Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Day, Another Coup Plot?

I have a briefing up on the World Politics Review website about the latest political crisis to grip Turkey, this one surrounding a document -- allegedly written by the military -- which puts forward a plan to discredit and destabilize the government (as well as the pro-government Gulen movement, Turkey's most influential Islamic brotherhood).

From the piece:
Allegations that elements of the Turkish military may have been hatching a plot to discredit or even topple the government of the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) are threatening to raise military-civilian tensions in Turkey and further widen the country's deep political divide. At the same time, the allegations are also raising questions about how the plot against the AKP fits into an ongoing investigation into another coup attempt, known as Ergenekon.

This latest Turkish political crisis was sparked when Taraf -- a hard-hitting liberal daily that has been severely critical of the military in the past -- published a document on June 12 entitled, "Plan to Combat Islamic Fundamentalism." The four-page document, allegedly signed by a colonel in the military's psychological warfare unit, outlined ways in which the AKP government could be weakened. Among them, the document suggested "mobilizing" moles within the party and stoking anti-Armenian and anti-Greek sentiments in order to strengthen the nationalist opposition.

The plan also called for discrediting the pro-government Gulen movement, Turkey's largest and most powerful Islamic brotherhood, by planting weapons and ammunition in its members' homes and even linking it to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)….

…The possibility of the leaked document being a forgery has not been discounted, at least not among members of the secularist press and Turkey's political opposition. Some observers have suggested that what's really being played out here is not a confrontation between the military and the AKP, but rather one between the generals and the influential Gulen movement. Media outlets affiliated with the movement have been among the quickest to accuse the military of being up to no good in this current crisis.

"Let's push aside whether the document is real and get into the deep," Ismet Berkan, editor of Radikal, a liberal daily owned by the pro-secularist Dogan Group, recently wrote in a column. "Everything we witness is in fact a psychological war. The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, is on one side, and the Gulen movement on the other."

Ultimately, regardless of who actually wrote the contested document, the affair is another reminder of how deeply polarized Turkish politics and society are right now. Opponents and supporters of the AKP are unable to find common ground on most issues, with each side quick to accuse the other of wrongdoing. As an example, several pro-government papers recently reported that investigators were almost completely certain that the document in question is genuine. Some pro-secularist papers, meanwhile, reported that investigators were almost completely certain the same document is a fake. Ultimately, this kind of split does not bode well for Turkey's political stability.
You can read the full briefing here.

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