YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—There is an internal war being waged in Turkey between its secular military and Islamist rooted government and that conflict may prompt another military coup in the country, a leading Armenian expert on Turkey said Tuesday, adding that the increased tension may bring an end to the Western-backed Turkey-Armenia normalization process.
“There is an internal war taking place in Turkey,” said Ruben Safrastyan, the director of the Oriental Studies Institute at Armenia’s Academy of Sciences. He was referring to the ongoing Ergenekon investigation, launched in 2007, against a clandestine group with links to the army accused of seeking to topple the Islamist government.
Speaking to reporters in Yerevan, Safrastyan, was quoted by Armenian Public Radio as saying that recent developments in the Ergenekon case could likely lead to a fifth attempt at a military takeover and Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would try and “use this situation to continue dragging out the process of ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols.”
“The possibility of a military coup is not great, but if there is one, there will be a lot of victims,” he said. “Under these circumstances would the US continue pressuring Turkey to ratify the protocols?”
“Washington may understand that the Armenian-Turkish relations may further strain the situation and I do not rule out the possibility that they may stop pressuring the government to ratify its agreements with Armenia,” Safrastyan said, adding that the US is “closely watching the developments in Turkey” and could intervene in “one way or another” if it escalates.
The Turkish military sees itself as the guardian of the pro-Western, secular, form of government established by the Turkish Republic’s founder, Kemal Ataturk. The army has overthrown elected governments four times in the country’s modern history (1960, 1971, 1980, 1997), imposing or re-imposing its own brand of political correctness on the nation.
The AKP party this week dramatically upped the stakes in its showdown with the military by detaining more than 50 current and former military commanders. The detentions have electrified Turkey as the most sweeping move to date by the AK to redefine the Turkish republic by challenging the traditional dominance of the military.
On February 22, 21 generals were detained, including former navy chief Admiral Ozden Ornek, former air force chief General Ibrahim Firtina, and former 1st Army commander General Ergin Saygun. Most of the others detained were colonels. The arrests are linked to a plan by Ergenekon members to carry out a military coup against the party in 2003.
Code-named “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer), the plot allegedly involved plans to spark unrest by bombing two major mosques in Istanbul and staging an assault on a military museum by attackers disguised as Islamic fundamentalists.
Safrastyan said the growing clampdown has broken the unity of Turkey’s military. He did not, however, give concrete predictions of what he thought would unfold as a result. “The processes are still developing, and today it’s hard to say what is going to happen.”