Turkey names new military head after dispute with government

Telegraph UK (Link) (August 9, 2010)

Chairing a promotion panel dominated by military top brass last week, Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister had reportedly blocked the general in line to become army chief as he had been summoned by a state prosecutor to give testimony in a probe into an Internet campaign to discredit the government and Islamic groups.

�We are not going to give the nod to everyone who comes our way,� Mr Erdogan said. �We used the authority at our disposal.�

After sweeping to power in 2002, the ruling AK Party which its roots in political Islam, has clashed frequently with the military.

This year�s round of promotions had led to fresh tensions until a compromise was reached over the weekend.

A statement said Gen Isik Kosaner will take over as chief of staff of the armed forces when Gen Ilker Basbug retires at the end of August.

Gen Kosaner will be succeeded by Gen Erdal Ceylanoglu as head of land forces.

The two top posts had been left vacant after an impasse over who would take over as army chief when Kosaner stepped up.

Gen Hasan Igsiz, commander of the First Army, had been tipped for the post.

But, with the council already in session, a state prosecutor issued a summons for 19 officers, including Gen Igsiz, to answer questions in a probe into the anti-government slur campaign.

Mr Erdogan is disliked in the military because of his Islamist past. The military sees itself as the guardian of secularism in Turkey, and has staged three coups between 1960 and 1980.

It forced an Islamist-led government to resign as recently as 1997 but reforms undertaken to bolster Turkey�s bid for EU membership have curbed its powers.

Prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 102 retired and serving officers in connection with a suspected coup plot in 2003 codenamed �Operation Sledgehammer.�

Eleven of these had been up for promotion, but had their way blocked due to the accusations against them.

The lack of consensus between the government and the military, the second largest in NATO, was cited as one cause of weakness in Turkish markets last week.

Kosaner, regarded as a staunch secularist, has not commented publicly on the �Sledgehammer� case, and he will be under close scrutiny.

The �Sledgehammer� plot involved bombing mosques and triggering conflict with Greece in order to destabilise Erdogan�s govenrment.