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February 09, 2012, Thursday

The empire strikes back no.267

I had ended my column, titled “Towards a final confrontation” (Jan. 22, 2012) with this conclusion: “Undoubtedly, we are now closer to witnessing various attempts to reverse all the reform processes with new tricks. If [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan once more does not surprise us in 2012 and beyond, we will see an intense battle for democracy -- or not. The real struggle starts now, simply because all the ghosts are out of Pandora’s Box.”

My professional experience in this country over two decades has taught me to listen to my instincts, and when I wrote this, I had the incident of Uludere (35 Kurdish villagers killed in bombings) in mind. This is not, I believe to this day, a simple human error; it remains as a potential insight into what keeps taking place in “deep Ankara” as we wait in anticipation of what the investigation of the incident will reveal.

The telephone “invitation” to interrogate the head of [the] National Intelligence [Organization (MİT)], Hakan Fidan, MİT Deputy Undersecretary Afet Güneş, and Emre Taner, his predecessor, in the context of KCK [Kurdish Communities Union] operations is a bombshell. In what looked like a stormy 24 hours, this was followed by the dismissal of two key anti-terror directors (one of them head of intelligence for the National Police in the Greater Istanbul area. On Wednesday night, the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is reported to have struck at 10 locations along the Iraqi border.

The figure targeted, at first sight, is Fidan himself. Close confidant of PM Erdoğan and an expert on the Iranian nuclear armament project, he is still fresh in his duty at the top of the organization that is covered with traditional secrecy and remains more unscrutinized than others in its role concerning the dark corners of recent history.

But, what seems targeted is, as opposed to those who would argue that what goes on is only “sectarian infighting” within the government and the state, is what Fidan and two other key figures represent and much higher up. While Taner was one of the key architects of the so-called and failed “Kurdish Initiative,” Fidan and Güneş were its choreographers, backed by key government figures like the former Interior Minister, Beşir Atalay. Those two were the ones that helped shape the six-page-long (in three chapters) “peace protocols” with PKK figures and had it signed by Abdullah Öcalan. It was followed by the co-called Turkish “Oslo Process” negotiations between Fidan-Güneş and the PKK figures.

Two dramatic developments were noted after the June 12 elections: The PKK attack in Silvan, Diyarbakır that killed 13 soldiers; and, the top brass almost entirely resigned, in a historical move, on July 28, days before the critical Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting. The secret recordings of “Oslo talks” were posted online two weeks later, raising suspicion that the “weak link” in the government’s still-kept-on-hold Kurdish Initiative was thereabout to be found.

Massive leaks for two days to the media now expose the content of the protocols. Reports point to new material linking the MİT leadership in an “unholy alliance” with or “accomplice of” the KCK.

What is, then, the aim of probing Fidan? It has to do with the immense “disagreement” within the security and judicial apparatus on where to go next with the Kurdish and PKK issues. “Who?” is not a question, but, rather, “how?” This is the proper context: What takes place is intense infighting between “doves” and “hawks.” The latter has had an enhanced reign since July 2011 and now strikes to defeat the former into full passivity. But, deeper down, it signals further possible paths that can have serious consequences: President [Abdullah] Gül and PM Erdoğan’s reasoning was based on a “revision of the situation” in the spring to resume “talks” of some sort with the PKK. If the hawks succeed (if Fidan and others are to be declared as “suspects”), this will be a death blow to any new attempt and leave Ankara only with a military option -- nothing else.

Second, it is known that Fidan and Güneş took part in the Oslo Process and preparation of protocols by the direct approval of Erdoğan (this was confirmed again the other day by Ahmet Davutoğlu, foreign minister). It should therefore not come as a surprise that Erdoğan may find himself under a barrage of attacks from all sorts of adversaries.

If the “weak link” for Erdoğan was the Oslo Process, the missing link is still Uludere. His critiques were right in calling him to act resolutely and swiftly on this. He failed to do so; fell short of an apology. More and more it becomes clear that Erdoğan may have chosen the wrong path in the Kurdish issue; old methods do not bring new results, but only lead to a new “siege of hawks.” The hardliner Interior Minister, Idris Naim Şahin, has only encouraged such elements in the security apparatus, giving them undue autonomy. If he does not succeed in regaining control over them, Erdoğan is set for further political storms. The empire, which he may have believed to have defeated, is ready to strike back; the deep state is deeper than he thinks.

Previous articles of the columnist