Turkish President Erdoigan versus Russian President Putin
There are daily accusations by Putin, jailed Turkish journalists and third parties that illegal ISIS profiteering constitute “a family business” benefitting President Erdogan and his son, Bilal. These allegations erupted in the wake of the downing of a Russian SU-24 November 24, 2015 after allegedly being warned by Turkish military to stop intruding Turkish air space. Premier Davutoglu gave permission to Turkish F-16s to launch a missile to take out the errant Russian jet fighter. The plane fell into an area inside Syria along the border in Latakia province occupied by rebel Turkmen militias. The pilot of the SU-24 was killed, while the co-pilot parachuted and was rescued in an operation by none other than “wounded” Iranian Quds Force Commander, Gen. Qasem Soliemani. The Russian co-pilot refuted the Turkish allegations saying that their aircraft had not intruded Turkish airspace.
Putin wasn’t going to take Erdogan’s action lying down. He refused to return Erdogan’s calls. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov cancelled a meeting in Ankara, scheduled the day following the downing of the Russian jet fighter, Davutoglu rushed aides to brief NATO in Brussels, which was worried about Turkey possibly invoking Article 5. President Erdogan “regretted “ the episode, opting to reach out by calling Putin. Putin refused his calls; instead seeking an “apology”. President Obama met with Erdogan on the sidelines in Paris endeavoring to facilitate a dialogue with Putin, while the actors in this drama were all at a UN Climate Change Conference. Reuters reported:
Obama met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Paris, where they have been attending a climate summit, a week after Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane along the Syrian border.
Obama stressed that U.S. support for its NATO ally's security remained steadfast.
"The United States supports Turkey's right to defend itself and its airspace and its territory," Obama said. "We discussed how Turkey and Russia can work together to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic path to resolve this issue."
Obama told Erdogan that the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, must be pursued by all sides, echoing a message he delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. "We all have a common enemy, and that is ISIL, and I want to make sure that we focus on that threat," Obama said.
What is curious about this was Israeli PM Netanyahu met with Putin in Paris at the same Climate Change Conference, extolling the virtues of the deal they cut in Moscow in September that enabled Israel to attack Hezbollah and ISIS targets in Syria and Russian aircraft to intrude Israeli air space to facilitate bombing operations in Syria. Reuters reported:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the importance of Israeli-Russian military cooperation to prevent "unnecessary accidents" at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris, a Reuters reporter at the talks said.
Putin, likewise, praised the "mechanism of cooperation" which the two sides had established in relation to Russia's military operations in Syria.
Achieving any détente between Putin and Erdogan at this time was increasingly complicated by announcement of Russian sanctions against Turkey trade in gas, food and other commodities coupled with a virtual stop in Russian tourism in punishment for downing the Russian plane.
However, behind these allegations were a stream of daily investigative reports from RT , Zero Hedge and other media accusing the Turkish President of playing a double game profiting from ISIS and Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) oil sales. Putin maintained that was the real reason behind the downing of the SU-24 jet. The implication was those Syrian Turkmen in the eponymous Mountains in Latakia province may have been involved in cross border oil, commodity and weapons deals with ISIS and alleged 'rebels.
Erdogan accused Putin of “slander” over the allegations about profiting from illegal oil deals with ISIS. Erdogan said he would “resign” if ISIS oil purchases were proven. Putin contended he had “more proof.” Erdogan ordered the arrest of two Turkish Cumhuriiyet journalists who maintained they uncovered evidence of the alleged corrupt practice involving his son Bilal and a company, BMZ, Ltd. profiting from illegal oil purchases and cross border weapons transfers to Syrian opposition groups. According to Zero Hedge they were accused by the Erdogan government of “political or military spying” by reporting “classified information” and “deliberately aiding a terrorist organization."
Real Clear Politics reported the Deputy Russian Defense Minister investigation in the alleged Erdogan “family business”:
"Turkey is the main destination for the oil stolen from its legitimate owners, which are Syria and Iraq," Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists in Moscow at a special news briefing this afternoon. "Turkey resells this oil. The appalling part about it is that the country's top political leadership is involved in the illegal business — President Erdogan and his family."
"In the West, no one has asked questions about the fact that the Turkish president's son heads one of the biggest energy companies, or that his son-in-law has been appointed energy minister," Antonov said. "What a marvelous family business!"
He continues: "We understand that some of the Turkish leaders, notably Mr. Erdogan, will not step down and will not admit anything. I would like to emphasize that Erdogan's resignation is not our goal. It's up to the people of Turkey to decide."
Watch this RT You Tube video of the Russian Defense Ministry report on Turkish oil smuggling:
Watch this RT You Tube video of the oil smuggling on the Syrian Turkish border:
After French President Hollande finished a Washington, DC press conference with President Obama on November 24, 2015, Hollande flew off to meet Putin in Moscow, hoping to launch “a grand coalition” to destroy ISIS. He accused the Islamic State of committing “an act of war” with Jihadis perpetrating the massacres in Paris on November 13, 2015 that killed 130 innocent civilians, injured more than 350, including 99 seriously. Russia and France began aerial bombing attacks against ISIS occupied oil infrastructure and interdicting oil transport trucks headed towards an open stretch of the open Syrian border with Turkey. Meanwhile CENTCOM, for its part in its oil bombing raids, dropped leaflets in Arabic and English suggesting drivers of these oil tanker trucks to skedaddle giving ISIS 45 minutes of advanced warning.
Bilal Erdogan, principal in BMZ, Ltd.
Bilal Erdogan’s ownership interest in BMZ, Ltd. was a key factor in this illegal oil trade given operations from the energy terminal port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast.. BMZ has a fleet of oil tanker ships engaging in transfer operations in the Mediterranean for KRG sourced oil. Some of those offshore transfer deals ended up supplying oil to Israel , while other shipments may have gone to Japan and other energy markets.
Bilal has been known to consort with Saudi terrorist financiers. We noted in a January 2014 NER article on the swirl of corruption charges in Turkey surrounding the Erdogan family:
Connections involved a shadowy Saudi billionaire who the US has designated a terrorist financier, Yasin al-Qadi. Also involved was the Turkish intelligence service, (MIT) and Erdogan’s son Bilal. They conspired to use Muslim charities to channel funds to an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Al-Nusrah Front.
. Interesting in light of the current allegations, Bilal left Turkey for Bologna, Italy in mid October to renew a PhD program at the Johns Hopkins U School for Advanced International Studies Center there. Bilal graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School.
But these reports were disputed according to CNN. It reported allegations that the Assad regime was engaged in the oil trade with ISIS:
Comments by German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli saying Tuesday that her country has not seen any solid proof of the Russian claims.
"But what we know, for example, is that the Assad regime has received large amounts of oil from ISIL," said Chebli, using another name for the terrorist group. "We have evidence."
Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions targeting, among others, George Haswani, "a Syrian businessman who serves as a middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from ISIL."
The Anadolu report pointed to a European Council document from March noting that Haswani "provides support and benefits from" Assad's government through the ISIS oil purchases.
"He also benefits from the regime through favorable treatment including the award of a contract (as a subcontractor) with Stroytransgaz, a major Russian oil company," the document said.
There was a purported ace up Erdogan's sleeve to counter Russian sanctions, and loss in tourism; closing the Bosporus Straits and Dardanelles to Russian commercial, naval resupply and war vessels traffic. There was another Turkish precedent. During WWI the Young Turks used reflagged German cruisers along with mining of those Black Sea Straits to block the Straits. That blocked the Czarist Black Sea Fleet and thwarted the British breakthrough leading to the debacle at Gallipoli. To prevent a reoccurrence a multi-national 1936 Montreaux Convention was signed preventing a similar closure of the Bosporus Straits and Dardanelles traffic.
Erdogan also sent a warning to the Kurds about not going further West along the border than Kobani. Note the response to this issue in our NER interview with US Army Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino on the Kurds:
Gordon: Why does Erdogan’s Turkey oppose Syrian YPG forces going further West than Kobani in Syria?
Audino: Because Turkey fears nothing more than a contiguous Kurdish belt stretching along their southern border with Syria. Right now the Kurds have nearly achieved that. Their control extends from the Iraqi border westward several hundred miles to Kobani. They pick up again at Afrin on the west side of Aleppo. The only portion of it not controlled by Kurdish YPG is the 100 km gap between Aleppo and Kobani.
Not so coincidentally, that is the precise location for the so-called ISIS-free Zone the Turks propose to administer. A blind man can see it has far less to do with defeating ISIS than it has to do with blocking further progress to complete the contiguous Kurdish belt. Incidentally, this gap is also the reported avenue for much of the materiel and personnel support for ISIS in Syria. A great deal of it comes in from Turkey, and most of it flows through that gap. The Kurds know this well, and have expressed no opposition whatsoever for an ISIS-free zone in that gap. What they oppose is a Turkish–controlled ISIS-free zone.
To quote Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass:
“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”