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Tuesday, August 2, 2011     GET REAL

Reverse coup: Turkey's Erdogan re-creates General Staff in his own image

ANKARA — Turkey's Islamist government has launched a program to reshape the military that has been strictly secular.
  • Related Story: Turkey's entire military command quits in protest July 31

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    The government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has selected a supporter as the military's new chief of staff. On Aug. 1, the Supreme Military Council, bereft of government critics, began planning a General Staff that would consist of officers supportive of Erdogan.

    The Supreme Military Council, chaired by Erdogan, was to convene following the resignation of Chief of Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner as well as the commanders of the army, navy and air force.

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    "Currently 250 military officials, including 173 active generals, admirals, officers and noncommissioned officers are behind bars without court decisions on their cases," Kosaner said in his farewell letter. "Their arrest contradicts universal legal norms and does not fit into the frameworks of law and justice."

    Within hours of Kosaner's resignation on July 29, Erdogan appointed Gen. Necdet Ozel as interim chief of staff, and later the former Gendarmerie commander co-chaired the council session.

    The 60-year-old Ozel was described as an ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party. In November 2010, Erdogan visited Ozel in a move that dismayed the rest of the General Staff.

    "He is a true gentleman, a respectful soldier who known his limits and does not interfere in politics," parliamentarian Samir Tayar, a member of the Justice Development Party, wrote in 2010.

    Turkish sources said the government was preparing for additional generals to resign after the council's four-day session, expected to result in a new leadership. They said the government would not approve the appointment of any officer charged with plotting to overthrow Erdogan.

    Erdogan allies said the prime minister would directly appoint leading military commanders at the Supreme Military Council session, held twice a year. They said the prime minister also intended to promote mid-level officers deemed friendly to his government. Until 2011, the government received recommendations from the General Staff for promotions and appointments.

    "I will not sign any decree with my eyes closed," Turkish President Abdullah Gul, an ally of Erdogan, said.

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