For the better part of a year, Turkey remained on the sidelines in the “fight” against ISIS.
Then, on July 20, a powerful explosion ripped through the town of Suruc. 33 people were killed including a number of Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF) members who planned to assist in the rebuilding of Kobani.
The attack was promptly attributed to Islamic State who took “credit” for the tragedy the next day.
To be sure, the attack came at a rather convenient time for President Tayyip Erdogan. A little over a month earlier, the ruling AKP party lost its absolute parliamentary majority in part due to a strong showing at the ballot box for the pro-Kurdish (and PKK-aligned) HDP. What happened in the wake of the Suruc bombing was nothing short of a largely successful attempt on Erdogan’s part to use fear and violence to scare the electorate into restoring AKP’s dominance in snap elections that took place earlier this month.
In short, Erdogan used Suruc as an excuse to begin a “war on terror.” Part and parcel of the new campaign was an invite from Ankara for Washington to use Turkey’s Incirlik air base. Subsequently, Erdogan reminded the world that the PKK is also considered a terrorist organization and as such, the anti-ISIS campaign would also include a crackdown on Kurdish militants operating in Turkey. Erdogan proceeded to focus squarely on the PKK, all but ignoring ISIS while simultaneously undercutting the coalition building process on the way to calling for new elections. Unsurprisingly, AKP put on a much better showing in the electoral redo, and with that, Erdogan had succeeded in using ISIS as a smokescreen to start a civil war with the PKK, in the process frightening voters into restoring his party’s grip on power.
Through it all, the PKK has suggested that Ankara is and always has been in bed with Islamic State. That contention will come as no surprise to those who frequent these pages. It’s common knowledge that Turkey backs the FSA and participates in the US/Saudi-led effort to supply Syrian rebels with weapons, money, and training. Indeed, those weapons were on full display Tuesday when the FSA’s 1st Coastal Brigade used a US-made TOW to destroy a Russian search and rescue helicopter. That came just hours after the Turkmen FSA-allied Alwiya al-Ashar militia posted a video of its fighters celebrating over the body of an ejected Russian pilot.
In short, Turkey has made a habit out of supporting anyone and everyone who opposes Assad in Syria and that includes ISIS. In fact, if one were to rank the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar in order of who is suspected of providing the most assistance to Islamic State, Turkey would likely top the list. Here’s what Vladimir Putin had to say earlier today after Turkey downed the Russian Su-24:
- PUTIN: OIL FROM ISLAMIC STATE IS BEING SHIPPED TO TURKEY
- PUTIN SAYS ISLAMIC STATE GETS CASH BY SELLING OIL TO TURKEY
- PUTIN: ISLAMIC STATE GETS MILITARY SUPPORT FROM MANY STATES
It’s with all of this in mind that we bring you excerpts from a new piece by Nafeez Ahmed who, you’re reminded, penned a lengthy expose earlier this year explaining how the US views ISIS as a “strategic asset.” In his latest, Ahmed takes a close look at the relationship between Ankara and Islamic State. The evidence is truly damning.
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From “NATO is harbouring the Islamic State: Why France’s brave new war on ISIS is a sick joke, and an insult to the victims of the Paris attacks,” by Nafeez Ahmed, originally published in Medium
“We stand alongside Turkey in its efforts in protecting its national security and fighting against terrorism. France and Turkey are on the same side within the framework of the international coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.” —Statement by French Foreign Ministry, July 2015
The 13th November Paris massacre will be remembered, like 9/11, as a defining moment in world history.
The murder of 129 people, the injury of 352 more, by ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) acolytes striking multiple targets simultaneously in the heart of Europe, mark a major sea-change in the terror threat.
For the first time, a Mumbai-style attack has occurred on Western soil?—?the worst attack on Europe in decades. As such, it has triggered a seemingly commensurate response from France: the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1961 Algerian war.
ISIS has followed up with threats to attack Washington and New York City.
Meanwhile, President Hollande wants European Union leaders to suspend the Schengen Agreement on open borders to allow dramatic restrictions on freedom of movement across Europe. He also demands the EU-wide adoption of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system allowing intelligence services to meticulously track the travel patterns of Europeans, along with an extension of the state of emergency to at least three months.
Under the extension, French police can now block any website, put people under house arrest without trial, search homes without a warrant, and prevent suspects from meeting others deemed a threat.
“We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries,” said the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “We are going to live with this terrorist threat for a long time.”
Hollande plans to strengthen the powers of police and security services under new anti-terror legislation, and to pursue amendments to the constitution that would permanently enshrine the state of emergency into French politics. “We need an appropriate tool we can use without having to resort to the state of emergency,” he explained.
Parallel with martial law at home, Hollande was quick to accelerate military action abroad, launching 30 airstrikes on over a dozen Islamic State targets in its de facto capital, Raqqa.
Conspicuously missing from President Hollande’s decisive declaration of war, however, was any mention of the biggest elephant in the room: state-sponsorship.
Syrian passports discovered near the bodies of two of the suspected Paris attackers, according to police sources, were fake, and likely forged in Turkey.
Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Meydan reported citing an Uighur source that more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports had been given to ISIS. The figure, according to the US Army’s Foreign Studies Military Office (FSMO), is likely exaggerated, but corroborated “by Uighurs captured with Turkish passports in Thailand and Malaysia.”
A senior Western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer from a major raid on an ISIS safehouse told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’”
The same official confirmed that Turkey, a longstanding member of NATO, is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
In a rare insight into this brazen state-sponsorship of ISIS, a year ago Newsweek reported the testimony of a former ISIS communications technician, who had travelled to Syria to fight the regime of Bashir al-Assad.
The former ISIS fighter told Newsweek that Turkey was allowing ISIS trucks from Raqqa to cross the “border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.” ISIS militants would freely travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” and stop “at safehouses along the way.”
The former ISIS communication technician also admitted that he would routinely “connect ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” adding that “the people they talked to were Turkish officials… ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks.”
In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria.
According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.
The allegations have been corroborated by a prosecutor and court testimony of Turkish military police officers, who confirmed that Turkish intelligence was delivering arms to Syrian jihadists from 2013 to 2014.
Documents leaked in September 2014 showed that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan had financed weapons shipments to ISIS through Turkey. A clandestine plane from Germany delivered arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey and split into three containers, two of which were dispatched to ISIS.
A report by the Turkish Statistics Institute confirmed that the government had provided at least $1 million in arms to Syrian rebels within that period, contradicting official denials. Weapons included grenades, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns, firearms, ammunition, hunting rifles and other weapons?—?but the Institute declined to identify the specific groups receiving the shipments.
Information of that nature emerged separately. Just two months ago, Turkish police raided a news outlet that published revelations on how the local customs director had approved weapons shipments from Turkey to ISIS.
Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country.
Last summer, Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, an MP from the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million?—?that was over a year ago.
By now, this implies that Turkey has facilitated over $1 billion worth of black market ISIS oil sales to date.
The liberal Turkish daily Taraf quoted an AKP founder, Dengir Mir Mehmet F?rat, admitting: “In order to weaken the developments in Rojova [Kurdish province in Syria] the government gave concessions and arms to extreme religious groups…the government was helping the wounded. The Minister of Health said something such as, it’s a human obligation to care for the ISIS wounded.”
The paper also reported that ISIS militants routinely receive medical treatment in hospitals in southeast Turkey—?including al-Baghdadi’s right-hand man.
Meanwhile, NATO leaders feign outrage and learned liberal pundits continue to scratch their heads in bewilderment as to ISIS’ extraordinary resilience and inexorable expansion.
As Professor David Graeber of London School of Economics pointed out:
“Had Turkey placed the same kind of absolute blockade on Isis territories as they did on Kurdish-held parts of Syria… that blood-stained ‘caliphate’ would long since have collapsed?—?and arguably, the Paris attacks may never have happened. And if Turkey were to do the same today, Isis would probably collapse in a matter of months. Yet, has a single western leader called on Erdo?an to do this?”
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”?
General Dempsey replied:
“I know major Arab allies who fund them.”
In other words, the most senior US military official at the time had confirmed that ISIS was being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
These allies include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait in particular.
Porous links between some Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, Islamist militant groups like al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS, have enabled prolific weapons transfers from ‘moderate’ to Islamist militants.
The consistent transfers of CIA-Gulf-Turkish arms supplies to ISIS have been documented through analysis of weapons serial numbers by the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), whose database on the illicit weapons trade is funded by the EU and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
ISIS, in other words, is state-sponsored?—?indeed, sponsored by purportedly Western-friendly regimes in the Muslim world, who are integral to the anti-ISIS coalition.
Which then begs the question as to why Hollande and other Western leaders expressing their determination to “destroy” ISIS using all means necessary, would prefer to avoid the most significant factor of all: the material infrastructure of ISIS’ emergence in the context of ongoing Gulf and Turkish state support for Islamist militancy in the region.