The result of referendum in Turkey influences the combat actions in Syria

Mstyslav Chernov/

The victory of president Erdogan in the referendum of his “Sultan” authority put an end to the long-lasting History of the Turkish armed forces which were the real control center of the country. According to new amendments to the Constitution, the armed forces that are “Ataturk testament’s preservers” and the guarantors of the secular state cannot get a state position because they have lost the right to be candidates on ballots and, as well as that, the military courts are being eliminated. President Erdogan has become Commander-in-Chief. Before that the head of General Headquarters was Commander-in-Chief who reported directly to the Prime Minister.

These restrictions do not offer a ray of hope for the Turkish Generals to run the country through their representatives. Only a new military coup might have changed the situation. But after the longstanding fight of Erdogan and his Islamists supporters from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against the influential military in power, which ended up with the failed coup in June, 2016 and the strong elimination of the Armed forces, it has become almost impossible now.

Guarding Ataturk testaments

The founder of Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, made the Army a participant of political life of the country. According his conception, it had to not only ensure the defense and security of the Republic but also to guarantee conduct reforms and modernization in the society and economic. Also, it should be committed to six principals of Kemalism: republicanism, secularism, populism, nationalism, etatism. All these actions made the interference of theArmy in the political process legal.

This scheme started working actively only at the end of 1950 -since the position of “Kemalist” (The Republican People's Party) weakened, the fight for power started and the actions of radical and national groups drastically increased. In 1960, 1971 and 1989, the military top made several military coups;the power transferred to the National Security Council (NSC) and then the parliament elections were held and the military gave back the power to civil politicians. In 1997, there was no use of force; and the Prime Minister Erbakan resigned according to the order of NSC.

The strong adversary

However, in March 2003, the conservative Islamist, RecepTayyip Erdogan, became the head of the Turkish government who started resisting the pressure of the military which turned into an open opposition very fast. In summer 2007, the scandal broke out that was connected with the secret military organization Ergenekon which was created for the shadow running of the political processes in the country and used the methods of terror, people kidnapping, blackmail, elimination of  non-convenient politicians.

There were arrests during 1,5 years. Not only the Turkish military in powerwas repressed but also the retired high-ranking Turkish military was repressed as well as journalists and businessmen,who were connected with it, and intelligence and counter-terrorism structures of the Turkish police and Army were eliminated.

The first Constitutional reform of Erdogan in 2010 deprived the military of a possibility to interfere in the policy. In 2010-2012, the prosecutor of Istanbul conduct an investigation on a big group of military in the case of preparing a military coup in 2003 ( the code name “sledgehammer”) in order not tolet the winner of a Islamists election from AKP gain power. More than 300 people, mostly Admirals and Generals, got in jail. The majority of them were set free after two years because most of the evidence was admitted to be distrustful. Also, Turkey had gotten deeply involved in a secret war on the territory of Syria by that time and Erdogan really required help of professional military.

War in Syria

There were few military who supported Turkey to interfere openly in the Syrian conflict. The plan of military interference was developed inautumn 2014. However, President Erdogan was taking a pause for a long time in order to match his position on the civil war in Syria with Washington’s vague strategic approach. The public opinion polls admitted that Turkish majority was against the interference. When the press got the information about a prepared interference in summer 2015, mass protests started.

After a Russian aircraft Su-24M was shot down by a Turkish air force on November 24, 2015, which brought the confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, all the plans about the military interference were canceled. Since the relations between Russian and Turkey restored, this question has risen again.

But the last failed attempt of Turkish military to bring back their right to run the state had the main influence on the situation. The failed coup on July 15-16, 2016 and the total elimination of the Armed forces (more than 700 of Generals and Colonels were arrested and fired) gave a possibility to Erdogan to act on the Syrian front. The major part of Generals and Senior Officers were in a passive opposition towards to his plans of taking part in this war.

On August 24, 2016, the Turkish expeditionary force supported by the units of the Syrian free army interfered in the territory of Syria. On March 29, 2017 Turkish NSC announced about the successful accomplishment of the Operation Euphrates Shield. But the war is not ended, moreover, Turkey got involved in the long war which has an internal political effect ahead. The results of Euphrates Shield is only halfway. Ankara has managed to stop the cantons of Syrian Kurds to unite in one Rojava area.

The desire of Kurds to unite their enclaves is still strong and, as a result, the majority of force will have to be set on the Turkish occupied territories. Therefore, the status of Turkish military force is going to increase. Also, the restrictions on their political influence, which were reinforced by the referendum, became a reason of discontent and a new hidden military Fronde. And it is so close to a new coup.  Erdogan cannot afford to totally eliminate the military forces: where he is going to find other Officers and Generals, especially when the war is still on.

Translatee from: