Cause for concern

The effort to indict Turkey’s land forces commander Yasar Buyukanit is the most revealing episode yet in the relationship between the country’s military establishment and the Islamic-leaning government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Who would have expected that Ferhat Sarikaya, a prosecutor based in the eastern city of Van, would ever decide to take action against a Turkish general, accusing him of abusing his power and of setting up an illegal group (the one that was allegedly behind the bombing of a Kurdish-owned bookshop last November)? It has been suggested that Erdogan, with the backing of other senior military officials, secretly supports the accusations in order to discredit Buyukanit, a hardline Kemalist and fierce critic of Islam and the Kurds, just months before the latter is expected to take over as Turkish chief of staff. If this is really the hand of Erdogan, then going after a top general will shake the very foundations of the old establishment and reinforce the AKP leader’s image in the West as a politician fighting for Turkey’s genuine democratization. That should strengthen support for Turkey’s EU prospects but also intensify pressure on Cyprus. Substantial talks on outstanding Aegean issues could be launched. On the other hand, governments often try to offset radical breaks with the status quo at home by promoting nationalist policies in the country’s neighborhood. But if this is not an orchestrated campaign to undermine Buyukanit, it means that Erdogan is set for a serious clash with the military establishment, in which case the future of the AKP leader is uncertain. Needless to say, uncertainty in Turkey is no cause to celebrate in Greece, for such tensions can lead to reckless reactions.