Such compromises in the past have led to the weakening of the political leadership while strengthening the political power of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Turkish security analysts compared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s defense of Gen. Ilker Basbug, the chief of general staff, though the general made highly critical remarks against the media in a fresh attempt to threaten and intimidate the public, to the days when the heads of government have bowed to the pressure of the TSK.
Instead of responding to allegations of negligence during an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) against the Aktütün military outpost in the southeastern province of Hakkari that killed 17 Turkish soldiers, Basbug has openly threatened the media by saying, "Comply or else."
Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) put its signature on major military and civilian reform in 2003, has bowed to military pressure as Turkish security analysts stressed when he has defended the military against the media.
He supported Basbug by making similar remarks on the fight against terror and said: "There is no place for weakness or hesitation in the fight against terror. No one should try to depict our security forces as weak or hesitant. "
Taraf daily revealed last week — supported by films taken by unmanned air vehicles as well as confidential military reports — that the security forces were allegedly negligent. Basbug, instead of clarifying the allegations, made threatening remarks, and in a controversial move, the military court launched a probe into the leaked the information as well as against Taraf and the media organizations that quoted Taraf’s story.
The PKK attack against the Aktütün outpost caused unprecedented public outcry against the military, signaling that patience has worn thin with the state’s inability to curb the 24-year-old PKK violence. Local elections and cosmetic steps on Kurdish problem But based on the strong, threatening messages that those in power directed toward the media, it seems they didn’t hear the public outcry.
The convergence of opinion between the TSK and political leaders gives strong signals that the latter will continue to take cosmetic steps to remedy the PKK problem out of a fear that terror, among other things, will continue to reduce support for the AK Party as the March municipality elections near.
According to an opinion poll conducted by MetroPOLL, voter confidence in the AK Party fell to 35 percent in October from 50.9 percent the previous month because of terror and corruption allegations leveled against the government. The result of the opinion poll also signals that government isn’t likely to introduce tangible nonmilitary measures to address the Kurdish problem in an attempt to reduce the increased PKK attacks.
Any nonmilitary measures announced by AK Party will be cosmetic because drastic political incentives that could solve the decades-long Kurdish problem will mean fewer votes for the ruling party mainly in the Kurdish dominated, war-stricken Southeast.
This is because sound political incentives made toward a solution to the Kurdish problem will unfortunately prompt nationalistic fervor and will thus significantly affect the AK Party’s chances in winning the municipal elections as the poll results have already shown. It is also hard to test whether the AK Party would be willing to introduce serious political measures for the Kurdish problem if there were no local elections on the horizon.
New military measures
Turkish dailies reported the outcome of a terror summit held Tuesday, under which several military measures are going to be introduced in the fight against the PKK.
One measure puts the Interior Ministry in charge of counterinsurgency, a move that some papers portrayed as the launch of a civilian initiative in the fight against the PKK. But it’s too early to make such analysis, said an official from the Interior Ministry.
The latest measures will enable the military to gradually take charge of protecting border security against foreign threats while professional security teams will be responsible for the fight against terror.
The government, on the other hand, has appeared to have turned down the military’s proposal for extending the detention period from four days to up to 28 days on grounds that the detention period is ensured under the Constitution. Instead, the government is expected to issue a regulation to meet the military’s request for a longer detention period while widening the military’s authority to search, the dailies reported.
Nevertheless, the recent military measures do not seem to address an effective fight against terror as long as Turkey’s core problem of blurred boundaries in the separation of powers, i.e., the military being highly involved in the political decision-making process remain, said a Western diplomat. However, if the AK Party wins the local elections with a big majority, then it may begin accumulating financial resources to the new, pro-AK Party mayors mainly in the Southeast and feel more confident in introducing political incentives for the region, said the same diplomat.
On the European Union front, the government has already failed to come up with firm pledges in the political realm, including the reduction of the role of the TSK in politics, giving strong signals of its inability to further democracy in the foreseeable future.
The gloomy picture that Turkey has been portraying internally has had the potential to overshadow Ankara’s increasingly positive image that has been created by the government as a problem-solver in international crises such as efforts to bring together Israeli and Syrian officials as well as efforts to break the ice with Armenia, said the Western diplomat.