Giancarlo Elia Valori
Turkey’s President Erdogan has recently dismissed almost all the Turkish flag officers still in service, thus leaving only a small proportion of them, with a view to later favouring the quick career of subordinate officers with a nationalist or Islamist background and training.
President Erdogan’s regime also actively supports all the Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt after Mohammed Morsi’s fall and Al Sisi’s coup. Moreover, the origins of Erdogan’s AKP Party are certainly obscure, but also clearly shrouded in the networks of the Turkish Brotherhood and in the more or less “moderate” political Islamism – just to use a trivial classification of Western political science.
To some extents the political-military choice made by the Turkish Presidency is still favoured by the long-term effects of the attempted coup against President Erdogan of July 15, 2016, when the Turkish Armed Forces were greatly purged of all officers who had even a slight or hidden “secularist” inclination – just to use again the trivial classification of political science.
Currently only 42 Turkish flag officers are still in active service, with equal or higher rank, of the 325 ones who served in the Turkish Armed Forces at the time of the military putsch.
Moreover, authoritative sources maintain that it was precisely the Turkish military that temporarily stopped President Erdogan’s designs in Syria, who had invasion plans that would have been far more aggressive and long-term than the recent Turkish occupation of Northern Syria.
The military dismissed from active service had also opposed President Erdogan’s plan to establish an alliance with the Russian Federation.
45% of the officers no longer in active permanent service were harshly “purged”, while 33% retired either voluntarily or not and 6% simply handed in their resignation. There were also other options, which materialized only for 2% of them (transfer to other State administrations, consultancy contracts, etc.), but only 14% of the total officers active at the time of the 2016 putsch have remained in service.
President Erdogan thinks – not too secretly – that the putsch was organized with the consent, or the silent approval, of the United States and of some EU countries.
However, the Interforce Chief of Staff at the time of the coup, General Hulusi Akar, who also stopped any national military mobilization in the early stages of the coup, is currently President Erdogan’s Defence Minister.
Was it a “self-coup”? It may be possible.
General Hulusi Hakar knew about the military coup, as also disclosed by the then and current Head of the Turkish intelligence Services, Hakan Fidan.
In 2016 the Generals of the Turkish Armed Forces were 325, while they are currently 233.
149 Generals were “purged” in the week immediately following the attempted coup. Later it became known that many high-ranking military were either on vacation with their families or in cities other than their workplace or – and this should come as no surprise – they were countering the putschists’ actions.
According to the official data released by the Turkish government, a total of 8,651 military participated in the attempted coup – approximately 1% of the whole Turkish Armed Forces.
Too few to take them seriously.
How one can think of organizing a coup with so few operatives – and the whole operation was carried out by experienced officers of an Armed Force as good as the Turkish one – remains a mystery. Or a suspicion.
1,781 of the 8,651 coup operatives were simple conscripts, while 1,214 were cadets from military academies.
150 Generals were involved – in various ways – in the 2016 coup.
Some of the “purged” officers were quickly sentenced to long imprisonment, while all of them were accused of having systematic ties and connections with the movement of Gűlen, who currently lives in the United States – a charge that, however, President Erdogan’s regime has never been able to prove in a barely convincing way.
It seems to me rather naïve that the US intelligence Services, which certainly keep Gűlen under control, could authorize such a severe destabilization operation in a country that is still the axis of NATO throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, despite the difficulties faced by the US intelligence Agencies.
Hizmet (Service), i.e. Fethullah Gűlen’s movement, is still very widespread in Turkey.
At the time of the 2016 coup, President Erdogan closed down 800 companies, as well as 1,100 schools of all levels, 850 dormitories and 1,400 volunteer associations, all linked to the “Gűlen movement”.
Immediately after the coup of July 2016, President Erdogan imprisoned as many as 38,000 people linked to the Hizmet movement and expelled over 100,000 civil servants and State officials from the police, judiciary, education and health sectors, who – according to the Turkish police – “were at the service” of the Gűlen movement.
In the public sector, Hizmet members – in various ways – range between 1.5% and even 11% of the total civil servants and State employees in each Administration.
In the judiciary, the “Gulenists” are as many as 30% and even 50% of the police force, while the largest share of Hizmet members – in relation to the total population – is found in Eastern Anatolia and the Aegean area.
The Gűlen movement was President Erdogan’s greatest support when he rose to power in 2002. The Hizmet networks produced evidence – often false – to accuse the members of the Kemalist and secularist tradition – in all the State bodies in which they were active – while the open clash between the Gulenists and President Erdogan’ supporters did not begin until 2013.
Currently, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is the main organizational and ideological support of President Erdogan’s AKP and the Ikhwan is behind the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association, the powerful MUSIAD, as well as behind companies such as Turkish Airlines and many of the big real estate and construction companies.
President Erdogan’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood date back to many years ago, at least to the early 1970s, when the current Turkish President was one of Necmettin Erbakan’s brightest aides.
In 1970 Erbakan, an academic and a politician, founded the Milli Nizam Partisi, the “National Order Party” which was also a member of Milli Gorus, Turkey’s largest Islamic association.
Both Erbakan’s Party and Milli Gorus were banned in 1971, while in 1973 Erbakan founded the new Milli Selamet Partisi, the “National Salvation Party”, with which Erbakan even became Deputy Prime Minister from 1974 to 1978.
Arrested after the military coup of 1980, he was forced not to carry out political activity any longer. Said ban ended in 1987.
Political Islamism, the fight against Turkey’s Westernization and a “new nationalism” not separating the State from the Islamic religion were the salient features of Erbakan’s doctrine in its various party connotations.
Erkaban was an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, as well as an anti-American and a strong supporter of a New Islamic Union – on the EU model – which would bring together all the Islamic countries of the Middle East.
Those were Erbakan’s ideas, many of which – although with some differences – seemed to herald President Erdogan’s AKP.
That Party was founded in 2001 as a result of the merger of as many as five Islamist Parties that had not previously had the possibility of organizing themselves overtly and out in the open.
All the Generals and the other officers who were “purged” by the Turkish Armed Forces by Erdogan’s motu proprio were later defined by the Turkish Secret Service, namely MIT, both as “Gulenists” and as pro-Western and “US friends”.
Currently, after the various “purges”, only 65% of the officer posts in the Turkish Armed Forces are covered.
Recently over 150,000 civil servants have been further sidelined and dismissed, due to their membership of Fethullah Gűlen’s network.
Approximately 30,000 of these civil servants linked to Gülen’s Hizmet are still in prison, while there are currently 6,760 military still confined in Turkish jails either on charges of having being involved in the coup or for being members of the Gülen movement.
5,960 of them are Colonels or lower ranking officers and 142 are Brigadiers-General or higher ranking officers.
The issue of the 2016 coup and of the Islamist repression of the Turkish society’s traditional ruling classes reminds us of the Ergenekon trials.
Ergenekon is a powerful secret society – as there were many in Turkish history, and still many continue to flourish – organising some of the secular and pro-Western power groups in Turkey.
Giuseppe Garibaldi had a sound relationship with the Association of Italian Workers in Turkey, a para-Masonic network, while the Lodges of the Grand Orient of Italy organized much of the flourishing emigration of Italian businessmen and financiers to the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, Italy’s Lodges “covered up” and concealed the “Young Turks” movement in the Ottoman Empire.
Ergenekon is also the fundamental legend of the Turkish literary and symbolic tradition regarding a grey she-wolf called Asena which helped the Turkish tribal clans of the Altai Mountains to reach the luxuriant plain of Ergenekon, where they could thrive and reproduce.
A further possibility is that the secret society called Ergenekon is named after Colonel Necabettin Ergenekon, an officer who, at the time of its establishment, was the second in command of the whole covert network of the secret association.
Probably, the secret society we are talking about is one of the many organizations of Turkey’s “Deep-State”, which is one of the great political traditions of the Ottoman Empire, which later merged with NATO’s covert networks in a country, like Turkey, which bordered on the USSR and was close to “hot” war zones such as the Middle East, Iran and the Persian Gulf.
We also need to recall the specific political role played by the military after the 1908 revolution organized by the Turkish Armed Forces and the subsequent self-proclaimed function of the military as “protectors of secular democracy” after the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
In Turkey the “Deep-State” networks were organized to work under the cover of official organizations, such as the Armed Forces – just think about the Feday group born in 1905 – to ultimately stage mass mobilizations and demonstrative actions – hence to “do politics” without showing themselves in public.
The secret societies of the Turkish Armed Forces mainly carried out espionage and counter-espionage missions, but also organized rebellions throughout the Ottoman Empire – suffice to recall the Libyan insurgency against the Italians, or the one in the Balkans against Greece and Bulgaria, or in Egypt against Great Britain.
They were all Turkish nationalist operations, without direct ties to the Ottoman Empire, which often did not even know the nature of “Deep-State” actions.
The “Deep-State” societies were largely dismantled after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, but some espionage and counter-espionage groups remained active, such as the Karakol, Yavuz and Hamzaassociations and Felah, which incorporates the above mentioned Feday group.
Ataturk tried to place all these organizations within the Police and the intelligence Services, but he did not fully succeed to do so.
It should be noted that MIT, the current Secret Service, was founded in 1960, after the first legal Turkish military coup.
In 1971 there was another constitutional coup and in 1980 there was the so-called “post-modern” coup. In 1998, a white coup outlawed the Welfare Party, an Islamist political group founded by Necmettin Erbakan, that was at the origin of President Erdogan’s AKP.
In the midst of the political changes occurred in the post-Cold War period, the EU universal geniuses demanded and obtained the stop of the Turkish Armed Forces’ constitutional operations, thus ensuring the rise to power of the AKP, disguised as a great coalition with other secular political forces.
Furthermore, in 1968 the MIT operated mainly through the pro-Western Turkish Parties to create the conditions for a military coup.
The political link between MIT and the Parties in the Turkish Parliament was the “Counter-Guerrilla Office”, a body of the intelligence Services having considerable autonomy from the central Command.
The counter-guerrilla networks were all connected by a NATO Command for “non-orthodox war”, which was easily penetrated by an East-German secret agent. Much of the Western “Gladio” structure was well known to the Warsaw Pact and, sometimes, to the Communist Parties of Western Europe to which NATO belonged.
This is one of the most rational interpretation of the “Moro affair” and of its effects in Italian political history following the assassination of the Christian Democrat leader.
Nevertheless the Networks – to which probably also Ergenekon belonged – were manifold: Absalon in Denmark; Aginter in Portugal, with many branches also in Italy; the Auxiliary Units in the UK; the Bund Deutscher Jugend and the Technischer Dienst operating in West Germany; the well-known Gladio-Stay Behind in Italy and Central Europe, including Switzerland; the Grupo Antiterorista de Liberacion, operating in Spain; Informationsbyran in Sweden and also Intelligence & Operations in the Netherlands; the Mountain Riders in Greece; Nihtilä Haathti in Finland and the Österreichischer Wander-Sport und Geselligkeitsverein in Austria; Plan Bleu and Rose de Vents (with interconnections also in Italy), as well as Arc en Ciel in France, which had two “Gladio” structures, one in the South and another in the North, whose Head of the Southern network was Mitterrand’s “presidential hunter”; Projekt 26 in Switzerland; Rocambole in Norway and finally SDRA-8 and STC/Mob in Belgium.
The official Turkish network of NATO Stay Behind, however, was not Ergenekonbut the Tactical Mobilisation Committee, which was at the base of the pogromagainst the Greek Orthodox people of September 6-7,1955.
The Ergenekon trials began in June 2007 with a raid by the Turkish police while, coincidentally, the Constitutional Court put the AKP on trial on charges of “being the core of anti-secularist activities”.
The charges against Ergenekon concerned 86 suspects, in the first phase of police activities, and later further 56 ones.
The trials against the secret society ended in early August 2013.
In the end, there were 275 defendants, 17 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment. Only 12 of them were found innocent.
As stated above, the operation against Ergenekon started with the search of Oktay Ildirim’s house, where several grenades were found, and Ildirim was a simple retired sergeant.
The usual EU universal geniuses positively viewed the trial against the pro-Western secret society, which was a clear sign to the military by the AKP in power.
Clearly the current crisis of the Turkish military world and hence the subsequent replacement of “secularist” officers with Islamist or neo-nationalist military – in line with President Erdogan’s project of New Turkish Ottomanism towards the East – is a strong sign of the persistence of “secret societies” in the Turkish Deep-State and of President Erdogan’s willingness to have an Armed Force completely free of the “coupist” and secularist temptations typical of the Kemalist world which is still deeply rooted in the tradition of the Turkish Armed Forces.
This will create many problems to NATO and still many more to the EU.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France
President of International World Group