The State Department has a Turkey problem – Analysis

Erdogan’s insincerity about ISIS is evidenced by the numbers of ISIS veterans now fighting with Turkish-backed proxy forces in Syria & elsewhere

By any reasonable metric, Turkey is a rogue regime. Put aside the 46-year occupation of northern Cyprus with its ethnic cleansing and open theft of resources. Ignore also the ethnic cleansing of Turkey’s own Kurdish population. The world rightly condemned Syrian President Bashar Assad for his deliberate targeting of civilian neighborhoods in Aleppo, but the Turkish army did the same in Nusaybin, Cizre, and Sur.

Turkey’s track record of terror support

Instead, consider President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s broader record:

  • Turkey apparently supplied weaponry to Boko Haram in Nigeria.
  • He brushed aside the International Criminal Court indictment against Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and hundreds of thousands of dead in Darfur because “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide,” a sentiment which also makes a mockery of the Armenian genocide.
  • When al Qaeda briefly took over northern Mali, Ahmet Kavas, an Erdogan-appointee, defended al Qaeda.
  • Erdogan not only embraced Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group fighting not only Israel but also the Palestinian Authority, but SADAT (a private Islamist paramilitary group run by one of his top former advisers) also allegedly helped the terrorist group launder money.
  • Erdogan masterminded a scheme to allow Iran to bypass sanctions, exposed spies monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, and according to a Hamas representative, even met the late Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani in Ankara.

Turkey’s behavior vis-a-vis the Islamic State crossed the line into terror sponsorship. Erdogan not only enabled the group with logistical support, weaponry, and providing a safe haven, but leaked emails show his family also profited from it. For Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi to be found within 3 miles of the Turkish border in an area dominated by Turkish forces is as much evidence of Turkey’s double-game as discovering Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad was of Pakistan’s duplicity.

Islamic State veterans on the Turkish payroll

Since the defeat of the Islamic State, Turkey’s complicity has only become more obvious. Offered a green light by U.S. Special Envoy James Jeffery, a former ambassador to Turkey, Turkish forces and their proxies invaded Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria and almost immediately began ethnically cleansing them. The U.S. military has concluded that Turkey “actively supports several hardline Islamist militias and groups ‘engaged in violent criminal activities.’” While the world laments and pays lip service to Yezidi women and children enslaved, raped, and otherwise victimized by the Islamic State, Yezidi slaves remain in bondage in both Turkey and areas of Syria controlled by Turkish proxies. Turkish-backed forces kidnap and rape women with impunity in areas of Syria they now occupy. A fatwa governing the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army allows them to seize property from their opponents, that is, the U.S.-allied Syrian Defense Forces. In effect, it provides religious cover for the ethnic cleansing in which the Turkish-backed groups engage.

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Erdogan’s insincerity about the Islamic State is evidenced by the numbers of Islamic State veterans now fighting with Turkish-backed proxy forces in Syria and elsewhere. One year ago, the Rojava Information Center (a research institution whose careful research Turkey has never been able to dispute) released a database of 40 Islamic State veterans; they and other members of Turkish-backed groups are essentially agents of Turkey and are on the payrolls of either Turkey’s Ministry of Defense or its intelligence service.

Consider, for example, Saed al Shahed al Antare. Today, he works as a translator for Turkish forces in Tel Abyad. When the Islamic State controlled the area, he worked in its intelligence service. Abdullah Ahmed al Abdullah likewise worked for Islamic State intelligence but today is working for Turkish forces at the looted grain silos at Sere Kaniye. Faiz al Aqal, the Islamic State’s governor of Raqqa, was present for meetings with Turkish officials in Tel Abyad where he reportedly sought to negotiate a deal to put his family in charge of a local militia with Turkish support. Turkey could have arrested al Aqal but did not do so; a U.S. drone strike two months ago, however, permanently removed him from the battlefield.

The list goes on. Khosayi Said al Aziz fought in the Damascus countryside and Homs for the Islamic State; he subsequently participated in Afrin’s ethnic cleansing on behalf of Turkey. Nor are Islamic State veterans only fighting for Turkey in Syria; Erdogan has transferred other al Qaeda and Islamic State loyalists to Libya to fight for his proxies there.

Not only do these cases (and these are just a few of the dozens which have emerged) expose Turkey’s counter-terror justification for the invasion of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria as a lie, but it also shows where Erdogan’s ideological sympathies lie. When the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army went into Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria, they did so under a fatwa declaring their reason not to be counterterrorism, but rather “jihad for the sake of Allah” against “separatists … [and] atheists who mock religion”.

Read more: Washington Examiner