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Involving Greece in ‘Balyoz’ plans January 28, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Whether the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) Operation plan was a simulation game or a real rehearsal for a coup to oust the Erdoğan government, of this I am sure: It will be a subject that will feed the Turkish media for the foreseeable future, or at least until the next major revelation comes, presumably from daily Taraf, which seems thus far to have monopolized the “anti-army” campaign.

In such a highly polarized media environment, it is very difficult for anyone to decipher what is genuine investigative journalism and what is selective reporting; what is news and what is commentary.

Still, the Balyoz story has some interesting characteristics not seen before in the previous anti-army scoops revealed by the same newspaper. For the first time, we are being informed that one major part of the simulation game/coup plan – depending which way you look at it – was aimed at one particular “external enemy,” which, counter to the verbal statements by Turkish politicians and military alike, was Greece.

The Turkish military started making more visits to Greece after the Greek-Turkish rapprochement that was prompted by the twin earthquake disasters in both countries at the end of the 1990s. On paper, at least, the two countries have been discussing ways to solve their problems and their militaries have been cooperating along the same lines.

For example, former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt paid a visit to Greece in November 2006 at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, Adm. Panayiotis Hinofotis. At the time, the media described the event as “The Turkish Chief of Staff Won the Greeks,” and pictures of the gray-suited Turkish general chatting in great spirits with journalists were extensively printed on the front pages of the Greek press.

Büyükanıt was taken to Epidauros and Nafplion. Speaking to journalists, both the Greek and Turkish chiefs of General Staff assured that their relations were “excellent.” The reporters were quick to point out that that the Turkish general “showed an unusual understanding toward the Greek positions,” and stressed the need “for a change of mentality, especially between the militaries of both countries, that will lead to the creation of a mutual climate of understanding.” All these were received with welcoming surprise.

During that meeting, a long list of bilateral issues was discussed, even setting up a Greek-Turkish Rapid Response Force that would operate within the newly formed NATO Response Force, or NRF. That highly successful meeting – at least for the media of both countries – was quickly applauded by the U.S. State Department as a “good and positive step.”

“There are long-standing differences on many issues between Greece and Turkey… however, we encourage them to solve between themselves their disputes on the Aegean and in other issues,” an American spokesman said at the time.

Two years later, in May 2008, Büyükanıt welcomed his new Greek counterpart, Gen. Dimitris Grapsas, in Ankara with a military band playing “syrtaki” – a favorite tune that has haunted recent Greek-Turkish politics. In his speech, the Greek general noted that Greece and Turkey had the “common fortune” to have important leaders such as Venizelos and Atatürk, who “after the war, with their common efforts, worked for the peace of the two peoples.”

“For this reason, our duty is to walk today, too, along the same path that they walked on. If we want to justify history and if we really love our peoples as much as we claim, we have to realize this goal,” Grapsas said.

To which the Turkish general replied:

“Venizelos and Atatürk secured peace in a short period of time. Atatürk, during a visit in 1933 to the Greek ambassador, said the following: ‘They think that the military makes war all the time. But they can also conduct peace very well.’ If we, the military, secure an umbrella of peace, then the politicians can create a better dialogue.”

Now, Taraf’s claims would like us to believe a totally different story, one that involves harassment games, and even the downing of fighter planes over the Aegean and the causing of war between Greece and Turkey for the sake of ousting the Erdoğan government. Is it so ruthless as to be playing domestic politics by causing a war that would definitely be detrimental for both countries? Is this horrific scenario a true story or can it become a true story in the future?

Certainly, the Balyoz plan has been the first anti-military story that involves a detailed plan on how to create war with Greece. Predictably, it will be conducted over the Aegean with a second front on the borders with western Thrace.

Obviously, the publication of these horrific plans is aimed at domestic consumption in Turkey. But using Greece as an element in these plans is dangerous. That is why even if nothing of this is true, isn’t it high time to speed up whatever low-level policy discussions are ongoing between Greece and Turkey and perhaps upgrade them to a high-level ones to remove potential causes of confrontation between the two countries?

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