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Viewing cable 10ANKARA294, TURKEY: LARGEST WAVE OF MILITARY DETENTIONS TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10ANKARA294 2010-02-23 19:07 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
VZCZCXRO1215
PP RUEHSL
DE RUEHAK #0294/01 0541901
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231901Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2228
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH// PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000294 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SE; OSD FOR WADE POPOVICH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2020 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: LARGEST WAVE OF MILITARY DETENTIONS TO 
DATE POSES QUESTIONS: WHAT NEXT IN AKP-MILITARY CLASH? 
 
REF: A. ANKARA 150 
     B. ANKARA 53 AND PREVIOUS 
     C. ANKARA 107 
 
Classified By: Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  On February 22 police detained 47 retired 
and active-duty military officers, including 17 flag-grade 
officers for -- according to press reports -- their alleged 
involvement in coup plots dating back to 2003-2004.  Although 
coverage of the detentions blanketed the press, neither the 
Turkish General Staff (TGS) nor the government appear 
publicly outraged (in the case of TGS) or congratulatory (the 
governing Justice and Development Party) by the actions. 
There has been no official statement from the TGS, and PM 
Ergodan took a back seat by stating that the police were 
simply acting on order from the judiciary.  (His attack dog 
Deputy PM Arinc was more polemical.)  CHOD GEN Basbug 
announced that he has postponed imminent travel to Egypt, and 
late on February 23 called an emergency meeting with his 
four-star generals and admirals.  Prosecutors have now 
detained all of the force commanders from the 2003-2004 
period with the exception of former CHOD Hilmi Ozkok and 
former Turkish Land Forces Commander Aytac Yalman.  End 
summary. 
 
Unprecedented Arrests... 
------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) On February 22 nearly 50 retired and current 
military officers (and one NCO) were detained, likely for 
their alleged connections to the "Sledgehammer" (Balyoz) 
investigations.  The homes and offices of many retired flag 
officers were also searched and police seized and removed 
documents for further inspection.  Among those detained were 
four active duty admirals and 17 retired generals, including: 
 
--Ergin Saygun:  Former Deputy CHOD (2006-2008) and 1st Army 
Commander (2008-2009).  Saygun is very well-known to the 
U.S.; he was our primary coordinator on anti-terrorism issues 
for many years, and had accompanied PM Erdogan during his 
November 2007 visit to Washington. 
 
--Ibrahim Firtina:  Former Air Force Chief from 2003-2005. 
Firtina was questioned in December 2009 by the Ergenekon 
prosecutors and has been implicated in the press for his role 
in the Sledgehammer Operation. 
 
--Cetin Dogan: Former 1st Army Commander (2002-2004). 
 
--Ozden Ornek:  Former Navy Chief (2003 - 2005).  Ornek's 
diary, which allegedly details discussions among senior 
military officers to start a coup between 2003-2005, is being 
used by prosecutors as their primary source of evidence. 
Ornek was also questioned by Ergenekon prosecutors in 
December 2009. 
 
--Engin Alan:  LtG (retired). 
 
--Suha Tanyeli:  BG (retired). Tanyeli was head of the TGS 
Strategic Research Center (SAREM). 
 
3.  (C) The operation itself appears to have been well 
coordinated, as detentions and searches took place 
simultaneously in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Diyarbakir, 
Hatay, Kocaeli, and Bodrum.  There have been no official 
pronouncements regarding the reasons for the operation, 
although the press widely suspects that the arrests are in 
connection with the 2003 Sledgehammer plan (which allegedly 
included a plan to overthrow the AKP government (ref B) and a 
separate plot known as "Operation Cage" (ref A)).  Press 
reports state that many of the detained individuals' 
signatures were found on "Sledgehammer" documents.  The 
majority of individuals, according to the press, are being 
interrogated in Istanbul. 
 
...But So What? 
---------------- 
 
4. (C) Despite the press fury, reaction from TGS and the 
government has been minimal.  TGS has yet to make a official 
statement.  However, TGS CHOD General Ilker Basbug postponed 
his official travel to Egypt -- an extraordinary and 
 
ANKARA 00000294  002 OF 003 
 
 
unprecedented step -- and late on February 23 called an 
emergency meeting with his four-star generals and admirals. 
When asked about the arrests PM Erdogan, in Spain for a state 
visit, told reporters that the police were acting on the 
order of the judiciary.  Although a few "usual suspects" 
inflammatory statements from the opposition -- such as 
Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) Chairman Deniz Baykal's 
statement that the arrests made it feel was "as if Turkey was 
under occupation" -- made it into the press initially, 
overall press reactions were overshadowed the following day 
by other news stories.  Markets opened up this morning, and 
business continues as usual. 
 
Bad for TGS?  Good for AKP? 
---------------------------- 
 
5. (C) This is the largest "round-up" of military officers to 
date; the lack of an immediate reaction from TGS may suggest 
that the (current) military leadership is either fully 
willing to allow this investigation and the democratic 
process to continue unimpeded, or is waiting for AKP to hang 
itself on unfounded allegations.  The military remains deeply 
unhappy about AKP's governance and is enraged at the steady 
campaign to erode the military's standing in Turkish society. 
 To date, prosecutors have now detained all of the senior 
military commanders from the 2003-2004 period with the 
exception of former CHOD Hilmi Ozkok and former Land Forces 
Commander Aytac Yalman.  And although the TGS seemed to be 
caught off balance and therefore was unwilling to speak up 
yesterday in strong opposition to these ongoing 
investigations, it seems unlikely that it will remain silent. 
 
 
6. (C) AKP appears to have concluded that it gains 
politically from the arrest of military officers.  Having 
perhaps nevertheless learned from past experiences, PM 
Erdogan was shielded from what could have been outraged 
criticism by secularists by conveniently being outside of the 
country.  His absence also did not allow for any publicized 
"urgent" meeting with CHOD Basbug, as has happened in the 
past.  Deputy PM Bulent Arinc's statements appeared designed 
to spin these developments as yet another example of how 
"times have changed" in Turkey and how the country is merely 
going through a "normalization" period. 
 
7. (C) The next few days will prove interesting and possibly 
pivotal.  The judiciary has four days to either turn the 
detentions into formal arrests or release the individuals. 
If formal charges are brought, TGS will be forced to respond. 
 Likewise, a lack of substantive evidence will rebound on the 
Government, and will give credence to accusations that the 
long-running Ergenekon investigation has a deeper and more 
insidious design:  to undermine AKP's secular opposition. 
 
8. (C) Some knowledgeable embassy officers see this latest 
step as a more serious provocation that could trigger some 
type of unpredictable military reaction.  We will see. 
 
COMMENT 
-------- 
 
9.  (C) To repeat the facts on this whole "Ergenekon" set of 
events: 
 
a.  There is some "fire" behind the smoke.  The military 
obviously has plans to intervene if necessary in political 
affairs and can cite the 1982 constitution, endorsed by the 
population per referendum, which gives the military a key 
role in "overseeing" democratic governments' adherence to 
Ataturkist principles -- largely defined as by the military 
and its friends in the bureaucracy and judiciary. 
 
b.  PM Erdogan (supported by the EU and even many 
anti-Erdogan Turkes who want to see the military out of 
politics) legitimately wants to rein in this "droit de 
regard" status. 
 
c.  But PM Erdogan realizes that elections are coming up, and 
that he did relatively poorly in last year's elections (38%) 
but brilliantly in 2007 (47% AKP win) when he played off the 
military's counter-productive threats. 
 
d.  Thus much of this is electoral poiltics, albeit of a 
 
ANKARA 00000294  003 OF 003 
 
 
"below the belt" contact sport variety. 
 
e.  All this is exacerbated by the thuggish authoritarian 
behavior of the police and judiciary (reflecting prevailing 
tendencies in this society, including in the military).  In 
the U.S. a prosecutor or detective would simply have visited 
the generals in question to post questions.  "Invites" to the 
precinct, reading of rights, indictments, arrests, and 
detentions follow only after the amassing of evidence and 
clear indications of a case winnable in court.  Not here. 
Anyone even suspected of "having information" is hauled 
before the police (armed with automatic weapons), and 
humiliated before the press.  It's always been that way; now 
it's happening also to the top brass and their friends. 
 
f.  Up to now, however, most of those so publicly humiliated 
are eventually released due to patent innocence,a lack of 
evidence (as in the recent "Special Forces officers planning 
Arinc's assassination" caper -- ref A) or because the 
judiciary throws the whole process out (i.e. the law making 
military officers subject to civilian courts -- ref C). 
 
g.  But every day is a new one here, and no one can be 
certain where this whole choreography will fall out of whack. 
 Then, look out. 
Jeffrey 
 
           "Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s 
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"