Turkey’s top military officer stepped down from his post Friday, a surprise move that exposed growing tensions between the country’s military and Islamic-leaning government.
Gen. Isik Kosaner, Turkey’s chief of the general staff, retired a year ahead of schedule. His decision came as a shock in Turkey and rattled its currency.
Security analysts widely saw the move as a confirmation that Turkey’s military—the second-largest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the U.S.’s, and long seen as the country’s dominant power—has had its wings clipped amid a lengthy power struggle with the ruling Justice and Development Party.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Gen. Kosaner retired, but his decision came just hours after prosecutors arrested another 22 military officers in connection with an ongoing trial alleging that hundreds of military personnel, including dozens of generals, plotted to topple the government in 2003.
Security analysts said that what amounted to Gen. Kosaner’s resignation was likely designed to protest the arrests, which will disqualify the detained officers from promotion at a meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council, known as YAS, which begins Monday. Prosecutors made a similar move ahead of last year’s council gathering, jailing suspects of the so-called Sledgehammer coup plot days before the meeting and so disqualifying them from promotion.
Three of the country’s other highest officers—the heads of the Land Forces, Navy and Air Force—also submitted resignations Friday, the country’s official Anadolu Ajansi news agency reported. The three were set to retire Aug. 13.
with such departures of secular officers, the message grows more complicated and may be that if a high-ranking military official is Islamist, the way to advancement is assured; while the old secular path leads nowhere. Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah seem to be more the eventual models, in which the military becomes a protector of Islam and ensures that the armed forces serve rather than prevent the insidious religious take-over of social institutions. Elections without strong independent judiciaries, constitutional protections of human rights, and freedom of unfettered expression and dissent mean little. In Turkey’s case, Erdogan brilliantly has curbed civil liberties and attacked the military under the guise of ensuring that a traditionally interventionist and secular defense establishment respects the verdict of elections, and he acts with the confidence that results from a rather strong economy under his leadership.
A very wise article. But then there are people, like Zapatero, who want Turkey in the European Union… 🙄
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