The Specter of Deep State (Contra-Guerrillas) Still Haunts Turkey

By Prof. Bülent Gökay | 16 September 2010


Since 33 members of Turkish ‘Deep State’ (Contra-Guerrilla), also known as Ergenekon, were seized in a police raid in late January 2008, the story of a Turkish contra-guerrilla organization has set Turkey abuzz with rumour and speculation. What is organization, deep state, and how did it start in Turkey, and why? (1)


During the 1950s, US concerns were that the Soviet Union, through the activities of the local communist parties, would conquer the world. The CIA and the Pentagon came up with a plan to establish secret resistance groups within various countries that would fight back against the predicted communist take-over. These groups were called ‘stay-behind’ organizations, little cells of paramilitary units that would take on the communists behind enemy lines. To coordinate all these clandestine groups, a Super-NATO’ organization was set up under the control of the CIA in all the NATO countries. The headquarters of this organization was in Brussels and was named as the Allied Coordination Committee (ACC). Secret meetings were held annually in which delegates from all the member countries took part. The official purpose of the organization was ‘to organize resistance using irregular warfare methods in case of a communist occupation’. The organization had at its disposal special funds and weapons depots, and was not answerable for its activities under the laws of the individual member states. The organization’s branch in Italy was called ‘Gladio’, in Germany ‘Anti-Communist Assault Unit’, in Greece ‘Hide of the Red Buck’, and in Belgium ‘Glavia’. This ‘Super-NATO also set up branch organisations in non-NATO countries, such as Austria and Switzerland. The United States funded these stay-behind groups for decades, even though there was no communist take-over in any of these countries. However, some of these groups eventually did take up arms against left-wing dissidents and members of the local communist and socialist parties in their own countries. Probably one of the most powerful and deep-rooted of these covert action groups was set up in Turkey, immediately after Turkey’s membership of NATO.

Turkey became a member of NATO on 4 April 1952. A secret clause in the initial NATO agreement in 1949 required that before a state could join, it must have established a national security authority to fight communism through clandestine citizen cadres. This ‘stay-behind’ clause grew out of a secret committee, set up at US insistence in the Atlantic Pact, which was the forerunner of NATO. As in all other NATO countries, a contra-guerrilla centre was established in Turkey in September 1952, to work against the threat of a ‘communist occupation’. It was called the ‘Institute for War Research’, and was housed in the same building in Ankara that housed the US aid organization JUSMAAT.
The goal of this organization, especially in the neo-colonial countries, was not limited to ‘combating the external communist threat’. Under these stay-behind programmes, anti-communist elements, often overtly fascist, were recruited, armed and funded, supposedly as a bulwark against Soviet aggression. Some have links to organized crime, and many were involved in terrorist incidents aimed at undermining the left opposition in general. There are also claims that the CIA employed some wanted Nazis and fascists in setting up contra-guerrilla groups in an effort to improve its tactics. And in all NATO member countries, the public and parliament were not informed about the existence and activities of these groups – only the few who took part in setting them up knew about them. The 1959 military accord between the Turkish and US governments envisage the use of the contra-guerrillas ‘also in the case of an internal rebellion against the regime’.



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