Over the past five weeks, Turkey’s role in facilitating the trafficking of illicit Islamic State crude has been exposed for the world to see. Ankara’s move to shoot down a Russian Su-24 near the Syrian border prompted a media blitz from Moscow, which has variously accused the Erdogan government of being complicit in a business that nets Bakr al-Baghdadi between $500 million and $1 billion per year in revenue.
To be sure, those who have followed Islamic State’s meteoric rise are well aware of the fact that Turkey has played a rather decisive role in the group’s recruiting efforts by looking the other way as a steady stream of foreign fighters – emboldened by the ISIS propaganda machine – have streamed into Syria.
Ankara, like Riyadh and Doha, is keen on seeing the Assad government fall and has been instrumental in the effort (supported by the West) to funnel money and weapons to the various Sunni extremist groups fighting for control of the country. As Nafeez Ahmed put it in a recent piece posted first on Medium, “NATO is harbouring the Islamic State and France’s brave new war on ISIS is a sick joke, and an insult to the victims of the Paris attacks.” Here are some key excerpts from the article:
A senior Western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer from a major raid on an ISIS safehouse told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’”
The same official confirmed that Turkey, a longstanding member of NATO, is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
In a rare insight into this brazen state-sponsorship of ISIS, a year ago Newsweek reported the testimony of a former ISIS communications technician, who had travelled to Syria to fight the regime of Bashir al-Assad.
The former ISIS fighter 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 militants would freely travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” and stop “at safehouses along the way.”
The former ISIS communication technician also admitted that he would routinely “connect ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” adding that “the people they talked to were Turkish officials… ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks.”
As if all of that wasn’t enough, German media now contend that ISIS has an office in Turkey through…