The power struggle under way in Turkey is a vital issue for the rest of the world, potentially as important as the outcome of the uprisings in the Arab countries all around. Since his election in 2002 as Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been engaged in fashioning what had been a secular state and a Western ally into an Islamist state taking the lead in the Muslim and especially Arab world. According to the previous constitution, the army had been guardian of the secular state, and Erdogan therefore had to break it. In time-honoured style, he declared that the army had been plotting a coup, whose code name is Ergenekon. Since 2007 something like 270 senior officers have been arrested and some of have faced fantastic charges in court though so far none has been convicted.
Bringing matters to a head, fourteen more active-duty generals and admirals have been forced to resign. Another 22 senior officers have just been arrested. At present, half of all Turkish admirals are under arrest. In response, General Isik Kosaner, head of the Turkish armed forces, has resigned. This may mean that the armed forces have decided to surrender their role as upholders of secular values, and Turkey will emerge as an Islamist power to emulate and rival Iran. President Obama is a great self-proclaimed friend of Erdogan’s but will in return have been given only a head-ache. Alternatively, the armed forces may have had enough of being pushed around and are preparing to turn the Ergenekon fiction into a real-live coup. Watch this space.