New sanctions show Turkey’s double standards on terror
Lt.-Gen. Saad al-Allaq told CNN on November 18 that ‘senior members of ISIS are plotting mass prison breaks and a resurgence of terror after taking refuge in Turkey.’
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Turkey’s officials and politicians use the word “terrorism” to describe their political enemies and groups that they claim are security concerns to Turkey. But when it comes to ISIS and other extremist groups, it appears Ankara has had a blind spot, as new US sanctions identified “two Turkey-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) procurement agents,” on Monday.The US and Iraq both alleged in recent days that Turkey has terrorists located on its soil. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated two Turkey-based ISIS “procurement agents and four ISIS-linked companies operating in Syria, Turkey and across the Gulf and Europe for providing critical financial and logistical support to ISIS.”One money exchange company “held deposits from ISIS-linked individuals seeking transport out of Syria to Turkey in 2017.” In 2016, the same company transferred thousands to “ISIS operatives in Turkey.”Two brothers from Sanliurfa also sent money to ISIS through a local company, the Treasury sanction says. At the same time Lt.-Gen. Saad al-Allaq told CNN on November 18 that “senior members of ISIS are plotting mass prison breaks and a resurgence of terror after taking refuge in Turkey.”The head of Iraqi military intelligence says that he has provided nine dossiers on ISIS suspects to Turkey regarding “nine alleged terror leaders.” These men are top financiers. Turkey has supposedly already frozen millions of dollars linked to ISIS, the report notes.But ISIS “emirs” still have access to money and were “forming new cells in Turkey.” These men had fled Baghouz, the last ISIS-held area, in March and made their way to Gaziantep in Turkey. “Those elements are right now in Turkey,” and they “play a key role in recruiting terrorists.”Turkey, however, has focused on other concerns. Foremost on Turkey’s list of what constitutes a terror threat is the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Second is the “Fetullah Gulen terrorist organization” which Ankara claims planned a 2016 coup attempt.AdvertisementIncreasingly, Turkey’s policy is to describe dissidents as “terrorists,” as well as claiming that its NATO ally, the United States, has supported terrorism in Syria. In recent weeks, Turkey has removed mayors in Turkey claiming they are linked to “terrorists,” a euphemism for being members of the left-leaning HDP opposition party.According to Euronews, Turkey has removed 24 elected mayors, mostly in Kurdish areas. Recently it forcibly removed the mayors of Mazidag, Savor and a mayor in Suruc district.Critique of Turkey’s policies is now met with arrest warrants for “terrorism.” There is almost no critical or left-leaning media in Turkey. Amnesty International noted that since Turkey launched an invasion of Syria, it has been “accompanied by a wave of repression in Turkey which swept up anyone who deviated from the government’s official line. Journalists, social media users, and protesters have been accused of ‘terrorism.’”Turkey has also accused the US of supporting terrorism. In late October, Ankara accused the US of arming and training “terrorists” in Syria, a reference to the US support for the Syrian Democratic Forces which are fighting ISIS.Turkey claims the SDF are linked to the PKK and launched an invasion of Syria in October to take over areas the US had once been based in. 200,000 civilians had to flee as Turkey attacked. The US State Department says Turkey used “ill-disciplined” Islamic groups recruited from other areas in Syria in its attack. Another senior US official described them as “jihadi mercenaries.” The US official, William Roebuck, noted that some of the Turkish-backed groups were “formerly allied with ISIS or al-Qaeda.”However, Turkey’s ruling party which, like Hamas, has roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, has a long-term relationship with Hamas. According to a February 2018 report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “Turkish authorities allow the military wing of Hamas to operate from an office in Istanbul that deals with planning terror attacks.” In July the online media outlet Ahval reported that Turkey serves Hamas as a “regional intel listening post.”Turkey’s policies regarding “terrorism” have tended to focus on dissidents and the PKK while paying lip service to also fighting ISIS. However, US officials in public and private, as well as Iraqi intelligence officers, assert that Turkey has had ISIS elements operating on its soil for years.In areas across the border, Turkey has also not removed terrorists. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was found by the US just a few kilometers from Turkey, and a second ISIS leader was taken out near Jarabulus in an area that Turkey controls. Al-Qaeda elements of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham operate near Turkish observation posts in Syria’s Idlib province. In 2018, an article in a Turkish newspaper even noted that the al-Qaeda-linked HTS escorted a Turkish military convoy in Syria. The US targeted al-Qaeda members in Idlib in August.
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