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How the CIA Helped to Crush Turkey’s Post-War Left

Image by Diego González.

After the Second World War (1939-45), the U.S. became the dominant global power and fought its rival, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for international supremacy. Many countries became proxy battlegrounds between U.S. and Soviet influence. In addition to beating the Reds, U.S. war planners used secret militias, many of them allied with fascists and the far-right, to crush leftism in third countries. This had the dual purpose of fending off potential (often invented) Soviet advances and also crushing domestic leftism in the interests of U.S. corporations and military installations.

Turkey’s exploitation by the U.S. is an overlooked case-study, including its networks of far-right, anti-left militia trained and organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The events can be divided into three historical phases. In phase I (1940s-50s), the U.S. trained and armed the Turkish forces which banned and frequently rounded up socialist and communist groups. In phase II (1960s-70s), CIA-trained militias waged dirty wars against leftists, and in phase III (1980s-present) they focused their attention on “pacifying” Kurdish groups, many of whom espouse leftist political ideas.


Turkey’s elite expressed pro-Nazi sympathies, signing for instance the Clodius Agreement 1941 to supply Germany with materials. The CIA notes that the Turkish government “tried to eradicate completely the Communist Party, but only drove it further underground.” But at the Casablanca Conference 1943, Turkey’s President, Gen. İsmet İnönü (1884-1973), agreed to join the Allies, marking an irrevocable change in Turkey’s military structure. A U.S. Navy memo from that year notes that Mehmet Naci Perkel (1889-1969), Director of the National Security Service (Milli Emniyet Hizmeti), “appears to be somewhat confused and bewildered by the growing number of American Intelligence Agencies in Turkey.”

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