Is Erdogan’s Turkey an Emerging State Sponsor of Terrorism?

by Jerry Gordon and Mike Bates (December 2014)

Vice President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Istanbul, Turkey, November 22, 2014
Source:  AP Emrah Gurel

On November 22, 2014, Vice President Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. The agenda was ‘consultation’ with this alleged “valued ally” of the Administration. To ease the conversation, Biden announced at a joint press conference $135 million in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey. It all had to do with Erdogan’s opposition to the US led coalition fight against the Islamic State, formerly ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. According to a report in Defense News, the meeting did not go well:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday slammed US “impertinence” on the Syrian conflict, exposing the extent of strains between Washington and Ankara days after his key meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden.

Ties between the US and Turkey have soured in recent months over the reluctance of Turkish leaders to intervene militarily in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State jihadists, who have taken control of swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The American Foreign Policy with Syria has been feckless while Turkey has been reckless. They have become one of the top sponsors or enablers of ISIS and this should be cause for serious concern.

The realities are that this Sunni supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood has turned the Southeastern frontier into a major center of terrorist finance for ISIS and Al Qaeda opposition groups in Syria. It is aiding funding of ISIS with sales of captured oil and even plundered antiquities. It has provided a veritable Jihadist highway for thousands of foreign fighters to enter the combat zone. They have even extended facilities for care of wounded ISIS fighters in Turkish hospitals. In late September 2014, they exchanged 180 foreign jihadists for return of 49 Turkish diplomats and their family members trapped in the Iraqi city of Mosul when ISIS captured it from fleeing national security forces on June 10, 2014. 

That is not the only example of Erdogan’s support of terrorism. On November 27, 2014, Israel’s Shin Bet announced that it foiled a plot by 30 Hamas operatives on the West Bank. The Times of Israel reported:

The Shin Bet announcement said Israel had arrested dozens of members of a Hamas terror network operating throughout the West Bank. The network, Palestinian officials said, was funded and directed by Hamas officials in Turkey who have set up a de facto command center in [that] country.

More than 30 Hamas operatives were arrested during the month of September, the Shin Bet said Thursday. The majority were recruited while studying in Jordan and trained in either Syria or the Gaza Strip, which they entered via tunnels from Sinai.

The Shin Bet said the ring was preparing to kidnap Israelis in Israel and abroad, enter Israeli villages, detonate car bombs, perpetrate roadside attacks, and execute a major terror attack in Teddy Stadium, where the Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem plays its home games.

The Shin Bet asserted that the plan was evidence of an “indefatigable” desire on Hamas’ part to rehabilitate its terror infrastructure in the West Bank and to tug Israel into a sharp military response, which might indirectly lead to the toppling of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ regime, which is “one of Hamas’ goals.”

The admitted mastermind for this failed operation is Saleh al-Arouri who has been based in Turkey since 2010. He had founded the Hamas Qassem Brigade on the West Bank. Al-Arouri claimed in August, 2014 responsibility for  the operation by two Hamas terrorists masquerading as Orthodox Jews who murdered three young Jewish yeshiva students near Hebron on June 12, 2014. Israeli security and IDF launched a massive man hunt that recovered  their remains on June 30th.  Hamas began a rocket campaign. On July 8th the IDF launched the 50 day Operation Defensive Edge against the rocket and terror tunnel war from Gaza against Israel.

We had written extensively about the corruption of the Erdogan premiership in 2013 and early 2014, noting a $13 billion illicit gold trade for gas with Iran, thus enabling the evasion of US, EU and UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear development program.

called this “an unmitigated disaster.” This has raised the prospects that bi-partisan members of the US Congress would likely pass new stronger sanctions that the Administration opposes. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on Iran achieving nuclear breakout. Many consider that an overarching threat to both regional and world nuclear non proliferation.

Against this background we convened another 1330amWEBY wide-ranging Middle East Round Table discussion with Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of FDD.

Bates:  Good afternoon and welcome back to Your Turn. We are going to focus our attention on the Middle East as we frequently do on this program. We have in the studio Jerry Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog the Iconoclast.  Welcome Jerry.



Gordon:  Good to be here.



Bates:  And joining us by telephone is Jonathan Schanzer. He is the V.P. of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington D.C. and the author of the book, State of Failure, Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State. Great book by the way. I remember reading that. Jonathan, Welcome.


Schanzer:  Thank you very much.



Schanzer:  It does appear that way. I mean we had President Rouhani take to the airwaves on Monday proclaiming victory, talking about how an extension of the talks was a victory for the Iranians and that the centrifuges continue to spin. This is horrible news. I think you have an Administration that is now determined that they must succeed with these nuclear talks, that there is no way that they could fail. They continue to offer one concession after another. They continue to erode their own red lines. When we talk about the number of centrifuges, demanding the military dimension disclosures that we have been asking for, it looks like they may be off the table. The tough lines that the Administration promised that they are going to take are eroding. Meanwhile they are gloating about the fact that the Israelis seem to have fewer options on the table in terms of a preemptive strike. What they are telegraphing to the Iranians is please just make a deal with us. When you think about what the Iranian interest is, they are not necessarily interested in making a deal. They are very close to a nuclear weapon. They are very pleased with the progress that they have made, and the idea that they would just turn around and shake hands with the United States is still exceedingly unlikely. So we have a real problem on our hands in terms of the way that the Administration has approached this policy.

Bates:  What makes that so frightening is an old adage in business and negotiations that the party that is unwilling to walk away from negotiations is the party that loses. The Iranians seem perfectly willing to not have a deal so they are going to win. The Obama Administration seems so desperate to get a deal that we, and the rest of the world, lose.

Gordon:  Jon, Secretary of State Kerry warned against Congress seizing this third extension as a predicate for a new round of sanctions legislation. Yet if anything given discussions on Capitol Hill prior to this announcement and even following the statement he made yesterday there seems to be bipartisan support for doing that in the upcoming new Congress. What do you sense may occur in Washington?

Bates:  If Congress calls for more sanctions and passes a bill to that affect and it is vetoed by the president, are there enough votes in Congress to override that veto?

Gordon:  Jon there is a new frenemy in the Middle East that is Turkey, a NATO ally. Recently Vice President Biden went to talk with  President Erdogan. You have noted in some of your research that the Turks under Erdogan may be the most significant emerging state sponsor of terrorism in the area. What can you tell us about that?

Bates:  Jonathan there was a report that a Hamas operative based in Turkey had organized a plot on the West Bank to attack Israeli Officials. Is there any proof of that or are these simply allegations at this point?

Gordon:  Jon, there were sixteen Israelis murdered in the last two months, including four Rabbis murdered at morning prayers in a Jerusalem Synagogue. That triggered off bizarre celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank. Why did PA President Mahmoud Abbas permit this eruption while condemning the attacks? Was this duplicity?

Bates:  Jonathan, Secretary of State Kerry met with King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman. What is behind the row between Jordan and Israel over the Temple Mount riots?

Bates:  I have a question about access to the Temple Mount. You say that all three faiths have access to it. However, when I was there earlier this year the Muslims had twenty-four hour access and could come and go as they please. Non-Muslims had to use the entrance by the Western Wall and there were two open times of about an hour, hour and a half, when you go in through this massive security line that limited your time up there. Neither Christians nor Jews could legally pray on the Temple Mount so it sounds to me like the Muslims already have eighty to ninety percent control of access.

Bates:  At the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge much to my surprise the cease fire has actually held and there have not been rocket attacks. However, there have been attacks not necessarily out of Gaza but out of East Jerusalem where we had rabbis killed in a synagogue and other Israeli citizens murdered. Do you see this as the  beginning of a Third Intifada?

Schanzer:  It is  a tough thing to identify, if something is an Intifada or not. I mentioned this earlier that this is a very specific thing coming out of the Jerusalem Arab population, with a little bit of West Bank activity and some activity in the North of Israel. This is isolated for now. You have to remember that an Intifada is a popular uprising across the Palestinian spectrum. That would mean that everyone would want to get on board in terms of the violence against Israel. We are not seeing that right now. Abbas is trying to keep his own territory in the West Bank under control. I think Hamas is trying to keep the Gaza Strip under control after suffering significant losses and damage this summer. The two primary Palestinian factions are reticent to jump in while you have this organic grassroots movement in East Jerusalem, where local residents are driving a new round of violence. In my assessment, we are not there yet. However, we are looking at a very unique phenomenon that is extremely troubling for Israeli security.

Bates:  That grassroots effort can be a lot harder to control.

Bates:  So what is Israel doing to control it? What is their response to all of this violence?

Schanzer:  They have essentially tried to do is to harden some of the softer targets. They now need to think about putting security at synagogues. I think they have got a heightened presence on the streets in terms of the border guards and they are certainly keeping closer tabs on potential suspects in East Jerusalem. It is a very hard thing to do when you have people who radicalize at the spur of the moment. They are not using, advanced weaponry. They are using knives and cleavers. It is a lot harder to stop. This is again one of the reasons why the Israelis are extremely concerned about the recent turn of events.

Gordon:  The Palestinians have campaigned at the UN and elsewhere for Palestinian state recognition. We have seen votes in Sweden, UK, Spain, something that may even occur in France and the European Parliament. Is that realistic or is it simply just symbolic?

Bates:  Can the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state without the approval of the Security Council?

Schanzer:  It does. The Security Council would be absolutely necessary to make it the 194th country. One of the things that Jeffrey Goldberg’s article noted was a one line that was very disconcerting. That was that the United States may be considering lowering the shield, as they call it, at the UN Security Council so that they might abstain on a vote about Palestinian statehood as opposed to vetoing it, which they have in the past.

Listen to the 1330amWEBY Middle East Round Table Discussion with Dr. Jonathan Schanzer:

Segment 1, Segment 2, Segment 3, Segment 4.  




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