Turkey's intelligence chief resigns to run for elections in June

Turkey's intelligence chief resigns to run for elections in June

Turkeys intelligence chief resigns to run for elections in June The head of Turkey's intelligence service, Hakan Fidan, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's closest confidants, has resigned in order to run in a parliamentary election in June.

Sources in the Prime Minister's office told daily Hürriyet late Feb. 6 that the petition of resignation that Fidan presented was accepted by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and it would be valid as of Feb. 10. 

According to the Turkish law, Feb. 10 is the deadline for civil servants to resign in order to be nominated as candidates for the June 7 election. It was earlier reported that Sümeyye Erdoğan, the daughter of President Erdoğan, was likely to become a deputy as well.

Reminding that a prosecutor had sought to detain Fidan exactly two years ago, Davutoğlu told journalists on Feb. 7 that the timing of the resignation was not planned to coincide with its second anniversary. "The operation that was carried out against Hakan [Fidan] on Feb. 7, 2012, was an operation against our government and Prime Minister to sabotage the peace process," he added.

“He will make the best of any job in any place,” Davutoğlu had said earlier about Fidan, describing him as “brave and valiant.”

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said upon the resignation of the intel chief that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was in search of a new prime minister. “It is understood that Hakan Fidan’s candidacy came since the prime ministry seat is empty. This is why they are preparing now,” he said. Kılıçdaroğlu argues the de facto head of the executive power is Erdoğan, not Davutoğlu. 

Veli Ağbaba, deputy chair of the CHP, also claimed Feb. 7 that Fidan would become the prime minister when a new cabinet is appointed after the elections.

“The name of the MİT Undersecretary is known by more people than the ministers and even the prime minister,” Ağbaba said during a party meeting in Istanbul. “Turkey has been a police state. Now it is turning into an intelligence state,” he added.

However, the government has denied the claims, with Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan saying in an interview with broadcaster CNN Türk on Feb. 7 that the argument was funny.
“I cannot help laughing when I see such claims,” he said.

“This is dark ignorance. Hakan Fidan is one of the figures that PM Ahmet Davutoğlu trusts the most. He is someone that President Tayyip Erdoğan, and all of us, trusts the most,” he said.

Oktay Vural, the deputy leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said the move proved intelligence has been used as a political tool by the ruling party.

Deputy PM Bülent Arınç, on the other hand, did not hide that he disagrees with Fidan's decision to resign from MİT.

"If he will become a member of parliament, then his current job is more important. I personally don't think that it is appropriate for him to become a minister. If a person who is assigned as Superman enters the parliament, I consider it a waste," Arınç said moments after he learned about Fidan's decision during a live interview on CNN Türk television late Feb. 6. 

Veli Ağbaba, deputy chair of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claimed Feb. 7 that Fidan would become the prime minister when a new cabinet is appointed after the elections.

"The name of the MİT Undersecretary is known by more people than the ministers and even the prime minister," Ağbaba said during a party meeting in Istanbul. "Turkey has been a police state. Now it is turning into an intelligence state," he added.

Fidan was considered a strong candidate for the foreign minister post before Davutoğlu announced the new cabinet members last August after taking the helm at the Prime Ministry from Erdoğan.

Since his appointment as the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) on May 25, 2010, Fidan's tenure has been marked key developments linking political and intelligence activities.

Fidan participated in talks between MİT officials and representatives of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) at a time when he was a special adviser to then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. 

As part of the the Kurdish peace process to end the 30 years of conflict, the discussion was held abroad between 2009 and 2011 in a series of meetings publicly known as the “Oslo talks.” The talks collapsed after a PKK attack killed 13 soldiers near Diyarbakır in July 2011, soon after their audio recordings leaked online.

Following Fidan’s appointment and Israel’s raid of the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010, killing 10 Turkish activists, Mossad cut intelligence-sharing with MİT out of concerns that information could be passed on Iran, Israel’s regional foe. Sources described this as a turning point in Turkey’s shift to improving its foreign intelligence capacity.

Effects of crisis with Israel

The leak of Oslo talks and the deepening crisis with Israel eventually led to a rift between Erdoğan, who stood by Fidan, and his ally Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamic cleric whose followers wield influence in the Turkish judiciary and the security bureaucracy.

On Feb. 7, 2012, another crisis erupted when a specially authorized prosecutor summoned Fidan, now the Undersecretary of MİT, and four other MİT officials to testify in the ongoing investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a supra organization that includes the PKK, on the grounds that some MİT members who had infiltrated the KCK had exceeded their authority in their duties.

Weeks after the massive graft probes implicating several government figures launched, Syria-bound trucks belonging to MİT were stopped by a prosecutor who sought to have the gendarmerie search the vehicles on Jan. 2, 2014. A top-secret security meeting on Syria that Fidan also attended at Turkey's Foreign Ministry leaked on YouTube on March 27, 2014.

The Turkish government responded by accusing Gülenist officials of plotting to overthrow the government through graft probes and damaging leaks, while also targeting Fidan. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies presented a bill to the parliament last year, significantly strengthening the powers of MİT.

Erdoğan said last week that the Gülenists in the country, which he dubs “the parallel structure,” have joined forces with the Israeli intelligence service. Earlier, the Turkish government accelarated the peace process, with Fidan personally meeting the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in Aug. 2014.

One of the most significant developments for MİT during Fidan's tenure was the Sept. 20 intelligence operation that freed the 49 Turkish hostages held by jihadists in Iraq last year. Öztürk Yılmaz, Turkey's consul general in Mosul, and 48 other consulate staff were freed through negotations with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Fidan has reportedly been "evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of resignation from MİT to be nominated for the parliament" throughout the past week.

The two senior officials said Muhammed Dervişoğlu, undersecretary of public order and security, would be most likely to replace Fidan.

The intelligence agency could not immediately be reached for comment.