Turkey’s top generals quit

Reuters: President Abdullah Gul says there is no crisis.

President Abdullah Gul denied on Saturday that Turkey faced a crisis after the resignation of the country’s four most senior military commanders, but acknowledged this had created an “extraordinary” situation.

The departure of the generals has caused turmoil in the military, giving Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan an opportunity to extend his authority over the once-dominant armed forces, the second biggest in NATO.

 

Chief of General Staff General Isik Kosaner stepped down on Friday evening along with the army, navy and air force commanders in protest over the detention of 250 officers on charges of conspiring against Erdogan’s government.

In a farewell message to “brothers in arms,” Kosaner said it was impossible to continue as he could not defend the rights of men detained due to a flawed judicial process.

Relations between the secularist military and Erdogan’s socially conservative Justice and Development Party (AK) have been fraught since it first won power in 2002, due to mistrust of the AK’s Islamist roots.

While the departures are embarrassing, they could give Erdogan a decisive victory over a military that sees itself as guardian of the secularist state envisioned by the soldier statesman and founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Analysts perceive little political threat to Erdogan’s supremacy. AK won a third consecutive term, taking 50 percent of the vote, in a parliamentary election in June.

“Nobody should view this as any sort of crisis or continuing problem in Turkey,” Gul, a former top AK member, told reporters on Saturday. “Undoubtedly events yesterday were an extraordinary situation in themselves, but everything is on course.”

Erdogan designated Kosaner’s successor on Friday, as his office put out a statement naming paramilitary Gendarmerie commander General Necdet Ozel as new head of land forces and acting deputy chief of general staff, effectively making him next in line when Kosaner handed over the baton.

In the past, Turkey’s generals were more likely to seize power than quit. They have staged three coups since 1960 and ousted an Islamist-led government in 1997.

Some founders of AK, including Erdogan, were members of the Welfare Party, an Islamist party whose coalition was forced out 14 years ago. But as prime minister, Erdogan has ended the military’s dominance through a series of reforms aimed at advancing Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union.

FOUR-STAR EARTHQUAKE
“Four-star earthquake,” a headline in Sabah newspaper said of the generals’ decision, while papers also highlighted Kosaner’s criticism of media reporting on the military.

“They tried to create the impression that the Turkish Armed Forces were a criminal organization and … the biased media encouraged this with all kinds of false stories, smears and allegations,” Kosaner’s statement said.