Did the prime minister receive an ‘Özel’* message?

Did the prime minister receive an ‘Özel’* message?

“One wave, two waves, three waves, and then four waves, et cetera. This disturbs the public. We are also significantly disturbed by this. The necessary steps should be taken and that should be it, but when the waves follow one after another, pardon me, but the country will suffocate. I think this business should not be extended any longer.” These words, from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made everyone exclaim, “What’s happening?”

Only two weeks ago, in his address to MÜSİAD on April 28, Erdoğan said, “Only we and God know what we all had to go through during the Feb. 28 process. If the perpetrators, the architects, the engineers, the puppets, and the pawns of these incidents are not uncovered, if they are not held accountable, then be sure that our children and our grandchildren will experience the same disaster.” What has changed in two weeks such that he has reached a point where he can say “The country will suffocate in these waves”?

Since this question is quite widespread, I believe I can hazard an answer: On Tuesday May 1, Erdoğan, as you know, had a three-hour, 10-minute meeting with Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel. We thought that international security issues were on the agenda. Now, we can guess that the Chief of General Staff also conveyed his views on the Feb. 28 investigation to the prime minister in this meeting, and that Özel spoke of the disturbance the process has caused within the Armed Forces (TSK).

There is one question that has been dangling since last year: Was the dicomfort that caused Gen. Özel’s predecessor, Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner, to resign his post early eliminated by his resignation? If the answer is “yes,” in other words, if the tension created in the TSK by what is being done in the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases ended with Koşaner’s resignation, then there is no problem. (If you believe this, then you do not need to read the rest of this article.)

But, if not, and the sitiuation in the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases, in which retired and active TSK members are being tried, have reached a point where the former Chief of General Staff has been arrested on charges of forming an “armed terror organization and directing it,” and on top of this came the arrests in the probe into the Feb. 28 coup, increasing the discomfort among the military... we should not be surprised that the person heading the TSK has conveyed this discomfort to the prime minister.

The TSK has been saying for years, “We are not against the trials. If anyone is guilty, they should be sentenced. What we want is for the legal process to be finalized as soon as possible, for the TSK not to be described as a crime network, for members of the TSK to be tried without first being arrested, and for them not to be publicly insulted or victimized, together with their families.”

Therefore given that Özel, who has left no room for doubt that he is in harmony with the government since he took office, has not spoken publicly except in a few written interviews, and has not created an environment suitable for other commanders to issue individual statements, it should not be surprising that Erdoğan regarded the discomfort that Özel probably conveyed to him during their tête-à-tête as considerable.

My guess is this: Erdoğan, in the speech where he said “the country will suffocate in these waves” was demonstrating that he takes the message that was likely conveyed to him by the TSK seriously. He said “we are also significantly disturbed by this,” in the beginning of his speech, so in other words, some people are disturbed. “We are also” disturbed.

* “Özel” means “special” or “private” in Turkish.

Murat Çelik is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on May 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

MURAT ÇELİK - murat.celik@yuzyuze.com.tr