Turkey Enabling ISIS
NATO member Turkey has been busted supporting ISIS.
The Guardian reported this week:
US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.
The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.
As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two.
In the wake of the raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, suspicions of an undeclared alliance have hardened. One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered at the slain leader’s compound said that direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members was now “undeniable”.
“There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,” the official told the Observer. “They are being analysed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”
However, Turkey has openly supported other jihadi groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, which espouses much of al-Qaida’s ideology, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is proscribed as a terror organisation by much of the US and Europe. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the western official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
One Isis member says the organisation remains a long way from establishing a self-sustaining economy across the area of Syria and Iraq it controls. “They need the Turks. I know of a lot of cooperation and it scares me,” he said. “I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organisation too hard. There are shared interests.”
Has Turkey Changed Its Ways?
On Tuesday, Turkey proclaimed that it will now help to fight ISIS.
Don’t buy it …
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson – former chief of staff to Colin Powell, and now distinguished adjunct professor of Government and Public Policy at William & Mary – asked yesterday:
What is [Turkish president] Erdogan’s ultimate purpose? He hates Assad. He’d love to bring him down. Is that why he’s doing this?
There’s also the Kurds …
As Time Magazine pointed out in June:
Ethnic Kurds—who on Tuesday scored their second and third significant victories over ISIS in the space of eight days—are by far the most effective force fighting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
And yet Turkey is trying to destroy the Kurds. Time writes:
Since [Turkey announced that it was joining the war against ISIS] it has arrested more than 1,000 people in Turkey and carried out waves of air raids in neighboring Syria and Iraq. But most of those arrests and air strikes, say Kurdish leaders, have hit Kurdish and left wing groups, not ISIS.
Kurds are an ethnic minority that live in parts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have been persecuted for decades — from Turkey’s suppression of Kurdish identity and banning of Kurdish language to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons on Kurdish communities. Their leaders, from the numerous different parties and rebel groups that represent them, have long sought an independent Kurdish state encompassing that territory and have fought against their respective governments to try to achieve that.
Hoshang Waziri, a political analyst based in Erbil, says the Kurds’ recent territorial gains in Syria along Turkey’s border and their increasing political legitimacy in the eyes of the West, have made the Kurds a bigger threat to Turkey than ISIS. “The fear of the Turkish state started with the Kurdish defeat of ISIS in Tel Abyad,” says Waziri.
“The image in the West of the Kurds as a reliable ally on the ground is terrifying for Turkey,” says Waziri. “So before it’s too late, Turkey waged its war — not against ISIS, but against the PKK.”
Some see the war against ISIS simply as a cover for an attack on Kurdish groups. Of the more than 1,000 people Turkey has arrested in security sweeps in recent days, 80% are Kurdish, associated either with the PKK or the non-violent Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), says ?brahim Ayhan, a member of parliament for the HDP.
Ayhan says the AKP needs a state of “chaos” to perusade voters that it is the only bulwark against chaos. As of yet no new government has been formed in Turkey and if that doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, new elections will be called. By that time Ayhad fears many of the leaders of his HDP party will be in jail and some even worry the HDP will be outlawed. At the same time, Erdo?an and his AKP hope they will have shown only they can defend Turkey from internal and external threats.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Turkey’s military activity against Islamic State does not stem from sudden realizations about threats from ISIS but appears designed to elicit international support for its fight against the Kurds.
The Kurdish Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, was locked in a bloody war with the Turkish state from the mid-1980s until 2013. The cease-fire has, for all intents and purposes, been destroyed. Turkey is battling both ISIS and the PKK under the guise of fighting terrorism. Yet Turkish attempts to conflate ISIS and the PKK–even in the wake of the suicide bombing in a Kurdish border town that killed 32 young people–effectively ask people to overlook some salient facts:
The Kurds are Islamic State’s ideological opposites. The Kurds have been fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq for some time; in particular, the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in northern Syria has been among the most effective forces at repelling ISIS efforts to take control of the Syrian-Turkish border. Kurdish military resistance in Syria and, to a lesser extent, the Kurdish autonomous government in Iraq have shouldered the lion’s share of the ground conflict against Islamic State, standing their ground at high cost and with limited support from the Western coalition.
A declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey would give the Justice and Development Party (or AKP), which lost its parliamentary majority in June elections, more flexibility to crack down on political opponents such as the Kurdish majority People’s Democratic Party. More than 1,300 people have been detained recently under the guise of cracking down on domestic PKK and ISIS elements in Turkey.
The AKP has declared the peace process with the Kurdish separatists dead and is trying to discredit the only recognized political representatives of the Turkish left and the Kurdish population; the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party won a 13% share of the Turkish parliament in the June elections–a sign of its rising popularity not only among Kurds but also with increasingly disgruntled Turkish liberals.
If a governing coalition isn’t formed, early elections will be held. The AKP appears to be hoping for that–under the thinking that a majority of voters would seek to maintain the status quo in a time of uncertainty and potential civil war, and that AKP’s standing in parliament would, in turn, be strengthened.
So Turkey isn’t really going after ISIS … instead, the ruling party is going after its main political threat – the Kurds – and continuing its long-term effort to overthrow Syria’s Assad.