Erdoğan dismissed Turkish navy chief at request of defence minister - retired admiral

The sole reason for the removal from active duty of rear admiral and Turkish naval chief of staff Cihat Yaycı last week was Defence Minister Hulusi Akar’s unwillingness to have Yaycı in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), retired Turkish admiral Türker Ertürk said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sided with Akar, who saw Yaycı as a threat to both himself and the hierarchical structure of the TSK, in demoting the naval chief, Ertürk said in his personal blog on Friday.

In a surprise decision, the Turkish president demoted Yaycı to the General Staff on May 15, sparking a wave of media speculation on the motivation and repercussions of the decision. 

Yaycı was facing an investigation in which he was accused of mismanaging the acquisition of a torpedo weapons system for the Turkish Navy.

Known for his nationalist and expansionist views,  Yaycı was one of the military officers best-known by the public. He was the architect of Turkey’s maritime deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord that was signed in November and led efforts to identify Gülenists, a religious group accused of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt, in the Turkish military.  

Yaycı was explicitly praised by Erdoğan in December for his work on Turkey’s Libya policy and masterminding the Turkish-Libyan maritime deal.

The naval chief, powered by the support of Erdoğan, asserted himself in ways that exceeded his rank, Ertürk wrote, causing his superiors and admirals to tread with caution around him. This, in turn, led to the frustration of Turkish commanders, especially Defence Minister Akar, he said. 

In fact, Turkish media reports it was Akar who greenlighted the investigation into Yaycı over the weapons system.

Ertürk dismissed reports that Turkey’s Mavi Vatan, or Blue Homeland – Turkey’s doctrine claiming extensive maritime jurisdiction in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas – will come to an end with the dismissal of Yaycı.

“This approach constitutes both irreverence and disloyalty to our past, a negation of the institutional identity of the Turkish Naval Forces and a degradation of the remaining military commanders,” Ertürk said.

Yaycı failed to realise that despite the amount of respect he garnered from Erdoğan, Akar had more leverage with Turkey’s strongman.

“If Yaycı manages this current situation well and remains silent, Erdoğan will assign him to a post. This could be a role as a chief advisor or ambassador,” he said, noting that the former naval chief’s qualifications place him well above many of Turkey’s heads of missions.