The debate centers on the argument that the government is constitutionally required to obtain authorization for any foreign troop deployment on Turkish soil. The government disagrees with that, saying that the NATO agreement allows NATO troops to be deployed in Turkey as part of NATO operations. President Abdullah Gül lent his support to the government, saying on Wednesday to a Tunisian TV channel that “this radar system is a defense measure taken by NATO against missiles” and that the system deployed in Kürecik falls under the NATO umbrella.
The opposition doesn’t seem satisfied and claims NATO only acts as a cloak, drawing attention to the fact that the memorandum of understanding was signed between the US ambassador and the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and not by NATO officials.
In fact, Gürkut Acar, a member of Parliament from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), submitted on Feb. 21 a proposal that redefines the authority of the government, requiring ratification by Parliament any decision concerning NATO facilities and defense installations being stationed in Turkey.
Members of the opposition in Parliament criticize the government for bypassing the legislative body when it comes to the deployment of the radar system. Acar makes the aim of his proposal clear in the preamble: “Allocating any piece of land belonging to the Republic of Turkey to the military of any foreign state is in a sense the transfer of sovereignty. For the transfer of that right, the consent of Parliament, which represents the national will, must be required.” Acar’s proposal, which consists of adding an article to the present law authorizing the Council of Ministers to put international agreements into effect, aims to get the treaties allowing foreign powers to establish, even temporarily, military facilities, defense systems and the like in Turkey under parliamentary control by requiring parliamentary ratification, the proposal stipulating the same for Turkish military facilities to be installed abroad as well.
It’s a law passed way back in 1963, giving authorization to the Council of Ministers, that makes governments feel no obligation to seek approval from Parliament when it comes to the establishment of NATO facilities in Turkey. Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Acar criticized the government for not informing and not seeking approval in Parliament. “Does the American ambassador in Ankara have a function within NATO? He does not, to the best of my knowledge,” he commented sarcastically. Seeing the radar in Kürecik as an infringement on Turkish sovereignty, Acar insists that the 1963 law must be amended so that all treaties allowing the deployment of foreign military forces and facilities on Turkish soil be ratified by Parliament. “The radar was put in place on the basis of a law passed nearly 50 years ago, without feeling the need to inform Parliament. But today this is no longer acceptable. No Parliament would ever agree to the transfer of its authority to governments forever,” he said.
Onur Öymen, a former member of Parliament from the CHP, and a former diplomat who also served as Turkey’s permanent representative in NATO, told Today’s Zaman that he believes the memorandum was signed under NATO to avoid having to seek parliamentary consent. According to Article 92 of the Turkish Constitution, it is Parliament that holds the authority to allow foreign military forces to be based in Turkey. The same article makes an exception to Parliament’s authority, saying, “Except in cases where international agreements signed by Turkey or international codes of courtesy would require.”
Yusuf Halaçoğlu from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also submitted a written question about the radar system, asking the government to announce on what legal ground the American military personnel and installations were allowed to be based in Kürecik. Halaçoğlu, who is also not convinced about the radar being a NATO facility, has some misgivings, misgivings a non-negligible part of the Turkish public shares. “The deployment of this radar system puts Turkey under great risk. Turkey might be dragged into a war with Iran. Following a probable Israeli strike on Iran, the first target Iran will hit would be Kürecik,” he told Today’s Zaman.
Although both President Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have repeatedly announced that the radar system was not against Iran, and Davutoğlu having also said that Turkey would never let a NATO facility be used by a third party, Halaçoğlu is not convinced. “The system in Kürecik, which is operated by the Americans, is connected to the American fleet in the east Mediterranean. So the data will go there. And can you give any guarantee the data will not be transferred to Israel?” he asks. Iran, which is under the threat of an Israeli attack, seems to think in the same way. Various high-level military officials from Iran have on different occasions expressed almost clearly that they see the early warning system in Kürecik as a threat to Iran’s security, and would not hesitate to strike it if attacked.