Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It’s Official! Turkey is Abetting ISIS in Syria

16.05.2016 Author: Salman Rafi Sheikh

Column: Politics
Region: Middle East
Country: Turkey

Apparently, the root of troubles that the common people of Turkey are facing goes much deeper than Erdogan’s ambition to constitutionally hijack Turkey’s political system by introducing presidential form of government. Turkey’s incumbent government, dominated as it is by the party Erdogan is leading, is not only leading Turkey to chaotic scenario internally, but also externally. As it stands, the recently leaked wiretaps of ISIS agents have clearly established how Ankara has been and continues to maintain ‘silence’ over these agents’ cross border movements. These wiretaps, although recorded by Turkey’s own security agencies, were handed over to the media by an opposition MP, Erem Erdem.

Transcribed phone recordings belonging to Ilhami Bali, well known in IS ranks and suspected of staging high-profile bomb attacks in Ankara and the mainly-Kurdish border city of Suruc, detail the lack of control along the Syrian Turkish border. The 98-kilometer (61-mile) stretch of border has only two crossings, the Jarablus and Al Rai entry points across from Turkey’s Gaziantep and Kilis.

While the official ‘facts and figures’ of Turkish Armed Forces seem to claim that Turkish security forces apprehended around 961 IS members from 57 countries in 2015, the picture exposed by the opposition MP, who is already being ‘hunted’ by the president for his strong anti-regime stance, shows that thousands of IS fighters and their family members repeatedly cross the Turkish border from Syria on a daily basis. While some do get arrested, they are more often than not released at the crossing points.

While talking to the media, Erem opined that these entries recorded comprehensive information such as which hotel the terrorists are going to stay in, where they will wait for their car, which gas station they will use for refueling in a mosque in Kilis, how many people and who exactly would be responsible for the preparation of a terrorist attack.

“Despite the fact that all this information was in the hands of the authorities, the security forces had not carried out any operations to detain terrorists. I ask one very simple question: why were these terrorists not arrested?”, he questioned Turkish authorities in his press conference.

The documents he showed reveal that all the Daesh militants are being treated in Turkey; there are details of how much money is spent on maintenance and treatment of these jihadists in district hospitals. The data has further revealed that the actual count of people passing through to the Turkish side is actually more than IS coordinators have presumed.

More conversations between the two subjects further confirm that those who get arrested are later released through IS connections at police stations. One of the telephonic conversations recorded in there shows this ‘co-ordination’ in quite explicit terms:

The guy from the Gendarmerie called me and said that they were in the smuggler car,” Bali told Erkek in a conversations about another group detained at the border. “Call this guy. The people who got arrested today are at the Gendermarie station. Maybe he can do something… Gendarmerie took them under arrest. If they can let them free they should do that.”

This complicity is, therefore, at the heart of the conflict in Syria—and challenges the conventional way of eradicating terrorism by merely bombing areas under their control. Turkey’s other policies also strongly indicate how it has been using IS for its own advantage. For instance, instead of supporting Kurdish fighters, who have been the most successful ground force against IS,YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Erdogan government, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. As against Turkish complicity, to these Kurdish groups’ credit goes the rescue of thousands of Yazidi civilians threatened with genocide by Isis in 2014, and its sister organisation, the YPG, of protecting Christian communities in Syria as well.

On the contrary, not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that suggests that his government has been at least tacitly aiding IS itself. The latest revelations are, some believe, only a tip of the iceberg. There is much more than that Turkey has been up to since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.

While some may tend to debate the actual extent of Turkish complicity in abetting IS, it is quite obvious and self-evident that had Turkey placed the same kind of absolute blockade on IS territories as they did on Kurdish-held parts of Syria, let alone shown the same sort of “benign neglect” towards the PKK and YPG that they have been offering to IS, that blood-stained “caliphate” would long since have collapsed. However, the Erdogan continues to utilise this “caliphate” for materializing his own dreams of actualizing himself as the ‘Sultan of Turkey’ and ultimately the whole Arab world. This, however, does not seem to be happening.

For instance, whereas opposition MP’s revelations certainly reveal the growing level of opposition both within political and non-political apparatuses of Turkish polity, the wiretaps do also indicate who the real enemies are and who stand to benefit the most by spreading conflict in the Kurdish areas. By tacitly allowing IS agents to embark on an absolute killing spree by not cracking down on them on the basis of the information that Turkey’s agencies had in their possession, Erdogan’s government, impressed as he already in by fascist presidential system, seems to be following in the footsteps of Hitler to achieve racial purity of the Turkish nation by eliminating Kurds and ultimately advance towards its glorification that it once enjoyed as an imperial power in the Arab world. By flowing in the footsteps of Hitler, Erdogan’s Turkey might end also end up as internally destroyed, sociologically fragmented and externally surrounded by monster it has itself allowed to flourish in the first place.

 Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
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At midday on Friday 5 February, 2016 Julian Assange, John Jones QC, Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and Baltasar Garzon will be speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club on the decision made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the Assange case.


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