It’s no secret that members of the so-called coalition against ISIS have been less than enthusiastic about substantive military action as the bulk of the airstrikes so far have been executed by the United States. Turkey, in particular, is an interesting study in this regard. A recent Sunday piece in the New York Times emphasized that Turkey’s reluctance is founded on concerns about Kurdish separatists:
“Turkish leaders have condemned the brutality of the Islamic State, but they worry that the American-led campaign against the militants will strengthen the Syrian Kurds, whose fighters maintain ties to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. Adding to that pressure is the fact that the United States is allied with Kurds in Iraq.”
The article then goes on to refer to other “complex interests in Syria.” This loaded phrase requires deciphering as there are additional factors, just barely hinted at, which this Times article somehow neglects to mention. Very odd given that there’s plenty of solid material out there, some of it provided by the New York Times itself.
Thankfully this deficit has been filled by Counterpunch contributors like Nafeez Ahmed who encourages readers to follow the oil. A few weeks back Ahmed noted that Turkey is benefiting from the sale of cheap oil smuggled out of Iraq and Syria by jihadists:
“According to Ali Ediboglu, a Turkish MP for the border province of Hatay, IS is selling the bulk of its oil from regions in Syria and Mosul in Iraq through Turkey, with the tacit consent of Turkish authorities”
This is known to the American Deep State, which publicly issued a veiled threat about using raw force to staunch the flow of oil:
“Western intelligence officials say they can track the ISIS oil shipments as they move across Iraq and into Turkey’s southern border regions. Despite extensive discussions inside the Pentagon, American forces have so far not attacked the tanker trucks, though a senior administration official said Friday ‘that remains an option.’”
Then there’s also the matter of a local sympathies. Turkish intelligence officials are well aware that ISIS recruitment centers have cropped up and have largely turned a blind eye towards them:
“As many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials here. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers.”
To gain insight into this development it’s important to keep in mind that Turkey has its own nuanced agenda and that what’s transpiring in the Middle East is a convoluted multi-tiered proxy conflict. In this shifting morass of alliances Turkey has sided against Syria in an attempt to cement its political legacy. An intelligence official cited by Seymour Hersh in an essay published by the London Review of Books referenced “Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria.” Hence after opening his country’s border to rebel forces dominated by radical jihadists Turkey’s President Erdoğan has shown reluctance to completely reverse his stance on Syria.
“On Thursday morning, a recording was posted on YouTube in which the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is in northern Syria and is considered by the government here to be Turkish territory.”
The Gulf regimes are likewise gunning for Assad and have made renewed U.S. commitment towards Syrian rebels a precondition for their involvement in coalition efforts against ISIS. So it would appear that Pepe Escobar hit the nail on the head when he characterized the freshly minted ISIS campaign, complete with its own custom built CIA/Saudi-sponsored forces, as “Assad Must Go” remixed. U.S. collaborators, while making symbolic attacks against ISIS, are more concerned about Assad.
Often in the Middle East rulers, out of sheer political expedience, send mixed signals. Decrying extremists on one hand and then turning around and allowing “private donors” to fund aforementioned extremists. Turkey demonstrates a similar dichotomy, opposing airstrikes on Iraq in public but as a former Turkish diplomat put it, “privately, it’s a very different story.” Given the ambiguity it’s only natural that the NSA has been enlisted to divine the true intention of the Turkish Deep State. This might be some small comfort to onlookers; while international intrigue can prove an enigma to the average observer even spymasters struggle to find their way through the Middle East’s wilderness of mirrors.
Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.