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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs