128. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

RP M 79–10006


Key Judgments

Turkey has entered a difficult period that will test the cohesiveness of Ecevit’s left-of-center government as well as the resiliency of its democratic institutions. Recognizing that inaction could be as dangerous as action for his [Page 400]precariously poised government, Ecevit took some significant but incomplete steps during his first year in office to turn Turkey’s failing economy around and to curb its spiralling political violence. But these proved too little in the case of the economy, and too late in the case of political violence. [handling restriction not declassified]

In consequence, Ecevit was compelled to declare martial law in 13 of Turkey’s 67 provinces to curb the social unrest which originates in political, sectarian, and ethnic rivalries that are aggravated by the faltering economy. This has cost him much in political capital in his own party, given new opportunities to the opposition, and limited further his ability and probably his willingness to risk the hard decisions the economy requires. It has also reopened the possibility of a larger political role for the military. [handling restriction not declassified]

Ecevit could secure some short term maneuvering room if martial law works, but overall, its imposition may add to the many other problems facing his government and contribute in the end to its fall. Should this occur, prospects for the emergence of a government more able and willing to confront Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy problems are not encouraging. The result may be active involvement by the military in the political process, and in the last resort, perhaps another temporary experiment in direct military rule. 2 [handling restriction not declassified]

[Omitted here is the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0205, Box 22, Turkey 1979. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. In a January 29 covering memorandum to Brown, Turner recalled that Brown had asked Turner to report on what the CIA was doing with regard to the insurgency in Turkey. (Ibid.) A note at the bottom of the page reads in part: “This memorandum was prepared by the Western Europe Division of the Office of Regional and Political Analysis and coordinated within CIA.”
  2. Turner informed Brown in his January 29 memorandum to expect a follow-up review within the next month on the implications of the Turkish military’s growing presence in the political system. On February 16, Turner sent Brown CIA Memorandum RP M 79–10074, February 5, titled “The Role of the Military in Turkish Politics.” The memorandum surmised that the political and economic crisis in Turkey could hasten greater militarization of the Turkish polity, which was a move that both political and military leaders would reluctantly take if they considered it necessary. (Ibid.)