Erdogan's Islamists will lead reforms in Turkish army

The attempted military coup launched a mechanism for reforming the army in Turkey. Today, one of the issues that is hotly debated in the country's narrow expert circles is the dilemma of the lack of cadres among civilians that would direct the process of democratization of relations between the armed forces and the government of the country. The lack of effective civilian expertise, coupled with a hostile political power, can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the upcoming army reforms.

The problem of the lack of cadres is closely connected with the peculiarities of the functioning of the Turkish army. Until recently, in the armed forces of the country, due to extreme closeness, all issues related to issues of military security and formulation of the strategy were discussed without significant participation of civilian experts. The lack of practical application of civilian expertise meant that there was no need for such expertise as such. Another circumstance has been and still is the low influence of expert communities: expert centers close to the government are mainly engaged in legitimization (through the making of a quasi-expert evaluation) of political decisions already taken without their serious participation. Finally, an effective discussion of the activities of the Turkish Armed Forces can not take place in an atmosphere where the government is hostile to any critical opinion. Proceeding from all this, there is a danger that as a result of reforms the armed forces of Turkey, although they will cease to exist as an autonomous entity, will be highly politicized.

It is the problem of politicization that causes fear among many observers. The nature of the measures being taken today by the Turkish leadership to reform the organization of the army demonstrates the serious intention of the civil authorities to put an end once and for all to the tradition of military intervention in the political process. However, it is the political views of experts appointed by the leadership of Turkey to carry out these reforms that may indicate that the democratization of the military-civilian relations will be formalized within a certain political ideology.

General of Turkish counter-revolution

In mid-August, leading Turkish media reported the appointment of Brigadier-General Adnan Tanriverdi as retired to the post of adviser to the President of Turkey. The figure of Tanriverdi, his biography, views and professional activity deserve special attention because of the particular inconsistency. The appointment of such an ambiguous person to the influential post of adviser to the Turkish president in so much a critical period in which the country is located can shed light on what the future is for the Turkish army.

Biography Adnan Tanriverdi at first glance is no different from the biography of thousands of other successful Turkish officers. In 1964, Tanriverdi entered the Military School of the Armed Forces of Turkey, at the end of which in 1976 he successfully passed the entrance exams to the Academy of the Armed Forces, which is the main starting point in the career of any officer in Turkey. During the training, the officer took courses on conducting unconventional military operations in the Office of Special Operations at the Turkish General Staff. Prior to receiving the rank of brigadier general in 1992, Tanriverdi served in the Army Medical Administration of the Army of Turkey, and held a post in the Civil Defense Directorate in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In 1996, the successful military career of Tanriverdi was interrupted, the army sent the brigadier general ahead of time to retire before reaching retirement age. As indicated in the documents, in connection with "organizational and staff arrangements". However, it was clear to everyone that the general became the next victim of the Turkish army's policy of fighting religious reaction in its ranks. Since the 1960s, the Turkish military have entrusted themselves with the duty of protecting and protecting the secular system of the republic, in this regard, the penetration of religious elements into senior officer posts has become unacceptable. During his service, the general did not hide his convictions, took an active part in the organization of religious events, for which he was supposed to have paid with his own career.

After the retirement of Tanriverdi for five years, he headed the Society for the Advocacy of Justice founded by himself (ASDER - Adaleti Savunanlar Derneği), a public non-profit association defending the rights of servicemen dismissed from the ranks of the Turkish army on suspicion of open practice of religion and the existence of reactionary views undermining the secular the nature of the republic and the principles of Kemalism. The activities of the Society are gaining popularity among conservative Turks.

In 2000, the Center for Strategic Studies (ASSAM - Adaleti Savunanlar Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi Derneği) began its work in the framework of the Society for the Advocacy of Justice. Its main focus was to develop practical steps to reform the Turkish army and democratize relations between the military and civilian government of the country . Under the auspices of the Center, Tanriverdi gathered a group of like-minded people, mostly former officers, also fired from the army for their religious views.

In his works, Tanriverdi pays special attention to the privileged role of laicism in the life of society. A former military man defends the idea of ​​the earliest adoption of a new constitution of the country, devoid of any hint of the predominant role of laicism in the life of society. After all, it is in Turkey's laicism that Tanriverdi sees the main reason for all the socio-political ills of the country. Thus, in 2012, in one of his articles, Tanriverdi wrote that in order to prevent new military coups and polarize society, it is necessary that there be no articles in the new constitution fixing any official ideology of the state and establishing the secular character of the republic. Within the framework of the discussion of the new constitution, Tanriverdi supports the idea of ​​subordinating the General Staff to the parliament of the country (the article was written before the start of the campaign of the ruling Justice and Development Party for the country's transition to presidential form of government) and the liquidation of the judicial autonomy of the military.

General Sadat

Tanriverdi is not unknown to the Turkish public. The media's particular attention to the figure of Tanriverd is explained by the rather contradictory activity of its commercial structure - the International Consulting Company in the Defense Sphere (SADAT Tour - Uluslararası Savunma Danışmanlık İnşaat Sanayi ve Ticaret AŞ). Established in 2012, in the midst of a military conflict in neighboring Syria, the organization as an official goal of its activity indicates advising the armed forces of Muslim countries in matters of organization and strategic planning. SADAT intends to "promote the development of the military capabilities of Muslim countries, in particular in the fight against terrorism, by assessing threats and developing a set of measures to improve the combat readiness of the armed forces." The similarity with the infamous American private military company Blackwater Security is confirmed by numerous statements of the founder of the company. So, in one of the reports of September 4, 2012, Tanriverdi says that the organization's goal is "to work where the Turkish army can not carry out its activities for one reason or another".

Among the company's services are training courses in the conduct of asymmetric warfare, sabotage operations in the enemy's rear and operations against partisans. Despite the statements of the company's management, which employs more than 58 former officers of the Turkish army, about transparency of activities and compliance with Turkish legislation and concentrating work exclusively on educational services, SADAT's work still raises many questions.

In mid-2014, a photo of a vacancy announcement posted on the company's website a year earlier appeared in Turkish social networks. The announcement indicated that SADAT was looking for an engineer-mechanic familiar with Soviet-Russian tanks and knowing the Arabic language. Turkish media then accused the organization of Tanriverdi in cooperation with Syrian Islamists. In response to the allegations, the management of the firm published an explanation, which stated that the vacancy of a mechanical engineer was placed for the needs of the company's project in Libya. The same announcement also said that the coordination of the project with the Libyan authorities is carried out with the assistance of diplomatic representatives of Turkey.

Interestingly, on July 12, 2016, in an interview with RS FM radio, the head of the company Adnan Tanriverdi pointed out that SADAT does not have an active presence in Libya, as well as in Syria and Yemen. By the way, in the same interview, Tanriverdi still admitted that the company was negotiating with representatives of the Free Syrian Army. Negotiations, according to the former military, were held in the refugee camp in Turkey. According to Tanriverdi, all requests of representatives of the SSA were transferred by the official authorities.

On September 3, 2012, the newspaper Aydynlik, based on information from two independent sources in the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey, published an article saying that SADAT is engaged in the supply of financial resources from the Persian Gulf countries to the Syrian opposition, as well as transportation of weapons to Islamists fighting against Assad. The article also stated that in the training camps of the firm, representatives of the opposition themselves are trained, the total number of trained fighters reaches 2,800 people.

On the basis of these data, from 5 September 2012 to 16 January 2013, deputies from the opposition People's Republican Party of Turkey sent 5 inquiries to the government regarding the activities of the company.

SADAT funding was also affected in the requests. The Turkish newspaper "Cumhuriyet" in an article of July 11, 2016 published an investigation on the financing of the firm's activities. From open sources it became known that the authorized capital of the organization was 880 thousand rounds. lir, which, according to the journalist of the newspaper, is not enough to purchase the equipment necessary for training. It is unclear where the organization receives large funds for the acquisition and use of technology. Judging by the video posted on the company's website, helicopters and swimming equipment are involved in the training.

Officially, the leadership of SADAT denies that it has ever been engaged in training traditional and non-traditional methods of warfare. The company adheres to the legislation regulating the supply and prohibiting the circulation of arms without the permission of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense of Turkey.

The firm, however, recognizes that it has acted as a consultant in several projects in several countries. Despite the fact that the management denies that the company has training camps, it still recognizes that SADAT has training opportunities and is ready to provide relevant services to any Muslim countries "if the relevant proposal is received."

Turkish army, democratic and neutral?

As the experience of other countries shows, the successful reform of the relations between the army and the government largely depends on how well politicians and civilian officials understand the military. Due to historical reasons, Turkey still does not have a civilian cadre system, which is necessary not only for carrying out such vital reforms, but also for direct control over the army's activities without creating obstacles to its effective functioning.

Another important circumstance is the nature of the political process in which the restructuring of the army will take place. The atmosphere of polarization of political forces makes it difficult to exchange views on how effective measures should look to build democratic relations between the army and the government. Given that the forthcoming reforms will also take place in the matter of reducing the influence of secular ideals in its structures, the absence of such a dialogue can lead to excessive ideological influence of certain political forces both on the reform process itself and on the worldview of the renewed army.

It is not known how much influence Adnan Tanriverdi, Brigadier General himself, will have on the forthcoming reforms, being an adviser to the president. Perhaps the reason for appointing such an ambiguous figure was the difficult military career of the general. An officer who demonstrates good organizational performance, but who has been persecuted because of religious beliefs, seems to be an ideal candidate for the position of a specialist overseeing a large-scale restructuring of the country's armed forces. It is also possible that Adnan Tanriverdi will serve as the informal chief of the General Staff of the country throughout the process.

It remains also incomprehensible how much Tanriverdi's own views will influence the worldview of the Turkish army itself. A man whose center of professional activity is cooperation with Islamic countries can potentially lay a new tradition in the ranks of the armed forces of the country, which until recently gave unquestionable priority to military-political cooperation with Western countries. Such a change would be in line with the foreign policy ambitions of the official Ankara, which wants to play a more active role in the Middle East.

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