In shooting down a Russian jet operating over Syria, claiming it had encroached Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings, Turkey has upped the stakes in the Syrian conflict with the world now waiting for Russia’s response.
It also begs the wider question of Turkey’s role in the Syrian conflict. Here the evidence it has played a nefarious part in supporting ISIS and other groups fighting the Assad government is compelling.
In the aftermath of a recent spate of ISIS atrocities – first the downing of the Russian passenger plane, Kolavia Flight 7K9268, over the Sinai at the end of October, killing all 224 on board, followed by the killing of 43 civilians in Beirut in a suicide bomb attack, and most recently the slaughter of 130 people in Paris in multiple suicide bombings and shootings – we now know who is serious about confronting this medieval death cult and who is not.
More, we are starting to uncover those who speak the language of anti-terrorism while in practice working to facilitate and support it.
Turkey is a key culprit in this regard. A murky relationship has long existed between Ankara, ISIS, Nusra, and other jihadi groups operating in Syria. Indeed, on the most basic level, without their ability to pass back and forth across the Turkish border at will, those groups could not have operated as easily and effectively as they had been for the past few years.
However, according to a recent report by David L Phillips of Columbia University, Turkey’s support for extremist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS, has been even more extensive than previously thought. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Phillips reveals that the Turkish government, a member of NATO and key Western ally, has been involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary. As far back as 2014 the US Treasury exposed Turkey as a major customer for stolen Syrian oil, supplied by the terrorist group.
Perhaps the most damning evidence contained in the report when it comes to Turkey’s role, is in relation to its actions and inaction when it came to the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border in September and October of 2014.
As Phillips reveals: “Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: ‘Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.’ In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey.”
The world will never forget how, during the siege of Kobane, as its Kurdish defenders mounted a heroic defense of the town against thousands of ISIS fighters, armed with tanks and artillery, Turkish tanks and troops sat just over the border and did nothing to intervene.
Likewise, no one will forget that earlier this year Turkey carried out airstrikes against those same Kurdish volunteers of the PKK/YPG within Syria, while depicting them as terrorists. Turkey’s oppression of its Kurdish minority going back many years is of course a matter of record.
President Erdogan and his government has undeniably played a primary role in the destabilisation of Syria, doing its utmost to foment regime change. In fact, along with the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies, before Russia’s intervention Turkey was hovering over Syria as a vulture hovers over a dying animal, waiting for it to perish before descending to feed on its carcass.
The fact that Turkey remains a close Western ally exposes the moral high ground from which Washington and its allies have lectured Russia over its role in Syria as nothing more than a dung-heap of hypocrisy.
If the West was serious about confronting terrorism, was serious about returning stability to a region it has helped to set on fire, it would reconsider its ties to both Turkey and the Saudis, which between them have been wading in the river of blood they have helped shed in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s claim that the Russian military aircraft it shot down had encroached on its airspace and ignored multiple warnings should be treated with the credibility it deserves, especially when we recall that prior to Russia’s participation in the conflict, Turkey’s violation of Syrian airspace and the Syrian border was happening on a regular basis.
With Russia’s presence in Syria putting paid to Erdogan’s objective of regime change, we begin to discern Turkey’s efforts to enlist the support of NATO in putting pressure on Russia to desist. It also helps to explain why the West continues to refuse President Putin’s call for cooperation and unity in the effort to eradicate ISIS and other extremist groups massacring and slaughtering their way across the country, with the intention of turning it into a mass grave.
After the mass murder of Russian, Lebanese, and French civilians by ISIS, the grounds for refusing to enter such an alliance are as indefensible as Turkey’s role in the conflict and its most recent action in shooting down a Russian aircraft.
As the man said: ‘Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.’