Since Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbug will remain in his post for another year before retiring, the most interesting issue of this year's meeting will be whether the politically powerful Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will display a resolve in discharging some active duty officers allegedly involved in coup plotting activities.
The first of the biannual Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meetings will convene under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 1 and last four days.
An İstanbul court on Monday began the trial of 56 suspects, including two former four-star generals Şener Eruygur and Hurşit Tolon, accused of being involved in illegal activities to foment tension in an attempt to topple the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Several active officers have also either been implicated or arrested as part of the ongoing investigation and trial to unearth unconstitutional acts.
Three naval lieutenants were arrested on late Tuesday evening over charges of having plotted to assassinate several admirals and being involved in a sex and drug trade operation in order to provide finances to Ergenekon.
Earlier Col. Dursun Çiçek was arrested before being released several hours later over charges of preparing an action plan that outlines policies to topple the government while discrediting the Gülen movement. Since the plan was revealed by a report published in the Taraf daily early in June, a temporary compromise has been brokered between the military and the government.
Col. Çiçek also rose to fame for his signature on a memorandum, named “Lahika 1” and intended to discredit businessmen, including Rahmi Koç. Its existence was confirmed last year by then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, who has since retired.
The fact that Col. Çiçek retained his position in the TSK at the time when the Lahika 1 smear campaign document was revealed, Turkish military observers see little possibility that he might be discharged from the TSK, but instead may be promoted to the rank of general. However, since the latest document, seeking to end AK Party rule, has caused a serious debate in the country, fuelling polarization, a military source told Today's Zaman that he might not be promoted and will instead retire.
Since the Ergenekon investigation was launched in 2007 following the seizure of hand grenades in a house in İstanbul's Ümraniye district belonging to an officer, the TSK has, for the first time ever and to an unprecedented level, come under the spotlight, raising serious question marks over the level of divisions within the military.
Journal entries of retired Navy Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek, the authenticity of which was recently confirmed by İstanbul prosecutors, marked the first concrete documents revealing coup plots prepared in 2003 and 2004 by currently retired generals, including Eruygur, who is currently being tried though he did not appear before the court last Monday.
The military has staged five interventions into Turkish politics since the 1961 military coup to April 2007, when it released an e-memo against the government.
However, Gen. Başbuğ's stance, which became evident during his separate press conference held in late June, has revealed that the TSK will continue to view Ergenekon as a plot to weaken the armed forces instead of using this opportunity to get rid of officers allegedly involved in illegal activities.
Still, it should not be ruled out that the YAŞ meeting may result in decisions being made to discharge officers allegedly linked to Ergenekon.
Two service commanders retire
Like his predecessor, Gen. Başbuğ will serve for two years as the chief of general staff, retiring next year, as he will turn 67. Gen. Işık Koşaner, a land forces commander, is expected to stay in his current post for another year before being appointed the new chief of general staff next year in August. If appointed, Gen. Koşaner is to serve for three years as the chief of general staff before retiring.
Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Hasan Iğsız is expected to retain his position for another year while Gen. Ergin Saygun, the 1st Army commander in İstanbul, is to retire this year. Eight full generals are competing for Saygun's position.
Air Force commander Gen. Aydoğan Babaoğlu and Navy Forces commander Adm. Metin Ataç are to retire this year. War Academies commander Gen. Hasan Aksay is expected to replace Gen. Babaoğlu as the Air Forces commander. Navy Forces commander Adm. Eşref Uğur Yiğit is expected to be appointed the new Navy Forces commander and retain this position for two years.
Gendarmerie General Command (JGK) commander Gen. Atila Işık will retain his position for another year. Since there does not exist a full general cadre at the JGK, generals from the Land Forces Command are appointed as JGK commanders.
Neither Gen. Koşaner nor service commanders to be replaced this year can give a clear idea over the future policies of the TSK concerning its involvement in politics as this will depend heavily on the level of resolve of the political authority to fully ensure civilian democratic oversight of the Turkish military, which has for long enjoyed an autonomous status.
Added to the problem, said a Turkish political analyst, is the absence of a coherent policy among political parties for democratization.