As early as January 11, 2016, even though we came to know it only in March, King Abdullah of Jordan stated in Washington that Turkey was deliberately exporting Islamic terrorists in Europe, after having “produced” them in Syria and on its national territory.
On that occasion the Jordanian king was not received by the US President, Barack Obama, but he clearly reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to support Daesh/Isis both in Syria and in Iraq, as well as to export Islamist terrorism in Europe. He did so before an audience of influential US senators and journalists.
According to the Jordanian king, Turkey wants an “Islamist and radical” solution for the whole Middle East region.
Hence, not only on the basis of the statements made by the Hashemite king, the Turkish issue is the real keystone of the anti-jihadist strategy in the Greater Middle East.
On the other hand, Turkey itself has long been the major supplier of weapons and weapon systems to Daesh/Isis.
Turkey acts in particular through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are all controlled by the intelligence services MIT – and supplies are delivered by land or via the Euphrates river, by carefully mixing real humanitarian aid with weapons.
One of these NGOs is the Besar Foundation, led by a MIT man, D. Sanli, that in 2015 arranged over 50 convoys to supply weapons and victuals to the Turkmen jihadists of Bayirbukac and Kiziltepe, about 250 kilometres away from Damascus, either alone or jointly with another Turkish NGO, the Yilikter Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom.
The supplies were delivered through some checkpoints along the Turkish-Syrian border or, as already said, through waterways, particularly the Euphrates river.
Over the past two months, the weapons sent by Turkey to ISIS have been mainly TOW anti-tank missiles, RPG-7 mortars, several 7.62 mm M-60 machine-gunners, hand grenades and various tactical communication tools.
Moreover, at least according to the well-informed Russian military intelligence sources, Turkey has supplied Daesh/Isis with 2,500 tons of ammonium nitrate, 450 tons of potassium nitrate, 75 tons of aluminium powder, large quantities of sodium nitrate, glycerine and nitric acid.
As is well-known, they are all primary components of explosives.
The funds provided to Besar apparently come from private financers, but actually belong to MIT special accounts.
Again in 2015, the NGO Yilikter organized over 25 convoys inside Syria, funded by Turkish, Middle East and European accounts managed in Turkey by the Kuveyt Turk and Vakif banks.
One of the Turkish NGOs involved in operations designed to support Daesh/Isis is IHH, the “Foundation for the Defence of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, explicitly backed by the Turkish government.
Since the beginning of hostilities in Syria, in 2011, IHH has sent to Syria 7,500 vehicles with weapons “hidden” and mixed with traditional military aid.
IHH receives funds from the Turkish State and from several private financers, that pass through the usual Ziraat and Vakif banks.
With a view to supplying weapons to ISIS, the Turkish secret agents manage the military depots in the border towns of Bukulmez and Sansarin, from which they take the weapons to be hidden and mixed with humanitarian aid.
Usually the Turkish weapons for Isis transit through the border crossing of Cilvegoezu, 530 kilometres south-east of Ankara.
The Turkish intelligence services support not only the “Turkmen” jihadists operating along the Western border – who, inter alia, are responsible for the shooting down of the Russian Sukhoi-24 aircraft and the rescue helicopter last January – but also Jabhat al Sham, the “Levant Front”, a jihadist group operating in the area of Aleppo, as well as the many other political and military movements which quickly come in and out of the large rassemblement of the Al Nusra Front, namely Al Qaeda Syrian “section”.
The Turkish private business companies linked to the government buy the goods produced in the Free Trade Zone of Mersin, along the Turkish Southern coast and ship them to ISIS.
With a view to avoiding border problems, the military products intended for Daesh/Isis are sent to companies registered in Jordan or in Iraq, with documents bearing the wording “transit through the Syrian Arab Republic” instead of the name of the receiver.
The Turkish customs offices concerned are in Antalya, Gaziantep and Mersin. Later the goods intended for the “Caliphate” transit through the crossings of Cilvegoezu and Oencuepnar up to reaching the areas controlled by Isis.
Hence President Erdogan’s project is clear: through Isis he plans to balkanize Iraq, Syria, the Lebanon and the whole region up to the Caucasus, so as to project the Turkish power from Anatolia’s border up to Central Asia.
It is the old Panturanic Islamist/neo-Ottoman temptation, which resumes backwards the route of the Turkish tribes arriving from Western Siberia up to the Mediterranean.
Obviously this implies denying any autonomy to the Kurds, whom the Turkish press called “the Turks of the mountains.”
Furthermore, it is worth adding that this is a perspective totally alien to the strategy of NATO, of which Turkey is the Member State having the second largest Armed Forces after the United States.
What does the NATO Secretary General – the young Norwegian Social Democrat leader Stoltenberg, appointed to that post in 2014 – have to say on this matter?
Born in 1969, can he remember when the German Social Democrat Helmut Schmidt “froze” – jointly with the conservative French President Giscard d’Estaing – the Italian military posts within NATO, in the phase in which the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was entering the government coalition?
Does he think that the “sword jihad” is just a way to “topple Assad’s tyrannical regime” in Syria and bring there the famous two-party parliamentary democracy, which is so fashionable in the West?
Or do those who support the “Caliphate” think that the jihadists will easily obey Turkey’s orders or the orders of the other countries supporting them, after achieving their success on the ground?
Therefore, for Turkey, the goals to be reached by supporting Daesh/Isis, are those of a direct intervention on the Syrian territory, with the possible establishment of a large “Sunni district” as an area subjugated to Turkey.
Moreover, Turkey does not really want the great anti-Iranian area that Saudi Arabia plans to create in the Middle East, or at least it wishes it only as part of its pan-Turkish project stretching from the Mediterranean to Central Asia up to Xingkiang, the Turkmen region inside Communist China.
Nor does the Turkish government want to fully adhere to the Saudi geopolitics in the region, which would force it to submit to Saudi Arabia, thus taking it away from the European Union and the United States.
Hence Turkey’s use of Daesh/Isis implies the idea of a “controlled fire” in Syria and Iraq, that Turkey hopes it can target both against the Kurds and towards Iran’s future expansion area, which would be finally blocked by the collapse of Alawite Syria.
Therefore, currently the Turkish government operates to maintain its leadership in the region and create a corridor towards Central Asia, as well as conquer the Sunni area north of the Al Saud’s world and influence both the United States and the faint-hearted and foolish European Union.
Nor does Turkey want to entirely relinquish its own relations with the United States, despite the scarce use allowed of the Incirlik air base for anti-Isis operations and the Turkish army’s merely cosmetic actions against Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.
Furthermore, controlling and manipulating migration flows to the EU enables Turkey to open and close the EU “valves” both for a future EU membership and as a financial and political blackmail against EU institutions.
Moreover, President Erdogan’s support to ISIS allows to support the Islamist electoral faction within the ruling party, namely AKP, against the still wide “secular” areas and mindful of Ataturk, the electorate and the Turkish ruling classes.
The trial against Ergenekon, the neo-coupist and secularist military network, ended in 2013 with the conviction of 275 people, including the Chief of Staff, Ilker Basbug, and the leader of the socialist “Patriotic Party”, Dogu Perincek.
Obviously if an Independent Kurdish State were founded in Syria and Iraq, the mass of Kurds in Turkey would feel entitled to follow suit.
The Kurds account for 10% of the total Turkish population, and they are almost all spread throughout the Eastern provinces, in close contact with their Syrian compatriots.
Hence Turkey maintains contacts with the United States (and not with the Atlantic Alliance, in which it is scarcely interested), which is a traditional ally of the Kurdish groups in Syria (that now sympathize more with Russia), so as to avoid the United States pushing for an Independent Kurdish State – and in that case Turkey could still use its good relations with Isis, as a sort of blackmail.
Moreover, Turkey is worried about the crisis in Ukraine and the Black Sea, which is one of its primary strategic points.
If tension mounted in that region, Turkey would be faced with two negative scenarios: the Russian (and Rumanian) power projection onto the Black Sea and the possibility for Russia to hold in check both the Turkish territory and its trade routes eastwards, which are key to Turkey’s Panturanic strategy.
Nor does Turkey wish to completely turn against Russia, from which it receives most of its oil and gas supplies which, however, are bound to double by 2020 as to oil and to quadruplicate as to natural gas.
And, indeed, the only rational source of supply is the Russian region, which will certainly make its weight felt and its voice heard if Turkey used the jihadist lever even further in the Syrian crisis.
Should the European Union be able to think strategically, these could be the issues at stake in the Syrian-Iraqi region.
Giancarlo Elia Valori * (@GEliaValori)
* Presidente della merchant bank “La centrale Finanziaria Generale S.p.A.”
– Presidente della “Cattedra sugli studi della pace, la sicurezza e lo sviluppo internazionale presso la Facoltà di relazioni internazionali della Peking University, nonché “professore straordinario” di economia e politica internazionale nello stesso Ateneo
– Honorable dell’Académie des Sciences dell’Institut de France