Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Oct. 26 refused to back a motion that extended troop deployment in Iraq and Syria, prompting surprise since it has always been backing similar motions over "border security and protection of soldiers."
In a fiery speech, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for suggesting to extend authorization to launch cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria.
"Why does the government want to extend troop deployment for two more years? Does anyone know?" Kılıçdaroğlu asked.
"This gentleman wants our soldiers to be martyred. Why should we back it? Are we supposed to approve of everything you suggest?" the main opposition leader said, before going on to blast Erdoğan and the AKP over the infiltration of a pro-government group into the state.
"There are TÜGVA members who sing commando songs and they say their biggest commander is Erdoğan. So send them to Syria. Their commander should be Bilal Erdoğan," he noted.
Kılıçdaroğlu was referring to the infiltration of Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), an Islamist foundation that has President Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan on its advisory board, members into the state. Critics likened TÜGVA's infiltration to how the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen assumed positions.
During his speech, Kılıçdaroğlu vowed to make peace with Turkey's neighbors, especially Syria.
"We don't want any of our soldiers or police officers to die in Syria. Why should there be war when there can be peace?" he asked.
Later in the day, Kılıçdaroğlu took his criticism to Twitter and announced the party's stance once again.
"Mrs. Selvi and I are proud parents of our son who completed his military service as a private. The motions prepared by this individual [Erdoğan] who made his sons complete paid military service and who throws the sons of the people to the fire are unacceptable," he said.
"We'll say 'No!' to the motion."
Selvi Hanım ve ben, askerliğini er olarak yapmış oğlumuzun gururlu anne ve babasıyız. Kendi çocuğuna bedelli askerlik yaptırıp, milletin evlatlarını ateşe atan Şahsın hazırladığı gayriciddi tezkereler kabul edilemez. Tezkereye “Hayır!” diyeceğiz.— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) October 26, 2021
CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel addressed parliament ahead of voting on Oct. 26, saying that his party doesn't back those who do politics over the deaths of soldiers.
Özel also questioned the AKP's intentions in Syria's Idlib, the country’s last remaining jihadist stronghold.
"The things you're trying to do in Idlib can be accepted as casus belli if you are facing a legitimate state," Özel said, adding that the motion doesn't include what the AKP wants to do in the jihadist hub.
"This motion includes the deployment of foreign soldiers in Turkey," he said.
In his address, Özel stressed that the CHP has no intentions to legitimize the AKP's plots, which were "designed to postpone the elections with a declaration of war."
"This motion was designed to garner domestic political gains," he said.
Irak-Suriye tezkeresine neden hayır oyu kullandığımızı TBMM Genel Kurulu'nda anlattım.— Özgür Özel (@eczozgurozel) October 26, 2021
İdlib'de 34 evladımız şehit edildiğinde susup açıklamayı Hatay Valisine yaptıranların bize millilik dersi verecek ne hakkı vardır ne haddi vardır!https://t.co/9ebn9for41
Özel also pointed to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on self-defense to underline that a motion is not necessary in the case of an imminent attack.
AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik, meanwhile, defended the motion and said that troop deployment prevented the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and ISIS from grouping near Turkey's border. He then went on to slam those opposing it, saying, "Some people are bothered by Turkey's fight against terror."
"It's clear that those who don't understand the articles of the motion don't know anything about national security," Çelik tweeted.
Türkiye’nin terörle mücadelede uluslararası işbirliğine destek verdiğini ifade eden maddeler yıllardan beri tezkerelerde zaten vardır. Bunu ifade eden tezkere maddelerini anlamayanların, milli güvenlik konusunda alfabeyi bilmediği açıktır...— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) October 26, 2021
Parliament ratifies motion
The motion was approved, however, with the votes of the AKP, its alliance partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and right-wing opposition Good (İYİ) Party. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the CHP voted against it.
The motion allows the Turkish military to carry out cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria for two more years, from Oct. 30, 2021, until Oct. 30, 2023.
The motion stated that the risks and threats posed by ongoing conflicts near Turkey's southern land borders "continue to rise."
It also mentioned the situation in Idlib, saying that "the peace and stability established via the Astana process continues to be under threat."