Was the Turkish Government Caught Sending Weapons to ISIS in Syria?

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If you have any interest in geopolitics whatsoever, you need to be paying very close attention to the complete and total shit show that is Turkey.

Turkey is a close U.S. ally that has been nevertheless caught supporting ISIS is various ways this year. Why would a close U.S. ally be supporting ISIS? Great question. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions, but before we go into today’s piece, let’s revisit a post from a couple of weeks ago: Turkey Bombs Kurds Fighting ISIS, Then Hires Same Lobbying Firm Supporting U.S. Presidential Candidates. Here’s some of what we learned:

On the same day that Turkey announced it would help fight the Islamic State, Turkish forces began an airstrike campaign against one of the very groups that has been crucial to stopping the advance of the Islamic State.

Since the July 24 announcement, Turkey has launched several waves of airstrikes against elements of a Kurdish separatist group known as the P.K.K., which is widely listed as a terrorist group. But that group and its allies in Syria, who have been closely working with American forces, are pushing Islamic State militants out of areas they once controlled.

Bizarre and concerning? Yes. As a result of that story, I began paying far closer attention to the goings on in Turkey. My attention was then piqued yesterday when I read that three Vice News staffers had been arrested for supposedly possessing encryption software used by ISIS. We learn from Al Jazeera:

Three staff members from Vice News were charged with “aiding an armed organisation” because one of the men was using an encryption system on his personal computer which is often used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a senior press official in the Turkish government has told Al Jazeera.

Two UK journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, along with their Turkey-based Iraqi fixer and a driver, were arrested in front of their hotel in the province Diyarbakir on Thursday after filming clashes between security forces and youth members of the outlawed and armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On Monday, the three men were charged by a Turkish judge in Diyarbakir with “deliberately aiding an armed organisation”, the driver was released without charge.

This is strange. Charged with aiding an armed organization merely because they posses the same encryption software? Moreover, it’s the same terror organization Turkey itself is aiding.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tahir Elci, the head of the Diyarbakir lawyers association, said: “I find it ridiculous that they were taken into custody. I don’t believe there is any accuracy to what they are charged for. 

“To me, it seems like an attempt by the government to get international journalists away from the area of conflict.

Indeed, but why? There has to be more to this story, and it seems columnist Kadri Gursel may have figured out what. He wrote the following at Al-Monitor:

On Sept. 1, police raided numerous news outlets, including one that happened to publish on that same day a report documenting weapons being transported from Turkey to the Islamic State (IS) in Syria with the knowledge of the local customs director.

The police searched more than 20 media organizations and commercial companies of Koza Ipek Holding, accusing owner Akin Ipek of being a terrorist leader. Some of Akin Ipek’s media holdings are supportive of an ex-friend of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the Sept. 1 raids, authorities seized documents and computers of Koza Holding. Among locations raided were the Ankara offices of Kanal Turk TV and Bugun newspaper and, according to Koza Ipek officials, the residence of Akin Ipek. The Hurriyet Daily News, citing “prosecutor sources,” reported Akin Ipek left the country Aug. 30. An arrest warrant has been issued in his name, the report said.

The same day the raids were launched, the daily Bugun claimed to have documented weapons-related supplies being transferred from Turkey to IS in Syria. The grave banner headline read, “War supplies for [IS] at Akcakale,” and was followed by two full pages of “shocking” color photos.

Bugun’s revelation continued: “For two months, every single day two semitrailer loads of fertilizer used in production of explosives, one semi load of metal sheeting and one truckload of electronic supplies and cables were transferred to IS-controlled areas of Syria. Moreover, every other day, one truckload of barrels filled with explosives and crates of fuses were moved across.”

Bugun’s report said the shipments, made in front of the local customs director and his staff, also included metal piping often used in the production of mortar tubes. In the photographs, obviously taken from a building overlooking the crossing, one can see the barrels said to contain explosives, sacks of fertilizer to be used in explosive production, metal piping and sheets to use for weapons and armor manufacturing, and workers pushing the trailers loaded with them.

So it appears the targeting of Vice staffers was just a small part of a potentially much bigger story. Is it all connected? I don’t know, but I think is Turkey is on the edge of some real political fireworks one way or the other. I suggest paying very close attention.

Of course, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of this. Recall the following CNN story from June:

The Turkish president says a journalist will pay “a high price” for publishing leaked video footage that purports to show the country’s intelligence agency sending weapons to Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called out the head of Cumhuriyet — a secularist pro-opposition newspaper — in a live broadcast for publishing the footage. 

“The person who published this story as an exclusive story will, I believe, pay a high price for this. I will not leave him be,” said Erdogan, speaking to state broadcaster TRT.

Many in Turkey view this as a thinly veiled threat against Can Dundar, the editor in chief of Cumhuriyet. The newspaper published video that purports to show ammunition being sent to anti-regime rebels in Syria. Dundar is facing an investigation under Turkey’s anti-terror law for “treason and revealing state secrets” in publishing the footage.

Dundar dismissed the allegation of treason against him, calling it “the defense reflex of the state in Turkey.” Dundar published the controversial footage deemed a state secret by the government just a week before parliamentary elections in Turkey, but he remains unapologetic about the timing. 

“The weapons were most likely headed to ISIS, infamous globally for its brutality,” he said.

The video posted on Cumhuriyet shows men in gendarmerie uniforms and civilian clothing unscrewing bolts to open the holding area of the trucks and unpacking boxes of what look like medicine. The images after that show trucks full of mortar rounds. Cumhuriyet claims those are weapons being delivered to Syria by the Turkish Intelligence Agency or MIT.

The public prosecutor’s office has asked that the video published by Cumhuriyet be removed from websites on the basis of national interest and national security, according to semi-official Anadolu News Agency. According to the court ruling, if websites do not remove the video, access to their sites could be blocked. The link for the story has since been deactivated. There is a reporting restriction by the state broadcasting regulatory agency about the investigation concerning the MIT trucks.

Yes indeed, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.