Belmont Club

“A small key opens big doors.”

The BBC says Turkish military chiefs have resigned en masse. “The reasons were not immediately clear but there has been a history of tension between the secularist military and the governing AK party in recent years.” The proximate cause appears to be over efforts by the government to prosecute certain ranking officers for subversion, which would lead to a reshaping of the armed forces according to their liking.

Gen Kosaner and his senior commanders quit hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers, with carrying out an internet campaign to undermine the government.

This case is the latest element of the so-called “Sledgehammer” conspiracy – a coup plan allegedly presented at an army seminar in 2003.

Seventeen generals and admirals currently in line for promotion were among those jailed in the Sledgehammer prosecutions. Altogether nearly 200 officers were charged with conspiracy.

The Atlantic Council says it “signals a deep rift with the government”. The news caused the Turkish lira to fall, according to Bloomberg.

Although the military has traditionally regarded itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secular government and toppled four governments in as many decades things may be different this time.

“The balance of power has shifted decidedly in favor of the government over the recent years, which could limit the fallout from the resignations,” Inan Demir, chief economist at Finansbank AS in Istanbul, said in an e-mailed comment. Still, the resignations are “unprecedented” and “the situation is extremely fluid.” …

Erdogan has chipped away at the powers of the military since his Justice and Development Party was elected with a mandate to press for European Union membership. In 2003, he ended army control over the National Security Council, the body on which politicians and general meet to discuss security threats. In the same year he ignored the generals’ objections to a United Nations plan for the reunification of Cyprus. The army failed to block the appointment of Erdogan ally Abdullah Gul as president in 2007 after Erdogan called elections. …

Erdogan was pushing to block the promotions of the generals and admirals who were jailed as part of the coup plot trials and force their retirement, according to a report in Cumhuriyet newspaper on July 5. None of them have been convicted.

The resignations were the general’s “way of expressing their response to the government’s arbitrary decisions,” Gursel Tekin, a deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said in a telephone interview.

Al Jazeera believes this is a “crisis” but “not a coup”, which seems a distinction without a necessary difference over any length of time.

Reuters implies there may be a way out of the crisis if the Army and the government can come to an agreement in a meeting scheduled for later in this week. Alterntively, the government can dig its heels in by appointing their own man to the position of armed forces chief. That would bring matters to a head in a few days.

Meanwhile, in other news, Salafists in Egypt angered their secular militant allies by going back on an agreement. They “had agreed to a set of unified demands for today’s rally with secular activists. But they reneged, even shouting pro-military chants.”

“We come from all of Egypt’s governorates. We are thousands, and we are here to break our silence, and to say that we want Egypt to be an Islamic country,” said one man with a long robe, beard, and shaved mustache typical of ultraconservative Salafi Muslims. “We will not accept that the minority impose its will on the majority.”

Like Turkey, Egypt was long thought to be controlled by the Army. That assumption is no longer so automatic. It will be interesting to see how Washington will react. Will it remain quiet or actively take the side of one party or the other?

“No Way In” print and Kindle edition at Amazon
Tip Jar or Subscribe for $5