Erdoğan poised to land blow on former ally Gülen

Erdoğan poised to land blow on former ally Gülen

“Their plans to arrest me were ready,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in his speech on Dec. 12 while hosting the Turkish Union of Chambers of Commerce (TOBB) in the new presidential palace in Ankara.

“Dec. 17 [2013] was not a corruption operation,” Erdoğan said in the same speech. “It was a coup attempt. They had even prepared the list for the Cabinet to take over after us. We have all of the evidence in our hands now.”

If those words had been said seven years ago, one would have assumed that the target was the military, against which a number of investigations were under way, such as the “Ergenekon” and “Balyoz” cases. In those, not only ranking military officers, but academics, journalists, lawyers and NGO members were put in prisons and received heavy sentences.

Erdoğan’s target today is not the military, but the same police officers, prosecutors and judges who had spearheaded the probes to curb the military’s role in politics and, in the meantime, caused lot of collateral damage. In those days, Deniz Baykal, the former chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), labeled them the “F-Type structure.”

That “F-Type” labeling was in reference to the letter “F” of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist scholar living in the U.S. with a lot of sympathizers in Turkey's police force, judiciary, education and media sectors, and who had been the closest ally of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) governments since 2002.

Gülen’s "Hizmet" (Service) Movement, also running thousands of schools in Turkey and more than 100 countries (previously with the diplomatic and political support of AK Parti governments), gave open political support to Erdoğan. Ahead of the 2010 Constitutional referendum, that support reached such a peak that Gülen even asked his supporters to come out of their graves to cast their votes for Erdoğan when they are dead.

Things started to go sour after Erdoğan received 50 percent of the votes in the 2011 parliamentary election, winning his third consequent election, after which he challenged Gülen to return Turkey to live. In that way, Erdoğan aimed to establish better control over Turkey's education, judicial and security systems, which was an understandable aim. By then, the unfair judicial claims around Ergenekon and Balyoz cases had escalated.

Then, when allegedly Gülenist prosecutors were involved in cases attempting to interrogate Hakan Fidan, the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), the bridges between Erdoğan and Gülen rapidly started to crumble. Erdoğan took that move personally, because Fidan was acting upon his orders to start up a dialogue between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in pursuit of a political settlement.

The bridges completely broke when Istanbul prosecutors began the corruption probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 against members of Erdoğan’s government, bureaucracy, and even his family members. Erdoğan immediately said this was a plot by Gülenists, describing them a “parallel structure within the state” and vowing to root them out.

For nearly a year he has been threatening the Gülenists. He openly said that the top reason why he selected Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as his successor was Davutoğlu’s determination to fight against the “parallels.”

Now the time may have come, as we approach the anniversary of the biggest corruption probes, (cases that have already been dropped through the replacement of the prosecutors and judges), in Turkey's history.

A warning by a fake and allegedly Gülenist Twitter account, “Fuat Avni,” on Dec. 11, saying that a major security operation was about to start against “Hizmet” to arrest journalists, lawyers, police officers, bankers and investors close to them, triggered a major debate in Turkey.

Then came Erdoğan’s words that I opened this column with. It is possible that there will be mass detentions in the next few days. If so, a major face off within the ruling AK Parti ranks will come to its final stage, with a considerable split.

Erdoğan also claimed that the “parallel network that is committing treason” has also been involved in “unsolved murder cases,” and this is the real tragic part of it. Because what he was hinting at was the murder of Hrant Dink, an Armenian-origin Turkish journalist killed in January 2007. A young triggerman called Ogün Samast was tried and found guilty for the killing, but the case is still not closed.

During the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials, prosecutors had tried to link Dink's murder with the military. Now, the suspicions are directed toward the Gülenists.