Coup Chronicles: A Review
-------------------------

2. (C) Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, the
Turkish military has faced a number of allegations of coup
plotting having occurred within its ranks, especially in the
2003 to 2004 period. These allegations have increased in
tempo over the last year, with the liberal daily "Taraf"
("Side") -- whose tagline is: "To Think is to Take Sides" --
leading the charge in breaking many of the often-sensational
stories that draw on leaked information from unnamed military
or judicial sources. (Comment: Taraf owner Basar Arslan has
publicly dismissed claims that Taraf is secretly funded by
the Fetullah Gulen movement. End Comment). Paras 8-14
outline the key allegations that have surfaced in the Turkish
media since 2007.

Common Threads
--------------

3. (C) One of the common threads in this review is that the
alleged plans are all variations on a theme: they all involve
efforts to sow chaos or foment public opposition to the AKP
and to create the conditions for a military intervention.
None of the alleged plots involve a direct military takeover
(Comment: The military's problem in such a scenario is that
it knows its interventions and coup plots are not popular
among the population. The last "successful" coup -- in 1980
-- occurred in response to a massive breakdown of public
order as armed political, ethnic and criminal gangs engaged
in violent attacks. The core accusation in these current
scenarios is the allegation that the military this time would
foment the violence themselves, blaming radical, Islamic and
other groups, and then step in to "restore order" after the
government fails to do so. End Comment.)

4. (C) Another common theme is that all the allegations put
the military in an almost impossible position of having to
prove a negative -- that it did not engage in the planning
actions alleged by the media reports -- to a public, some
parts of whom are increasingly suspicious of the military
with each new claim. While we may never know the extent to
which each of these allegations are true, it is clear from
statements by former Turkish General Staff Chief Gen. Ozkok
that, at the very least, there was serious consideration
given within the military in 2003 to 2004 to overthrow the

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AKP-led government.

Polling Data and Net Effect Thus Far
------------------------------------

5. (C) The series of allegations has been eroding the
public's confidence in the military. While the military
still enjoys strong support among the public -- one poll by
Genar Polling in November 2009 indicated that 80.6 percent of
those surveyed viewed the military as the institution that
inspires most confidence, 15 points above the presidency,
which came in second -- this support has slipped. A poll
conducted by A&G Polling in January indicated that while
public support for the military was around 90 percent before
the Ergenekon investigations began, public support has
dropped to 63.4 percent. Ipsos KMG also published a poll in
early January indicating the trust in the military had
declined from 85 to 90 percent before the Ergenekon
allegations, to 73 percent in late 2009. Another poll
conducted in early January by Turkish polling firm MetroPoll,
before the "Sledgehammer" story broke, found that 30 percent
of respondents in the January poll indicated that their trust
in the military has decreased. 55 percent of respondents
also believed that "there is a group within the military
which is preparing to stage a coup," a rise of 7 percent from
July 2009 figures. Despite the decreasing confidence in the
military indicated by one of three respondents, 62 percent of
respondents did not believe that the military would stage
another coup.

6. (C) Secularists who question the motives of the AKP and
the timing of each new coup plot allegation are convinced
that most of the claims are a combination of fabrication and
manipulation of actual military documents and that there is a
systematic campaign to erode the trust of the military. TGS
chief Basbug has led this charge, calling the series of media
stories an "asymmetric attack" targeting the Turkish Armed
Forces. Even as he denounced the media reports, however,
Basbug has also clearly committed the military to supporting
democracy and the rule of law and has stated that the era of
coups in Turkey is over (ref. b).

Comment: Stage is Set for Constitutional Reform
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (C) With the Constitutional Court's unanimous decision to
overturn a law extending civilian jurisdiction over military
personnel for crimes including coup plotting (ref c), the
government has announced that it plans to seek a referendum
to change Turkey's constitution to affect this change. Many
of the other possible constitutional reforms being considered
by the government -- such as changing the structure of the
Constitutional Court and limiting clauses often used to
justify the prosecution of nationalist Kurds and Islamist
politicians -- would attract the opposition of the military
and its political supporters. The apparent rise in distrust
among the Turkish populace toward the military, particularly
after "Sledgehammer," which allegedly would have targeted
average Turks in an arbitrary manner, could work to the AKP's
advantage as it looks to further shift the balance of power
in civ-mil relations through constitutional reforms, although
AKP,s own standing is greatly diminished from only one year
ago.

COUP DIARIES AND ALLEGED PLOTS
------------------------------

8. (SBU) Excerpts of diary entries dating back to 2003 and
2004 allegedly belonging to then-Naval Forces Commander
Admiral Ozden Ornek were first published by the weekly
"Nokta" in 2007 (Comment: The magazine was closed shortly
after it published these documents. End Comment). The diary
entries -- popularly known as the "Coup Diaries" -- laid out
in detail discussions among senior military officers of steps
the military needed to take to unseat the Islamist-leaning
Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002.
"Sarikiz" ("Blondie") was the initial coup plan developed by
then-Jandarma Commander General Eruygur, which involved a
coordinated effort among the military and other elements of
Turkey's secular elite, to effect the removal of the AKP from
power. The plot allegedly had the support of all the other
force commanders at the time (Land Forces Commander General
Aytac Yalman, Air Forces Commander General Ibrahim Firtina,

ANKARA 00000150 003 OF 004


and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Ornek). Then-Turkish
General Staff (TGS) Chief General Hilmi Ozkok reportedly
rejected the coup proposal, which led Eruygur and former
First Army Commander General Hursuit Tolon to develop other
plots entitled "Ayisigi" ("Moonlight") and "Yakamoz"
("Phosphorescence"), which provided operational details of a
coup that would involve the removal of General Ozkok and the
restructuring of the military. Other related plans related
to the plot with code names "Eldiven" ("Glove") and
"Demiryumruk" ("Iron Fist") reportedly provided more details
about steps to be taken in the aftermath of a successful coup.

9. (SBU) These plots were included in the Ergenekon
prosecutors' second indictment in March 2009, and provided
the legal basis for the detention of retired generals Eruygur
and Tolon (who were initially arrested in July 2008 and were
detained without formal charges until the release of the
indictment). Eruygur has been identified as the alleged head
of Ergenekon while Tolon is considered a leading member.
Retired force commanders Firtina, Ornek, and Yalman were
interviewed by Ergenekon prosecutors in early December 2009,
but have not been charged; Firtina publicly denied
involvement in any coup plots. According to press accounts,
General Ozkok acknowledged during testimony to Ergenekon
prosecutors in April 2009 that most of the contents of the
"coup diaries" were true and that he was aware of plans to
overthrow the government among elements within the military
but did not have hard evidence to move against the plotters.

"KAFES" (OPERATION CAGE)
------------------------

10. (SBU) This plot involved senior navy flag officers and
was uncovered during the April 2009 search of the home of
retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Levent Bektas, an Ergenekon
suspect, and was revealed by Taraf in November 2009. CDs
found in Bektas's home reportedly revealed a plot drafted in
March 2009 headed by then-Sea Area North Commander Vice
Admiral Feyyaz Ogutcu (now retired) and current Sea Area
South Commander Kadir Sardic. The plot included plans to
assassinate prominent non-Muslim figures and blame these
attacks on the AKP in order to increase foreign and domestic
pressure for the AKP to step down. Media reports indicated
that the plan included setting off a bomb planted at the
submarine exhibit at the Rahmi Koc Museum in Istanbul and
using women to obtain information from other navy officers
and entrap them into supporting Ergenekon. Bektas has been
under arrest as part of the Ergenekon probe, as well as
several active duty officers, including Lt. Col. Halil
Ozsarac, and colonels Levent Gulmen and Mucahit Erakyol.
Thus far, neither Ogutcu or Sardic has been questioned about
this plot.

11. (SBU) Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu, who broke the news
about "Kafes," received an award from the Turkish Journalists
Association for his "Kafes" reporting, but was also
investigated for violating the confidentiality of an ongoing
criminal investigation. While those charges have been
dropped, there is an ongoing case against Baransu and Taraf
manager Adnan Demir for "openly insulting the military
institution of the state," in violation of Section 301 of the
Turkish Penal Code.

ACTION PLAN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM (refs d and e)
--------------------------------------------- ----

12. (SBU) Photocopies of the alleged "Action Plan Against
Fundamentalism" were published by Taraf as a front-page story
in June 2009. The plan outlined a psychological operations
campaign to discredit the ruling Justice and Development
Party (AKP) as well as other "sources of fundamentalism,"
including the Fetullah Gulen movement. The action plan was
allegedly drafted by Naval Infantry Colonel Dursun Cicek in
2009 under orders of then-Deputy CHOD Igsiz, with the
knowledge and tacit approval of General Basbug himself. The
TGS denied the existence of such a plan, with General Basbug
dismissing the photocopied documents as "a piece of paper."
The allegation came roaring back to life in November 2009
when Taraf claimed that it had received -- from an anonymous
military officer -- the original copy of the plan with
Cicek's "wet" signature. Cicek was detained in July 2009 for
his role in drafting the plan, but was released due to lack
of evidence. He was again detained and interviewed by

ANKARA 00000150 004 OF 004


prosecutors in November 2009, but was again released without
charges.

ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST DEPUTY PM (ref f)
--------------------------------------------

13. (SBU) On December 19, two active duty Turkish special
forces officers were arrested by the police near the
residence of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. This led to
allegations that the military was planning to assassinate
Arinc. As a result, the civilian judiciary issued a court
order to search the offices of the officers which are located
at the TGS Special Forces Mobilization Command. After
initial refusal by the military to allow a broader search of
the premises, CHOD Basbug, along with Land Forces Commander
(and likely successor to Basbug as CHOD in August 2010)
General Kosaner, met with PM Erdogan on December 26.
Following this meeting, a second search warrant was issued to
allow a judge to review the classified documents stored at
the Mobilization Command headquarters. These searches are
ongoing, but to date, the investigators have not announced
any discovery of evidence that would support the claims of an
assassination plot against Arinc.

"BALYOZ" (SLEDGEHAMMER) (ref a)
-------------------------------

14. (SBU) "Sledgehammer," the latest alleged plot, was
allegedly drafted in 2003 by the Turkish First Army, under
its then-commander Gen. Cetin Dogan. The plan, which has
been denied by both the military and retired General Dogan,
involved false-flag bombing of mosques and efforts to provoke
a military crisis with Greece in order to create the
conditions for a military intervention. The plan, as
revealed by "Taraf" on January 20 -- a day before the
Constitutional Court's decision overturning the law allowing
civilian jurisdiction over certain offenses committed by the
military -- allegedly included lists of names of politicians
and journalists to be arrested, as well as names of
politicians who would serve in a new government after the
removal of the AKP.
Jeffrey

"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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