AKP-ISIS collaboration in Ankara massacre?

The aftermath of the Oct. 10 Anakara massacre—in which some 100 were killed in a double suicide attack on a peace rally—has been a study in the Orwellian. Authorities have arrested at least 12 sympathizers of the Kurdish PKK rebels, who are accused of tweeting messages indicating foreknowledge of the attack. But the actual tweets indicate they were warning of a potential ISIS attack on the rally. "What if ISIL blows up?!," one tweeted. Another voiced fear of an ISIS "intervention" at the event. This was an all too legitimate speculation, given the similar terror attack on a gathering of leftist youth in the southern town of Suruc just three months earlier. In fact, Turkish police have named one of the Ankara bombers as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of  Sheikh Abdurrahman Alagöz, the ISIS operative who blew himself up in the Suruc attack. (The Guardian, Oct. 15; Anadolu Agency, Oct. 14)

Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which had called the Ankara rally, responded to the arrests by repeating his charge that the bombings were the result of "cooperation" between ISIS the AKP, Turkey's ruling conservative party. He dismissed the implication of a PKK hand in the blasts. "If there [were] even just a one-in-a-million possibility of the PKK being behind this attack, then they [the government] would make it obligatory for the media to report on the incident," he told reporters. "This illustrates that the AKP and ISIL were behind this attack." (Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 15)

Demirtas also harshly criticized the government's crackdown on the Internet and media. On Oct. 14, an Ankara court issued a sweeping ban targeting "all kinds of news, interviews, criticism and similar publications in print, visual, social media and all kinds of media on the Internet" covering the suicide blast investigation. Asked Demirtas: "What is the prime minister trying to hide? …Do they believe they can hide it this way? …People already know everything, so let them express their opinion freely." (France24, Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 15)

The AKP government has for months been playing a sinister game of equating ISIS and the militantly secular, anti-ISIS PKK as equally "terrorist"—while the AKP itself is accused of covertly collaborating with ISIS. Turkey has painted its military intervention in Iraq as an anti-ISIS operation, but its warplanes have actually been bombing the PKK forces that are fighting ISIS. In Syria, it could be even worse. Last year, David L. Phillips of Columbia University issued a study (online at HuffPo) on "ISIS-Turkey Links," citing numerous reports of Turkish security and border forces  collaborating with the jihadists. In addition to allowing ISIS to use Turkish territory as a rear-guard, receive medical services for wounded fighters and sell black-market oil, the report cites claims in the Turkish press that ISIS openly maintained a recruitment office in Istanbul.

In January of this year, Turkish gendarmerie troops intercepted three trucks loaded with weapons. The trucks were found to belong to Turkey's National Intelligence Service (MIT). The search was ordered by a local prosecutor who received a tip of an arms shipment to "al-Qaeda" in Syria. (Which would indicate Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned faction in Syria, and rivals of ISIS.) Did any heads roll at the MIT? No, but the prosecutor was removed from his post, and the Gendarmerie troops involved in the search were charged with espionage.

Another clue came after US Special Operations forces raided the east Syrian home of ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in May. Documents and flash drives seized in the raid revealed links "so clear" and "undeniable" between Turkey and ISIS "that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara," an anonymous senior Western intelligence official told The Guardian. Abu Sayyaf was responsible for overseeing ISIS oil and gas operations in Syria, which are said to net the Islamic State up to $10 million per month in black market sales. (Business Insider, July 29) Nothing came of the supposed revelations, of course—but chucking NATO ally Turkey overboard would be a very big deal for Washington and the Western powers. They can afford to turn a blind eye.

Activists on the ground in Turkey cannot. After the Suruc attack, Demirtas similarly said it could not have been carried out without the complicity of Turkish security forces. AKP-ISIS collaboration is starting to look like a very inconvenient truth.

  1. Turko-fascists in streets of New York

    Local HDP activists and their supporters held a rally "Condemning the Ankara Massacre" in front of the Turkish consulate in Manhattan this afternoon. They stood across from the building with their hand-painted banner reading "DESPITE EVERYTHING, PEACE" in Kurdish, Turkish and English. Ominously, across East 50th Street from the group, just outside the consulate, was a small contingent of right-wing Turkish nationalists. They were dressed in suits, holding a huge Turkish flag, and (while attempting to shout down the HDP's slogans with their own, despite being greatly outnumbered) repeatedly making the peculiar Turko-fascist salute. This is, ironically, the same as the heavy-metal salute—only instead of the raised pinky and forefinger representing the Devil's horns, they are supposed to represent a wolf's ears. This identifies them as followers of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), formerly linked to the Grey Wolves paramilitary group.

    Still more ominously, throughout the rally, a convoy of three big black trucks with electronic billboards on their sides repeatedly circled the block, flashing the cynical messages "STOP ISIS TERRORISM" and "STOP PKK TERRORISM," along with the images of the Turkish and American flags. One HDP protester was arrested for attempting to block the trucks.

    There was obviously some real money behind this effort (in vivd contrast to the homespun HDP rally). Which raises the question of whether these MHP activists were encouraged (or funded) by the consulate staff. The MHP really entered Turkish mainstream politics in the same 2007 elections that saw the AKP consolidate its power. But it has positioned itself to the right of the AKP—actually taking a harder line on the Kurds—and its politics are nationalist rather than Islamist. Ideologically, it is closer to Turkey's main opposition party, the Kemalist Republican People's Party (CHP)—although much more extreme.

    The MHP engaging in terrorist-baiting is perversely ironic. The bloodiest act of political violence in modern Turkey's history—with a death toll even higher than the Ankara attacks—was the 1978 Maraş massacre, in which upwards of 100 left-wing activists and members of the Alevi minority were killed in a systematic extermination campaign by the Grey Wolves in the southern city of Kahramanmaraş.

  2. Did Turkey broach recognition of ‘Islamic State’?

    Various websites (Syria News, AWD News, Pakistan Defence, Voltaire.net) are boasting the claim that Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey's MIT spy agency, told the official Anadolu News Agency: "ISIS is a reality and we have to accept that we cannot eradicate a well-organized and popular establishment such as the Islamic State; therefore I urge my western colleagues to revise their mindset about Islamic political currents, put aside their cynical mentalité and thwart Vladimir Putin's plans to crush Syrian Islamist revolutionaries."

    However, an Oct. 20 statement from Anadolu Agency reads:

    We hereby state that the recent stories on some foreign media outlets claiming that Anadolu Agency did an interview with Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and published it are totally false.

    It is known that the MIT has no such practice of speaking to media. These fabricated stories by foreign sources are regarded as part of an international psychological campaign against Turkey. Necessary steps have been taken to have such fabricated stories removed, with legal rights being reserved.

    So is this yet more Internet bullshit? Or did Fidan think better of his indiscrete words and now wishes to have them "scrubbed" from the Net?

    In any case, nobody is quesitoning a story in Hurriyet Daily News that Turkish authorities arrested 50 in a raid of a makeshift ISIS training and indoctrination center in the basement of an Istanbul apartment complex. Some half of the 50, mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks, are said to be underage. It's hard to believe authorities were not aware of this until now—when they need to make the show of a crackdown in the aftermath of the Ankara terror.

  3. Erdogan blames PKK in Anakara terror

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a public address Oct. 22 said that a "terror collective" including the PKK and ISIS carried out the Ankara bombing. "The PKK, Daesh, the Mukhabarat, the PYD are all involved. They planned this operation together," he said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the ISIS group, Syria’s military intelligence service and Syria's Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD). (AFP)

    Meanwhile, the Kurdish ANF news agency reports that an ISIS member captured by the PYD's YPG militia at Tal Abyad and is being held in Rojava told his captors that local ISIS forces were being armed from across the Turkish border by the MİT.

  4. NYT op-ed: Turkey ‘cultivated’ ISIS

    Roger Cohen has an op-ed in the NY Times Nov. 7, "Turkey's Troubling ISIS Game," in which he notes the surgence of Islamic State activity in the country—including the Oct. 30 beheading of an apparent opponent of the group at an apartment in Sanliurfa. He accuses Erdogan of a "troubling penchant for benign neglect toward the jihadi Islamists — enough for them to establish a Turkish network." He calls it refreshingly straight:

    What does Erdogan — in theory a key American ally leading a NATO state — see in the knife-wielding jihadis of the Islamic State? They are useful in confronting Turkey’s nemesis, the Kurds, who have taken over wide sections of northern Syria and established self-government in an area they call Rojava. That in turn has raised the specter of a border-straddling Kurdistan, the nightmare of the Turkish republic.

    He concludes: "Turkey's tide of violence, cynically cultivated, must now be curbed. It won't be easy."