Turkey's Silent Civil War:High-Ranking Military Officers Detained
U.S. Accused Of Complicity
168 suspects that were being tried without detention under Balyoz, or “Operation Sledgehammer”, were arrested in an Istanbul courtroom after the prosecutor shouted “We have new evidence. Close all doors and arrest them.” The detainees then sang Harbiye, the War Academy’s anthem while their relatives protested outside with slogans like “Turkey will always remain secular.”
The detainees included retired and incumbent generals such as the former commanders of the Navy and the Air Force, and the head of an army department created to investigate and fight religious extremism. Generals that had been denied promotion for suspicion of complicity and applied to the court for judicial review were also arrested on the spot.
Operation Sledgehammer is an extension of the Ergenekon investigation, a conspiracy theory under which hundreds of military officers and civilians have been detained, mostly without charges, since 2007. The theory suggests that a conspiracy was hatched in the early 2000’s after the election of the Islamist government AKP, the Justice & Development Party, and that the conspirators planned to create civil unrest to lay the groundwork for a military intervention.
Sledgehammer investigation started in 2010 after a pro-government and anti-military newspaper, Taraf, leaked documents that were allegedly signed by the former commander of the First Army in Istanbul. The documents talked about a scenario involving military response to acts of terrorism. Another leaked document described an orchestrated military confrontation with Greece followed by martial law. Suspect officers claim the documents were about war games, and they have been largely falsified.
Yesterday’s arrests were made after police raided the Navy Headquarters and allegedly discovered evidence proving the Greece scenario. Turkey’s secularists say this is all hogwash and a fabrication to eradicate opposition to the Islamist regime. They point to the unlikelihood of a conspiracy between the socialists and the right-wing military. Dogu Perincek, leader of the Turkish Workers Party is among the suspects awaiting trial. His followers, ironically the biggest victims of the military coup in 1980, demonstrated yesterday in support of arrested officers. They claim that United States created the real conspiracy with Islamists in order to turn Turkey into an Islamic republic.
With Turks the U.S. is an unenviable no-win situation. Secularists suspect the Americans of plotting to transform Turkey into a moderate Islamic republic that would serve U.S. interests in the region. Most Islamists resent U.S. support of Israel and see U.S. as an enemy of Islam. Nationalists suspect that the U.S. is in the process of establishing a greater Kurdistan and Armenia carved out of Turkey's eastern territories.
There is no doubt that a silent civil war has been brewing between Turkey’s secularists and Islamists, and the grand prizes are the judiciary and the military, the two bulwarks of the secular republic founded in 1923 by Ataturk. There are indications that secularist judges and prosecutors may be the next targets. The once-feared and powerful Turkish military has been so humiliated and emasculated, an opposition member of parliament remarked last week: “It turns out that the Army was a paper tiger all along.”
Few words draw as much attention in Turkey, however, as those of the outspoken Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc who said “These people cannot even fight.” When visiting Japan three years ago Mr. Arinc said that he admires Japan, but only wished that the Japanese were Muslims.
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