In the lead up to elections last June that saw Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AKP lose their absolute majority in Parliament, Turkey had long been criticized for not doing enough to assist in the fight against ISIS.
In fact, there was quite a bit of evidence to suggest that Ankara was cooperating with the group. For instance, an official familiar with a large cache of intelligence seized in a raid last summer told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’” Similarly, a former ISIS fighter once 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 members, the source said, would “freely travel through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” and stop “at safehouses along the way.”
But after last summer’s elections in Turkey, everyone seemingly forgot about Ankara’s apparent complicity when Erdogan granted the US access to Incirlik from which Washington was henceforth allowed to fly combat missions. That, combined with Erdogan’s promise to step up the war on “terror,” was supposed to be “proof” of Turkey’s commitment.
Despite numerous reports to suggest that Turkey wasn’t striking ISIS at all, but rather simply targeting the PKK (Kurdish insurgents with whom Turkey has been at war for years), the mainstream media generally stuck to the script that said Ankara had officially joined the war on Islamic State.
And then, in November, Vladimir Putin pushed Turkey’s cozy relationship with ISIS back into the spotlight following Ankara’s move to down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. Since then, the world has begun to question whose side the Turks are really on, especially in light of the evidence Moscow has presented linking Erdogan to Islamic State’s illicit oil trade.
Eyebrows were also raised when Erdogan jailed several generals who dared to inspect a weapons-laden MiT trucks crossing the border with Syria.
This week, we get the latest evidence that Turkey is Islamic State’s number one state sponsor as Cumhuriyet released transcripts of phone calls that allegedly took place between Turkish military officers and Mustafa Demir, the ISIS commander in charge of the Syria-Turkey border.
The transcripts are part of a court case on ISIS at the Ankara 3rd High Criminal Court. “The issues alleged in the case came to light because of an investigation launched following information given by six Turkish citizens whose relatives joined ISIL,” Today’s Zaman reports. “Upon the application by the relatives, monitoring of the communications of 19 people started, and a prosecutor named Derda Gökmen reportedly filed a claim against 27 suspects.”
Below, find the transcripts.
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Date: Nov. 25, 2014; 8:26 p.m.
A.A.: Was that you, the ones with a torch?
Mustafa: Well, with a little torch, where are you big brother? At the place where I told you to be?
A.A.: Yeah. We also saw you, your men…
Mustafa: Is it possible for you to arrange that I talk with the commander here, regarding the business here? What if we could establish a contact here as we helped you...
A.A.: Okay. If there are any needs [as far as your request is concerned], [tell them] to inform me here.
Mustafa: If it will be enough to contact you [to settle the issue], no problem.
A.A.: I'll pass this now. I have two military posts [at the border] there. If worse comes to worst, I'll tell that to the commander of the station and have him take a look…
Time: 7:12 p.m.
Communication made by the telephone registered in the name of A.B.
A.B.: We're where you gave [him] the vehicle, we are in the mine [field]. We've put on a light. We have stuff; come here from that side, the men are here...
Mustafa: Okay, big brother, [I'm] coming.
A.B.: Come urgently; I'm in the mine [field] with a torch. Come running.
Mustafa: Well, big brother, is it the place where I gave First Lieutenant Burak a car?
A.B.: Yeah, just a little further down from that place. Our two vehicles are on the Turkish side [of the border].
A.B.: We are also in the mine.
Mustafa: I'll right be there, big brother.
* * *
As a reminder, Erdogan recently threw Can Dundar, editor in chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s capital correspondent in Ankara, in prison for a controversial story about an alleged arms shipment from Turkish intelligence to Syrian rebels.
We shudder to think what fate awaits the Cumhuriyet employee responsible for leaking these transcripts.