WPR Briefing – The Turkish Military Behind Closed Doors

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The full version of this briefing can be found on the WPR website and on Amazon.com

In two recently leaked voice recordings, former Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner is heard commenting about the ongoing “Sledgehammer” case, in which several Turkish military officers have been accused of plotting a coup. On the tapes, Kosaner also bluntly questions the effectiveness of the Turkish armed forces in their fight against the separatist Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK), labeled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S. Critics of the military’s traditionally strong role in Turkish politics immediately highlighted the news, speculating on Kosaner’s integrity and mental health, the military’s alleged hidden political agenda and the now supposedly proven substance of the Sledgehammer charges.

Much commentary on the case has focused on the lack of self-criticism within the Turkish armed forces. In fact, self-criticism is central to the debate on the current status of Turkish civil-military relations. In contemporary Turkey there is plenty of room for open debate about the military; the trick is getting the military itself to actively participate in the discussion. Moreover, it is difficult to know what happens when officers meet behind closed doors. Secrecy needs notwithstanding, this is a problem when – as is often the case – those discussions shape the bigger picture of security and military issues in the country. (…)

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WPR Briefing – Turkey’s Kurdish Security Problems Require Political Solution

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The full version of this briefing can be found on the WPR website and on Amazon.com

Since the 1980s, the Kurdish separatist group Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK), labeled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has been one of the main threats to Turkey’s domestic security. The PKK lost momentum after the group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in 1999. But since 2003, the turmoil resulting from military operations in Iraq has facilitated the creation of a new safe haven for PKK bases in the Qandil mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the past few years, clashes between Turkish security forces and PKK militants have been interrupted only by sporadic and ineffective cease-fires, while the absence of credible political initiatives to address Turkey’s domestic Kurdish issue fuels frustration on both sides.

Last year, nearly 100 Turkish soldiers and dozens of civilians were killed in PKK ambushes, carried out mainly in Turkey’s southeastern provinces. But attacks also hit major cities, especially Istanbul, and strategic infrastructure such as gas pipelines. Moreover, the PKK showed increased familiarity with the preparation and use of improvised explosive devices. More recently, in the run-up to June’s national elections, one policeman died when PKK militants attacked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign convoy, and in the past several weeks two policemen and four soldiers were killed in a number of different ambushes, while two more soldiers were kidnapped by the PKK just this weekend. A few weeks ago, Ocalan stated openly that the PKK will launch major attacks on Turkish soil should the government fail to commit to a genuine reform program on the Kurdish issue. (…)

WPR Briefing – Despite AKP Victory, Turkey’s Elections Reveal Polarization

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The full version of this briefing can be found on the WPR website

Last Sunday’s polls in Turkey gave incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a widely expected victory. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) obtained 50 percent of the vote, winning Erdogan an unprecedented third mandate and increasing the party’s share of votes by more than 3 percent over its already triumphal victory in 2007. A closer look shows that all the major parties actually managed to increase the number of votes they received. That suggests that many Turkish electors ultimately opted for a “strategic vote,” abandoning smaller political groups and their hopeless struggle to overcome the 10-percent threshold to be seated in parliament. Beyond that, however, the various parties must draw different conclusions from the vote.The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), experienced the greatest disappointment. Since 2010, it has undergone a major internal overhaul in an attempt to shed its conservative posture, placing its trust in the new leadership of Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Under his predecessor, Deniz Baykal, the CHP struggled to overcome the electoral threshold, failing in 1999 and recovering only during the polarized elections of 2002. CHP can boast of having increased its share of votes by 5 percent in the current round, with 4 million more votes than in 2007, but it faces serious problems. The identity change brought about by Kilicdaroglu arrived both too late and too early: too late, because another ideological revolution, Erdogan’s, is already settling in Turkish society, and it is more lively and fruitful than ever; too early for the same reason, as Turkish society is not yet ready for another substantial change. (…)