June 14, 2007

Turkey : Coordinated action or total confusion

Thursday, June 14, 2007

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

What the government and the military disclose separately contradict each other but when they come together they boast of coordinated action. Which is true?

Yusuf KANLITurkey is a peculiar country. No one can feel bored in the country because there is at least one development every day, which may puzzle and shock people. How boring life would be if Turkey was somewhere in the Baltics or on an Atlantic island with no neighbors to complain about? Well, even under such circumstances, perhaps even under a far scarce source of excitement the genetic factors of our population would help, and we would be able to introduce some controversies on which we would fight with each other...

It was in 1996-1997 when Turkey had its first Islamist-led government. At the time sitting on the seat of prime minister was one of the masters of oration in this country, Necmettin Erbakan, or as he is still publicly referred to, the Hodja. Turkey was having discussions very much similar to those that we are encountering nowadays. Was the government Islamizing the Turkish state? Was secularism under threat? Why Hodja was remaining silent to insolent treatment extended to him at a desert tent by a leader of an Islamic country, Libya?

During those years Erbakan and the commanders were coming together at official dinners, ceremonies and at meetings. After every meeting with the generals, Erbakan was coming out with a statement stressing that he and the commanders of the country were in full harmony on every issue they had discussed.

After each statement by Hodja, a military officer was calling newspaper headquarters to explain that what Erbakan had said was not reflecting the real picture and the commanders had indeed expressed their displeasure with the government's policies. During those times, once we were even told that Erbakan did not offer alcohol to his top military guests at an official dinner, but one of the commanders came prepared to every event, took out a bottle of rakı from his pocket and asked the waiter to serve it.

Still, the government was boasting of full coordination and understanding between the civilian government and the military's top brass. Pro-secularist women were demonstrating in the streets. Employer and labor organizations had formed an initiative group pressuring Erbakan to quit. Almost the entire mainstream media were against the government.

Those were the times of the so called Feb. 28 process – or the post-modern coup – which eventually brought an end in June 1997 to the Erbakan government.

What about now?

Over the past several weeks, at many occasions, Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, the chief of general staff, tells reporters – some on the record and some off the record, but somehow all reported in the media – that he believed Turkey should launch an operation on the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK bases in northern Iraq and stresses that such an operation will be successful.

He underlines that northern Iraq was the living grounds of the separatist PKK, Turkey was the operational grounds of the gang and Europe was the political grounds of the gang and that a fight against it must be launched on all three grounds. He implies that the government was reluctant to authorize the military for an operation on PKK bases in northern Iraq.

The prime minister speaks at a ceremony at noon inaugurating the new headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He says rather than launching a cross border operation into separatist hideouts in northern Iraq, where there are some 500 terrorists, Turkey should concentrate on fighting some 5,000 terrorists and their local collaborators operating inside Turkey. He opposes closure of the Habur gate, which is a measure that many people are suggesting to be used as a leverage to force Iraqi cooperation in the fight against the PKK. He says there will not be a Turkish embargo on northern Iraq.

The statement

Several hours after the speech by the premier a security summit convenes at the prime ministry. Erdoğan and top commanders discuss security situation for almost three hours and after the meeting they release a statement. The statement gives four messages: 1. Terrorism is Turkey's number one problem. This issue is above all political considerations and all other interests. 2. The government and the military are in full harmony and coordinating on this issue. 3. The fight against terrorism will be conducted within norms of democracy and supremacy of law but in full determination and contribution of all state agencies. And 4. It was noted that there is full unity and togetherness of our people against terrorism.

Is there a need for further comment?

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