Viewing cable 10ANKARA150, TURKEY: OF COUPS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
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|10ANKARA150||2010-01-29 07:07||2010-11-28 18:06||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Ankara|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 000150 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2020 TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS TU SUBJECT: TURKEY: OF COUPS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS REF: A. ANKARA 120 ¶B. ANKARA 130 ¶C. ANKARA 107 ¶D. 09 ANKARA 1582 ¶E. 09 ANKARA 834 ¶F. 09 ANKARA 1839 Classified By: Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Reasons 1.4 (b,d) Summary ------- ¶1. (C) Reports of coup plots against PM Erdogan's Islamist-leaning government have been a staple of the Turkish media since 2007. Despite protests by Turkey's top brass that there is no substance to the allegations, a growing percentage of the population believes that at least some elements within the military have been plotting to undermine or even overthrow the AKP-led government. The coup allegations have served as fodder for the Ergenekon prosecution team and some of the plots have been included in the formal indictments against senior retired military officers. The net result of these allegations has been a gradual erosion of the public trust toward the military. The latest reports related to the "Sledgehammer" plan (ref a) come at a time when the government is preparing the process of amending the constitution to allow military personnel to be tried in civilian courts (ref b). With the pro-Islamist media fanning the flames and the Turkish General Staff's consistently inadequate responses to each allegation, public opinion is becoming less unquestioning vis a vis the military; this could help strengthen AKP's position as it mulls steps to amend the Turkish constitution in order to affect a shift in the civil-military balance in its favor, although AKP,s own support has eroded considerably over the past year. End Summary. Coup Chronicles: A Review ------------------------- ¶2. (C) Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, the Turkish military has faced a number of allegations of coup plotting having occurred within its ranks, especially in the 2003 to 2004 period. These allegations have increased in tempo over the last year, with the liberal daily "Taraf" ("Side") -- whose tagline is: "To Think is to Take Sides" -- leading the charge in breaking many of the often-sensational stories that draw on leaked information from unnamed military or judicial sources. (Comment: Taraf owner Basar Arslan has publicly dismissed claims that Taraf is secretly funded by the Fetullah Gulen movement. End Comment). Paras 8-14 outline the key allegations that have surfaced in the Turkish media since 2007. Common Threads -------------- ¶3. (C) One of the common threads in this review is that the alleged plans are all variations on a theme: they all involve efforts to sow chaos or foment public opposition to the AKP and to create the conditions for a military intervention. None of the alleged plots involve a direct military takeover (Comment: The military's problem in such a scenario is that it knows its interventions and coup plots are not popular among the population. The last "successful" coup -- in 1980 -- occurred in response to a massive breakdown of public order as armed political, ethnic and criminal gangs engaged in violent attacks. The core accusation in these current scenarios is the allegation that the military this time would foment the violence themselves, blaming radical, Islamic and other groups, and then step in to "restore order" after the government fails to do so. End Comment.) ¶4. (C) Another common theme is that all the allegations put the military in an almost impossible position of having to prove a negative -- that it did not engage in the planning actions alleged by the media reports -- to a public, some parts of whom are increasingly suspicious of the military with each new claim. While we may never know the extent to which each of these allegations are true, it is clear from statements by former Turkish General Staff Chief Gen. Ozkok that, at the very least, there was serious consideration given within the military in 2003 to 2004 to overthrow the ANKARA 00000150 002 OF 004 AKP-led government. Polling Data and Net Effect Thus Far ------------------------------------ ¶5. (C) The series of allegations has been eroding the public's confidence in the military. While the military still enjoys strong support among the public -- one poll by Genar Polling in November 2009 indicated that 80.6 percent of those surveyed viewed the military as the institution that inspires most confidence, 15 points above the presidency, which came in second -- this support has slipped. A poll conducted by A&G Polling in January indicated that while public support for the military was around 90 percent before the Ergenekon investigations began, public support has dropped to 63.4 percent. Ipsos KMG also published a poll in early January indicating the trust in the military had declined from 85 to 90 percent before the Ergenekon allegations, to 73 percent in late 2009. Another poll conducted in early January by Turkish polling firm MetroPoll, before the "Sledgehammer" story broke, found that 30 percent of respondents in the January poll indicated that their trust in the military has decreased. 55 percent of respondents also believed that "there is a group within the military which is preparing to stage a coup," a rise of 7 percent from July 2009 figures. Despite the decreasing confidence in the military indicated by one of three respondents, 62 percent of respondents did not believe that the military would stage another coup. ¶6. (C) Secularists who question the motives of the AKP and the timing of each new coup plot allegation are convinced that most of the claims are a combination of fabrication and manipulation of actual military documents and that there is a systematic campaign to erode the trust of the military. TGS chief Basbug has led this charge, calling the series of media stories an "asymmetric attack" targeting the Turkish Armed Forces. Even as he denounced the media reports, however, Basbug has also clearly committed the military to supporting democracy and the rule of law and has stated that the era of coups in Turkey is over (ref. b). Comment: Stage is Set for Constitutional Reform --------------------------------------------- -- ¶7. (C) With the Constitutional Court's unanimous decision to overturn a law extending civilian jurisdiction over military personnel for crimes including coup plotting (ref c), the government has announced that it plans to seek a referendum to change Turkey's constitution to affect this change. Many of the other possible constitutional reforms being considered by the government -- such as changing the structure of the Constitutional Court and limiting clauses often used to justify the prosecution of nationalist Kurds and Islamist politicians -- would attract the opposition of the military and its political supporters. The apparent rise in distrust among the Turkish populace toward the military, particularly after "Sledgehammer," which allegedly would have targeted average Turks in an arbitrary manner, could work to the AKP's advantage as it looks to further shift the balance of power in civ-mil relations through constitutional reforms, although AKP,s own standing is greatly diminished from only one year ago. COUP DIARIES AND ALLEGED PLOTS ------------------------------ ¶8. (SBU) Excerpts of diary entries dating back to 2003 and 2004 allegedly belonging to then-Naval Forces Commander Admiral Ozden Ornek were first published by the weekly "Nokta" in 2007 (Comment: The magazine was closed shortly after it published these documents. End Comment). The diary entries -- popularly known as the "Coup Diaries" -- laid out in detail discussions among senior military officers of steps the military needed to take to unseat the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002. "Sarikiz" ("Blondie") was the initial coup plan developed by then-Jandarma Commander General Eruygur, which involved a coordinated effort among the military and other elements of Turkey's secular elite, to effect the removal of the AKP from power. The plot allegedly had the support of all the other force commanders at the time (Land Forces Commander General Aytac Yalman, Air Forces Commander General Ibrahim Firtina, ANKARA 00000150 003 OF 004 and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Ornek). Then-Turkish General Staff (TGS) Chief General Hilmi Ozkok reportedly rejected the coup proposal, which led Eruygur and former First Army Commander General Hursuit Tolon to develop other plots entitled "Ayisigi" ("Moonlight") and "Yakamoz" ("Phosphorescence"), which provided operational details of a coup that would involve the removal of General Ozkok and the restructuring of the military. Other related plans related to the plot with code names "Eldiven" ("Glove") and "Demiryumruk" ("Iron Fist") reportedly provided more details about steps to be taken in the aftermath of a successful coup. ¶9. (SBU) These plots were included in the Ergenekon prosecutors' second indictment in March 2009, and provided the legal basis for the detention of retired generals Eruygur and Tolon (who were initially arrested in July 2008 and were detained without formal charges until the release of the indictment). Eruygur has been identified as the alleged head of Ergenekon while Tolon is considered a leading member. Retired force commanders Firtina, Ornek, and Yalman were interviewed by Ergenekon prosecutors in early December 2009, but have not been charged; Firtina publicly denied involvement in any coup plots. According to press accounts, General Ozkok acknowledged during testimony to Ergenekon prosecutors in April 2009 that most of the contents of the "coup diaries" were true and that he was aware of plans to overthrow the government among elements within the military but did not have hard evidence to move against the plotters. "KAFES" (OPERATION CAGE) ------------------------ ¶10. (SBU) This plot involved senior navy flag officers and was uncovered during the April 2009 search of the home of retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Levent Bektas, an Ergenekon suspect, and was revealed by Taraf in November 2009. CDs found in Bektas's home reportedly revealed a plot drafted in March 2009 headed by then-Sea Area North Commander Vice Admiral Feyyaz Ogutcu (now retired) and current Sea Area South Commander Kadir Sardic. The plot included plans to assassinate prominent non-Muslim figures and blame these attacks on the AKP in order to increase foreign and domestic pressure for the AKP to step down. Media reports indicated that the plan included setting off a bomb planted at the submarine exhibit at the Rahmi Koc Museum in Istanbul and using women to obtain information from other navy officers and entrap them into supporting Ergenekon. Bektas has been under arrest as part of the Ergenekon probe, as well as several active duty officers, including Lt. Col. Halil Ozsarac, and colonels Levent Gulmen and Mucahit Erakyol. Thus far, neither Ogutcu or Sardic has been questioned about this plot. ¶11. (SBU) Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu, who broke the news about "Kafes," received an award from the Turkish Journalists Association for his "Kafes" reporting, but was also investigated for violating the confidentiality of an ongoing criminal investigation. While those charges have been dropped, there is an ongoing case against Baransu and Taraf manager Adnan Demir for "openly insulting the military institution of the state," in violation of Section 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. ACTION PLAN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM (refs d and e) --------------------------------------------- ---- ¶12. (SBU) Photocopies of the alleged "Action Plan Against Fundamentalism" were published by Taraf as a front-page story in June 2009. The plan outlined a psychological operations campaign to discredit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as other "sources of fundamentalism," including the Fetullah Gulen movement. The action plan was allegedly drafted by Naval Infantry Colonel Dursun Cicek in 2009 under orders of then-Deputy CHOD Igsiz, with the knowledge and tacit approval of General Basbug himself. The TGS denied the existence of such a plan, with General Basbug dismissing the photocopied documents as "a piece of paper." The allegation came roaring back to life in November 2009 when Taraf claimed that it had received -- from an anonymous military officer -- the original copy of the plan with Cicek's "wet" signature. Cicek was detained in July 2009 for his role in drafting the plan, but was released due to lack of evidence. He was again detained and interviewed by ANKARA 00000150 004 OF 004 prosecutors in November 2009, but was again released without charges. ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST DEPUTY PM (ref f) -------------------------------------------- ¶13. (SBU) On December 19, two active duty Turkish special forces officers were arrested by the police near the residence of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. This led to allegations that the military was planning to assassinate Arinc. As a result, the civilian judiciary issued a court order to search the offices of the officers which are located at the TGS Special Forces Mobilization Command. After initial refusal by the military to allow a broader search of the premises, CHOD Basbug, along with Land Forces Commander (and likely successor to Basbug as CHOD in August 2010) General Kosaner, met with PM Erdogan on December 26. Following this meeting, a second search warrant was issued to allow a judge to review the classified documents stored at the Mobilization Command headquarters. These searches are ongoing, but to date, the investigators have not announced any discovery of evidence that would support the claims of an assassination plot against Arinc. "BALYOZ" (SLEDGEHAMMER) (ref a) ------------------------------- ¶14. (SBU) "Sledgehammer," the latest alleged plot, was allegedly drafted in 2003 by the Turkish First Army, under its then-commander Gen. Cetin Dogan. The plan, which has been denied by both the military and retired General Dogan, involved false-flag bombing of mosques and efforts to provoke a military crisis with Greece in order to create the conditions for a military intervention. The plan, as revealed by "Taraf" on January 20 -- a day before the Constitutional Court's decision overturning the law allowing civilian jurisdiction over certain offenses committed by the military -- allegedly included lists of names of politicians and journalists to be arrested, as well as names of politicians who would serve in a new government after the removal of the AKP. Jeffrey "Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"