On Wednesday, Russia took the PR campaign blitz up a notch on Turkey when the MoD held a 25 minute press conference during which Deputy Minister of Defence Anatoly Antonov delivered a scathing (not to mention hilarious) indictment of Ankara’s role in Islamic State’s lucrative oil trade before walking the audience through a compelling powerpoint presentation that detailed ISIS crude transport routes.
Vladimir Putin then promised to deliver more evidence to implicate Erdogan and his family in the trafficking of illicit crude next week.
The US State Department came to Ankara’s defense (albeit not as fiercely as one might have expected) as spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that Washington is confident the Turkish government “is not complicit in Islamic State oil smuggling.”
For his part, Sergei Lavrov said Russia would present evidence of Turkey’s involvement to the UN. Speaking from Belgrade, he also said the Turkish-Syrian border needs to be closed and that the US, via SpecOps and air cover, could be a big help in the effort if Washington chooses to participate.
Needless to say, Erdogan isn’t happy with Russia’s “immoral” accusations and on Thursday, PM Ahmet Davutoglu lashed out at what he calls “Soviet propaganda.”
"In the Cold War period there was a Soviet propaganda machine. Every day it created different lies. Firstly they would believe them and then expect the world to believe them. These were remembered as Pravda lies and nonsense,” Davutoglu said. "This was an old tradition but it has suddenly reared its head again. Nobody attaches any value to the lies of this Soviet-style propaganda machine.”
("Ohhhh, burned. Show Davu some love!")
Unfortunately for Ankara, all kinds of people are “attaching value” to Russia’s accusations, including the Iraqi government from whom Turkey is effectively stealing not only by facilitating the trafficking of ISIS oil, but also by piping over 600,000 b/d from Kurdistan to Ceyhan.
On Wednesday, Asem Jihad, the press attaché of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, said Iraq will ask the Security Council to establish committees tasked with investigating anyone and everyone involved with the smuggling of illegal crude from Iraq and furthermore, he said Baghdad expects the international community to brand anyone found to be involved, "a criminal."
Meanwhile, Putin’s penchant for biting criticism, not-so-veiled threats, and humor was on full display Thursday as the Russian President suggested “Allah” is out to punish Erdogan by frying his brain and warned that if Ankara thought it was going to escape from the plane debacle with “some measures on its tomatoes” (a reference to economic sanctions the The Kremlin leveled against Turkey last weekend), they are “sorely mistaken”. Here are the quotes:
“We were prepared to cooperate with Turkey on most sensitive issues and go further than their allies. Allah knows why they did it. Apparently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their sanity.”
"We will not forget this aid to terrorists. We have always considered betrayal the worst and most shameful act. Let those in Turkey know it who shot our pilots in the back, who hypocritically tries to justify themselves and their actions and cover up the crimes of terrorists."
"If anyone thinks that having committed this awful war crime, the murder of our people, that they are going to get away with some measures concerning their tomatoes or some limits on construction and other sectors, they are sorely mistaken."
And then there was the obligatory critique of US foreign policy:
"Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which used to be stable and relatively prosperous – Iraq, Libya, Syria – have turned into zones of chaos and anarchy that pose a threat to entire world,”
“We know why it happened. We know who wanted to oust unwanted regimes, and rudely impose their own rules. They triggered hostilities, destroyed statehoods, set people against each other and simply washed their hands [of the situation] – giving way to radicals, extremists and terrorists.”
Here's the clip:
Meanwhile, Britain conducted its first strikes against ISIS targets on Thursday as RAF Tornados took off from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri in Cyprus. The UK claims it hit Islamic State oil fields.
"There are plenty more of these targets throughout eastern, northern Syria which we hope to be striking in the next few days and weeks," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said.
Why yes Mr. Fallon, there are "plenty" of targets, the problem is, the US doesn't seem excited about hitting them.
"We see no strikes on those convoys by the coalition - only a tripling in the number of strategic UAVs has been observed," Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy said at Russia's Wednesday presser, suggesting once again that the US has no "inherent resovle" (pun fully intended) to hit ISIS where it hurts.
There are also suggestions that Britain may send troops in a "non-combat" train and assist capacity.
So another day, another (couple) of escalations as Russia calls Erdogan crazy, Davutoglu invokes Pravda, and Britain enters the fray. Meanwhile, we imagine ISIS is pumping the usual 45,000 barrels of crude today and going about business as usual.