Turkey's powerful intelligence chief, one of the most steadfast allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the man who exposed a Mossad network causing major fallout with Israel, has resigned to stand for election as a lawmaker in upcoming elections.
The resignation of Hakan Fidan, who has headed the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) since 2010, could herald a major reshuffle of the Turkish government after June 7 legislative elections, the official Anatolia news agency said Saturday.
Turkey's press have in recent days speculated feverishly that Fidan's standing as an MP would set him up to become the new foreign minister, reports AFP. His resignation has been accepted by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and will take effect on Tuesday.
Fidan has been in the driving seat of peace talks with Kurdish rebels as well as Turkey's campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The spy chief, now in his late 40s, was appointed to the head of the MIT by Erdogan in May 2010 after serving as his foreign policy adviser for three years.
"He is my secret-keeper, he is the state's secret-keeper," Erdogan said in 2012, describing Fidan as a "very well-trained bureaucrat."
Fidan is a hostile figure to Israel, having taken an action that soured relations between Turkey and the Jewish state even further than they were after the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which "humanitarian" activists tried to breach Israel's legal blockade of Gaza and then used lethal weapons to assault IDF soldiers.
A US media report in 2013 revealed that Fidan had blown the cover of a network of Mossad-run Iranians operating on Turkish soil, in what Israel termed a clear "act of betrayal" by the erstwhile ally.
Who is Fidan?
The spy chief previously has served in the Turkish armed forces as a non-commissioned officer and also worked at NATO's Germany-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.
A married father-of-three, he has a bachelor's degree in political science and government from the University of Maryland University College in the United States. He also earned a master's and a doctoral degree at Ankara's private Bilkent University.
He headed a public agency for development known as TIKA, which is active in the Turkic states and Africa but also in other Muslim countries, where an increasingly Islamic Turkey under Erdogan's lead has been trying to gain a foothold as part of its strategy to become a
Before he was appointed to MIT, Fidan worked in Erdogan's office as a deputy undersecretary and is also known to have worked closely with Davutoglu.
Analysts have long speculated that Erdogan is grooming his protege for a top role in government, even up to the post of prime minister, and that path seems to be developing with a likely appointment as foreign minister.
Fidan held several hours of closed door meetings with Erdogan and Davutoglu in Ankara last week before resigning as spy chief to enter Turkish politics.
Up until the election, Fidan will work as an adviser to Davutoglu, the Radikal online daily said.
Marc Pierini, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Center, said Fidan could boast links with the president, a powerful past as head of MIT and also sheer name recognition.
"Hakan Fidan, if elected, will rank among the very top names of the ruling party in the new legislature and will be part of the closest circle of power," he told AFP.
Fidan was also instrumental in controversial talks that secured the release in September of almost 50 Turkish diplomats, staff and their families who were kidnapped by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists at the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq.
They were reportedly released in exchange for jihadist prisoners but the details have remained unclear due to a media blackout typical of Fidan's covert behavior.
A Turkish prosecutor sought to summon him in February 2012 for holding secret talks with Kurdish rebels in Oslo, an episode that started Erdogan's long running battle with US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Dawn of Turkish dictatorship?
Under Turkish law, state officials wishing to stand in the elections must resign their posts by February 10.
The election is seen as a critical moment in Turkish modern political history, with Erdogan seeking a crushing majority for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded.
This would allow the AKP to change the constitution to give Erdogan, who became president in August after over a decade as premier, sweeping new powers as head of state.
Erdogan said on Friday that he wanted 400 supportive lawmakers in the 550-MP parliament to create the "new Turkey" that he plans.
In a curious sign of dissent at Fidan's entering politics, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc questioned the need for Fidan to leave the MIT, saying he had been doing the work of a "superman."
"Personally, I think seeing a person, who was assigned the duty of superman, entering the parliament to become an MP is a waste," he told the CNN-Turk television channel, quoted by Anatolia.
Should Fidan become foreign minister, it is likely the post would gain far greater prominence than it has under incumbent Mevlut Cavusoglu, something that could trouble the West at a time of prickly ties with Ankara.
But Pierini of the Carnegie Centre cautioned: "It is too early to say if his eventual presence in a future government will have a decisive influence on Turkey's foreign policy."