Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fancies himself as the protector of Sunni Islam. As such, he has been known as a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Hamas in Gaza. The recent accusation Putin’s Russia leveled at Erdogan that he is aiding and abetting the Sunni Islamic State (IS) is not far-fetched.
Saudi Arabian-based Arab News (December 7, 2015) reported that “Turkey was astonished by Iranian accusation that Ankara is supporting IS and involved in oil dealing with the terrorists in Iraq and Syria.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded by saying that “there was nothing in Tehran’s accusations to take seriously.”
In a statement Erdogan issued last Thursday, he warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over media reports that alleged that he and his family were involved in oil trade with IS terrorists. Erdogan stated that he spoke to Rouhani on the telephone and told him, “You will pay a high price if it continues like that.” He was referring to the Iranian media reports that accused Erdogan of dealing with IS.
Tehran-based Press-TV reported (November 28, 2015) that the son of Turkey’s president was involved in oil trade with IS. According to the report, “the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Moscow has intelligence proving that Erdogan’s son has an interest in the oil trade with the militants.” Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously accused Turkey of buying oil from IS Takfiri terrorists. Putin said that satellite images show long lines of trucks purportedly carrying oil from IS controlled areas in northeast Syria into Turkey.
Eren Erdem, a Member of the Turkish Parliament from the Republican People’s Party (Turkey’s largest opposition party), said that he may have found evidence linking President Recep Erdogan’s son-in-law and Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources to the dirty oil trade with IS. In a press conference, Erdem explained that, on the basis of his investigation, which is still in progress, “I have been able to establish that there is a very high probability that Berat Albayrak is linked to the supply of oil by IS terrorists.” Erdem added, “This investigation is aimed at trying to figure out which illegal operations are taking place in our country’s oil trade.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out on December 2, 2015, “We should do the obvious thing to stop the oil trade (with IS) by closing the Turkish-Syrian border.” Lavrov said that President Putin raised that point in Paris. And he added, “As far as I know, the U.S. and its anti-terror coalition already invited Turkey to fulfill this and close the border, but efforts by just one state will not be enough and we should help.”
Of course Putin has an “ax to grind” with Erdogan and Turkey. Putin is still enraged about the November 24, 2015 downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter jet by Turkey. Ankara has claimed that the Russian jet violated Turkish airspace. Imperial Russia and the Ottoman Empire had a deadly conflict throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Turkey served as a nuclear base for the U.S. in the 20th century, and Ankara is also a member of NATO.
Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime and Russian interests coincide in securing the Latakia region, where the Russian navy has its bases and where Assad and his Alawi minority community (a Shiite-Muslim breakaway sect) have their home base. To secure Latakia, they have to engage with Turkmen and other Syrian opposition groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda affiliate). Erdogan is considering himself the protector of his fellow Turkmen, but has he no malice towards the Sunni Al-Qaeda affiliates, either. Additionally, the Assad regime and the Russians would eventually like to capture Idlib and Aleppo and destroy the Chechen fighters in Bayirbucak. In doing so, the Assad regime can secure the Alawi region in northwestern Syria. This is the strategic plan of the Assad regime before an impending cease-fire takes place in Vienna.
Turkey has a significant Alawi minority and a large Kurdish minority. Erdogan has been at odds with the U.S. and Western allies with regards to the latter aiding Kurdish forces in Syria, who constitute the most successful group fighting IS. Erdogan allowed the Kurds to bleed in Kobani while his tanks were in a position to fire at IS forces. Now Erdogan fears the loss of the region with its many Turkmen to the Assad regime. Erdogan is equally concerned with possible gains by the Kurds (whom he is bombing in Northern Iraq). According to Fehim Tastekin of al-Monitor, “In response to the plans by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to move westward and expel the Islamic State from Jarablus, Turkey has declared the Euphrates River a red line for the Kurds.”
Erdogan has repeatedly shown that he would rather fight the Kurds than IS. Tastekin has reported that “Turkmen along with jihadist units participated in the Anfal operation on March 21, 2014, to capture the Armenian towns of Kasab and Samra. In operations in August, 2013, Alawi villages were raided and some 200 civilians were killed. IS and Jabhat al-Nusra joined Turkmen in these attacks.”
According to Amed Dicle (Kurdish Question.com, July 2, 2015), Erdogan’s AKP government cannot come to terms with the imminent fall of Jarablus after the fall of Tal Abyad. This is why they are making preparations for a military intervention. In capturing the Jarablus region (Jarablus is100km northeast of Aleppo and 40km west of Kobani), Erdogan’s government hopes to be able to maintain its relations with IS and keep the delivery of fighters and arms going to them. The savage organization IS will have no single door open to the rest of the world should Jarablus be taken from it. IS will enter a process of suffocation in Syria and will no longer be able to act as it wishes in Iraq. Erdogan’s “buffer zone for security” is simply a plan to protect IS from suffering further blows. The aim is to sustain the AKP–IS traffic in the region.
While Erdogan is a megalomaniac with dictatorial tendencies, Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime are responsible for the mega-butchery in Syria. Moreover, Assad is supported by the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, and the leading sponsoring terrorist state, Shiite Iran. What makes the situation in Syria insidious is Erdogan’s double faced approach. He is pretending to oppose the Assad regime, but targets the Kurds instead. He maintains a relationship with IS, while as a member of NATO, he refused to provide even basic logistical assistance to the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called Erdogan his best friend in the Middle East, yet Obama has ignored Erdogan’s lack of assistance in the fight against IS and similarly overlooked Erdogan’s suppression of human rights in Turkey. Nor has Obama issued a condemnatory statement over Turkey’s illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus since 1974. In February 2013, Erdogan charged that “Zionism was a crime against humanity.” The Obama White House did not threaten any action against Turkey, but merely condemned the statement. Obama also failed to respond to Erdogan’s inflammatory call in May 2015 to liberate Jerusalem. Erdogan piped, “We will gather together Kurds and Arabs, and the entire Muslim world, and invade Jerusalem, and create a one world Islamic Empire.”
Ironically, the European Union is begging Erdogan to accept 3 billion Euros to fix their migrant problem. It is like “asking the fox to guard the chicken coup.” If he betrayed the West on IS, he will do the same with migrants. Turkey’s Erdogan is the problem, not the solution.