Generals in Turkey have threatened ‘military intervention’ to halt a vote in the country’s parliament that could see Abdullah Gül, the current foreign minister from the mainstream Islamist party Justice and Development (AK), elected as president.
The generals posted the warning on the Turkish military website last Friday evening. The next day hundreds of thousands took to the streets of the capital Ankara in defence of ‘secularism.’
The media painted the demonstration as popular opposition to the prospect of an Islamist president.
Yet behind the protests lies a sinister move to rein in Turkish opposition to a possible US war on Iran, and a cynical manoeuvre by the military to reassert its power after its supporters were humiliated in the 2002 elections.
In 2003, MPs belonging to the AK blocked moves by the US to use Turkey as a staging post for its invasion of Iraq.
But, as the occupation of Iraq descends into chaos, the US badly needs Turkish support for any possible attack on Iran. The generals, in turn, want the freedom to join in the attack.
The Turkish military has been stoking a conflict with the Kurds in the south east of the country. Many people believe that the military are behind the sectarian murders of five Christians and the assassination of Hrant Dink, an outspoken activist from Turkey’s oppressed Armenian minority.
The generals attempted to blame the Islamists for the killings.
There was a massive response to Dink’s murder. Over 200,000 people marched at his funeral chanting, ‘We are all Armenians.’
The military and their right wing supporters have responded to the support for the Armenians and Gül’s possible election by playing up the threat to the secular system.
The right wing newspaper Cumhuriyet warned Turks that if Gül becomes president, the country ‘will be put back 100 years’.
The aim of the protest last Saturday was far from being simply an outpouring of support for a secular system – it was to build support for a military coup.
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