News / Middle East

Turkish Security Breach Exposes Erdogan Power Struggle

FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news briefing.
FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news briefing.
Reuters
Turkey's spymaster discusses possible military intervention in Syria with army and civilian chiefs, and days later their words are broadcast on the internet for all the world to hear.

The breach appeared to highlight a disturbing truth for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan: that Turkey can no longer keep even top-level security planning secret, despite his purge of thousands of officials as part of an effort root out a covert network of enemies he accuses of trying to sabotage the state and topple him.

"This crisis is one of the biggest in Turkish history," a senior government official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "A serious concern has certainly emerged regarding what follows now. If a meeting such as this has been listened to, others may have. We do not know who is in possession of [the recordings]."

Erdogan was out of public action on Friday, resting a voice strained by campaigning for local elections over the weekend — the first in a string that will decide the future of a man who  has reformed Turkey fundamentally but is now accused by critics of authoritarian and divisive tendencies.

Even without the principal actor, the drama played on over the leaked audio recording that appeared on YouTube on Thursday; by far most serious of a stream of illegal intercepts of state communications, many involving Erdogan himself.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in whose office the security meeting took place, said "everyone and everything within the Foreign Ministry will be investigated with utmost scrutiny" — a measure of the alarm stirred by the recording.

A body close to the Hizmet movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of running a "dirty campaign" of espionage to implicate him in corruption, said suggestions Gulen was involved were "beyond comedy."

The leaking of such sensitive material could also raise alarm among NATO allies who see Turkey as occupying a crucial position on the edge of a volatile Middle East. Telephone conversations between Erdogan and his family have been intercepted; calls from foreign leaders may also be in unknown hands.

The recorded meeting discussed whether to send forces across the Syrian border to secure the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, in an area largely controlled by militant Islamists fighting the Damascus government. Ankara regards the tomb as Turkish territory.

One leftist daily carried the headline "I'll Send Four Men, Fire Eight Rockets," referring to a comment on the recording attributed to intelligence chief Hakan Fidan — one of Erdogan's closest allies — that indicated, if necessary, he could send four men to Syria with eight rockets and fire onto empty land. This, the voice said, could be used to justify Turkish intervention.

Officials, aware that any involvement in Syria would be highly unpopular with Turkish voters, accept the recording is genuine but say it was manipulated in places. Its dissemination on radio and television has been banned in Turkey and the government ordered that the video-sharing site YouTube be shut down.

A crisis erupted in Turkey on Dec. 17 when anti-graft police raided homes and detained businessmen close to Erdogan and sons of ministers. Erdogan responded by purging members of the police force and judiciary he accused of serving Gulen, a former ally who controls a network of schools and businesses and has over decades amassed followers in state institutions and business.

"There are two shocking things in this case," said Sinan Ulgen, Chairman of Istanbul's Edam think tank. "One is the fact that Turkey is now unable to keep a conversation at the highest level in the security establishment ... secret.

"The second shocking thing is that despite every measure they have taken since December 17, including the purge of many thousands of people including police, judiciary and probably other places, this continues to go on."

The recording constituted in effect a message from its unidentified dispatchers, that they were still in business.

Elections

Sunday's local polls will test Erdogan's popularity following the corruption scandal and a heavyhanded police crackdown on anti-government protests in the summer. Failure by Erdogan's AK Party to hold Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, and the capital Ankara could undermine his authority.

It is unclear yet what effect the corruption scandal and leak will have on the outcome, but government officials argue the recording could work in Erdogan's favor by rallying voters disgusted by the release of state secrets.

Shares and the Turkish lira have been stronger this week on expectation that Erdogan's AK Party will achieve or approach the 40 percent vote of 2009 and that this may help ease the crisis.

Sympathetic media backed Erdogan on Friday. "We condemn the heinous treason against Turkey," a couple of dozen pro-government newspapers and television stations said in a joint statement. "The shadow organization has given itself away."

Erdogan used Gulen's influence in his early years in power to help rein in an army that had toppled four governments in 40 years. Critics suggest, in essence, that having let the wolf into his kitchen he should not be surprised by the outcome.

The present confrontation began when Erdogan moved last year to close Gulen's schools, a source of income and influence. Gulen had criticized Erdogan over deteriorating ties with Israel and over his crackdown on anti-government protests in June.

Erdogan feels duped

Tercan Basturk, board member of the Journalists and Writers Foundation that often speaks for Hizmet — also known as Cemaat — said the movement had nothing to do with the recording.

"How could Cemaat go into a secure room where four diplomats were and listen to them?" he asked. "It's beyond comedy... They are looking for Cemaat under every stone."

A government official, who asked not to be named, said Erdogan felt he had been "duped" by Gulen, who denies any involvement in the police graft investigation or the recent leaks. "The main reason for Erdogan's anger now is this sense of having been deceived. He's taking this very personally."

The Syria recording as posted also alluded to turmoil in state bodies since infighting broke out between Erdogan and Hizmet.

"Currently the state is functioning with a few people and with a few departments able to make proper decisions," Foreign Minister Davutoglu is quoted as saying in discussing the problems of marshalling support for actions.

"Definitely, sir, definitely," Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Yasar Guler is quoted as saying.

"Well, are we going to be put off by this?" asks Davutoglu.

"No, we will not be put off, minister, we will not be put off," General Guler is quoted as saying.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid