May 14, 2015

Military refuses to be drawn into Erdoğan’s war against ‘parallel structure’

The Turkish General Staff has opposed the amendment of a key military strategy document to include “illegal structures disguised as legal entities” as a security threat, apparently refusing to join President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ferocious campaign against what he calls the “parallel structure."

Military sources have confirmed that the representatives of the General Staff attending a National Security Council (MGK) meeting on April 29 refused to brand “illegal structures disguised as legal entities” as a security threat in the Turkish National Military Strategy (TÜMAS) document despite Erdoğan's persistent demand to that effect.

The same sources said the General Staff opposed the amendment to the classified document because of the vagueness of the threat. “Fighting against vaguely defined concepts is impossible,” said one source.

Erdoğan has invented the term “parallel structure” after a massive corruption probe implicating people in his inner circle erupted on Dec. 17, 2013. The term refers to alleged followers of the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in the state bureaucracy, whom Erdoğan accused of being behind the corruption probe. The corruption probe itself, according to Erdoğan, was a conspiracy by the “parallel structure” and foreign collaborators to unseat him. After the scandal broke out, he vowed to do whatever it takes to eliminate the “parallel structure,” including carrying out a “witch hunt.”

The term “illegal structures disguised as legal entities” surfaced after Erdoğan has introduced the issue to the MGK agenda, and appears to be the military's preferred term. Some commentators have speculated that the choice of the plural form means that the military wants the fight to include all religious groups, while the government insists it is solely focused on the “parallel structure” and denies that it plans to criminalize any religious community.

The term “illegal structures disguised as legal entities” has already been included in another secret security document, the National Security Policy Document, commonly referred to as the Red Book, as a source of threat in line with Erdoğan's demand.

In the past, TÜMAS has been traditionally amended in line with amendments made to the Red Book.

The military sources said the General Staff has suffered in the past because of its activities against such vaguely defined threats at the insistence of the civilian authorities. “We do not want to make the same mistake again,” said a source.

The same sources also explained that the military's reluctance to join Erdoğan's efforts was also because the General Staff has no authority to gather intelligence on civilians.

The MGK, widely criticized in the past as the main platform through which the military exerts control over politics, has been sidelined to a large extent as a result of reforms undertaken to bring Turkish laws into line with the standards of the European Union as part of Turkey's membership bid in the past decade.

However, Erdoğan has revitalized the institution recently, hoping to recruit the military as an ally in his war on the Gülen movement. Erdoğan also insists that MGK decisions will provide a basis for future court decisions against the movement, a claim which jurists reject as an outright intervention in the judiciary, as the MGK is an administrative body that has no authority to make laws.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 May 2015, Thursday