Check-mating military coup plotters in Turkey

If the Ergenekon affair was a major blow to the military’s grip on power in Turkey, the uncovering of the plot, code named “Sledgehammer” was a knock down, even if not a knockout blow yet. The arrests on February 23 of 50 high ranking military officers involved in a coup plot shows that the current Turkish government is set to alter the political landscape in a fundamental way. The fact that the list of those arrested included top generals such as the former chief of Turkish Air Force, Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and former head of the Istanbul-based First Army, Cetin Dogan, shows that the military junta in Turkey has lost its deterrent capabilities. Even if the AKP government cannot marshal enough political strength to prosecute all the detained military officers involved in the plot, it still has set a strategic psychological and political precedent; the military is no longer untouchable.

However, the secularist block cannot be completely written off, at least at the tactical level. They still have enough financial clout to cause problems for the elected government. During decades of secularization, a wealthy urban elite class emerged in Turkey that owes its fortune to the political establishment that chose to be subservient to the imposed economic policies of the IMF and World Bank. Currently a shift is underway from this secular urban wealthy class to the more religious Anatolian middle class. It will, however take at least a decade before wealth is more evenly distributed.

The climax of the battle for survival of people’s power in Turkey will not only take place in the courts but also at the ballot box in four to eight weeks. The Turkish Minister of Justice, Sadullah Ergin is preparing a constitutional reform bill which will introduce major freedoms into the Turkish constitution. The bill will further cut the power of the Western sponsored secular extremists. The new set of laws will make it difficult to ban political parties and will transfer this power to the elected parliament. It will also change the composition of the Supreme Council of Judges, increasing its strength from 7 to 21 by including members of Parliament and attorneys from local judicial bodies. Changes will also be introduced to make it possible to try military personnel in civilian courts as well as make the electoral system more transparent. All these initiatives are causing alarm among the corrupt Turkish elite who are trying to block passage of the constitutional reform bill.

In the upcoming elections, the AKP is not expecting to secure the 367 seats needed in Parliament where it currently holds 337 out of 550. Instead, the AKP plans to take the bill to its key supporters, the people of Turkey. On March 3, Prime Minister Tajib Recep Erdogan convinced Parliament to shorten the days after which a constitutional bill could be put for a referendum vote if it does not get parliamentary approval. This newly passed law will avoid stagnation and political populism. Once the proposed reform bill is approved through a referendum, the Western imposed secular elite will stand totally discredited. It will clearly show that they lack the people’s support they claim to represent. The secular opposition is, therefore, trying to find a compromise solution that would avoid a referendum. If the bill is not presented for referendum, it will provide the secular extremists space for political populism. The AKP must, therefore, take the reform bill to the people in order to strengthen its own credibility and undercut the secular mafia at a strategic level. The AKP knows that its main power is its legitimacy earned through free and fair elections. It must use this for the legitimate purpose of strengthening Turkish society that is in the process of breaking free from the Western imposed secular order.

Even its ideological opponents support AKP’s reassertion of people’s power. The Turkish government’s crackdown on the military’s vast illegal powers has drawn support from all corners of the political spectrum. A well known Turkish-Armenian journalist Etyen Mahcupyan clearly denounced the indirect support the opposition leader Deniz Baykal gave to the coup plotters. Mahcupyan wrote, “Baykal went a step further when he stated that the Sledgehammer plan was just a normal war game, and that those involved in it would never have been arrested if Turkey had been a normal democracy. Well, the truth of the matter is that it is such coup makers that have stopped Turkey from ever becoming a normal democracy, which it is now trying to become. But the leader of the CHP has built his politics on distorting reality, offering psychological solace for the seculars. Indeed, Baykal’s tactics are in perfect harmony with the strategy of ideological manipulation upon which the entire republican historiography has rested, and which has kept the seculars in a state of pitiful ignorance.” Even a liberal-secularist Cengiz Candar, a prominent Turkish war correspondent and former adviser to the late Turkish president, Turgut Ozal, expressed support for exposing the military coup plotters. In his column for the Hurriyet newspaper, Candar wrote, “…the military can no longer avoid justice. Those who were involved in coup schemes in the past can no longer assume that they enjoy perpetual impunity. But what is happening today is as much about the future, about discouraging any future attempts to stage coups. Turkey is going through the same cleansing process as Argentina, Spain, Greece and other countries did in the past.”

These recent events in Turkey show that the Western imposed order is not working in the Muslim world. No matter how hard the Western governments try to promote secularization of Turkish society and strip the people of their Islamic identity, they have failed at a strategic level. Turkey is beginning to break free from the foreign imposed order and if Turkey can, so can Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria and all the others.

Currently the West is politically cornered in Turkey and it has very few options available. It can either submit to the will of the Turkish people or attempt to subvert it as it did in Palestine and Algeria. If it chooses the latter path it will further discredit itself and foster more anti-Western sentiment in Turkey. It must, however, be realized that the West does not always look for victory because it may not be achievable. In some cases destabilizing the social order and mob rule are its goals. The Turkish government and society must be prepared for such a scenario and expose the agent provocateurs in an orderly manner and deal with them through legal means to discredit their nefarious designs.