Monday, August 28, 2006

The Turkish military

Lots of bombs have been going off in Turkey.

Is the Turkish military, with the help of its friends in the USA and Israel, trying to undermine the government of Turkey?

The party in power in Turkey is the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamist roots. The Turkish military does not get on well with the AKP.

The following is from an article in Asia Times, 9 August 2003, by K Gajendra Singh

...Many reports and studies since 1990 indicate that neither Kurdish nationalism nor Islamic fundamentalism pose a threat to the republican order. Rather, vested interests among the elite are at the root of the problem, with the excuses of Islamism and Kurdish rebellion used for perpetuating these interests, while also citing the need to protect Ataturk's unitary and secular state....

When Turkey refused its ally use of bases in southeast Turkey to open a second front against Iraq, there was much public exchange of differences and admonitions between Washington and Ankara....

The AKP ... wants to consolidate and expand its vote. Its backers are upwardly mobile conservative trading and industrial classes from central Anatolian towns such as Kayseri, Konya and beyond, and they want a share in the economic cake.

This clashes with the vested interests of the supporters of the secular establishment.

The AKP has also established commissions to probe corruption among politicians, which is likely to trap many of them and weaken political parties other than the AKP, which has a clean slate and an untarnished reputation to date.

Last year, some AKP leaders publicly criticized the armed forces for its dismissal during its annual reshuffle of officers with Islamic proclivities and connections, a practice that has been in place since the establishment of the secular republic.

The armed forces enjoy autonomy in their internal matters and are very sensitive about it.

The AKP, like all political parties, has attempted to strengthen its position in the establishment and help its supporters, and will continue to do so.

Turkey and US bases

One subject on which the AKP government (if not the party and the people) and the armed forces agreed was to allow the US bases for its troops in southeast Turkey.

But a motion to this effect, even with the full support of the government, but with 90 percent of Turks opposing war on Muslim Iraq and huge crowds protesting outside parliament and elsewhere, failed to pass muster in the House.

The armed forces, with a half century of association with the US defense establishment, left the decision to the politicians at the time of the vote, but later publicly extended their full support to the government motion.

General Ozkok explained that any expression of preference by the military on the motion, which was narrowly defeated by three votes, would have been construed as interference in the working of parliament.

Many AKP supporters in the media then circulated rumors that while the AKP was in favor (of granting bases) the military did not pull its full weight.

A second vote was never tabled, for reasons that are still unclear.

The Byzantine tradition of intrigue and conspiracy tends to seep up during such critical times...


Turkey, even 80 years after Ataturk's sweeping reforms put a secular constitution in place in 1923, is still vulnerable politically...

Simply putting into place a "democratic" constitution in a Muslim country does not usher in democracy and at one swipe banish the soldiers to their barracks.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is an example where the military continues to exert influence beyond traditional democratic processes.

Pakistan, too, cannot shake the influence of the military, despite the apparent return to democratic elections in October last year...

(K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996.)

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