Turkish Prime Miniter Tayyip Erdogan's banning of YouTube is making more headlines than the extraordinary leak that prompted the move. Posted to YouTube anonymously, it appears to show Turkey's intelligence chief and cabinet members discussing a possible attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Sultan Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan seemed to confirm the leak, telling a crowd of supporters: "They even leaked a national security meeting. This is villainous… Who are you serving by doing audio surveillance of such an important meeting?" The government said in a statement: "It is a wretched attack, an act of espionage and a very heavy crime to record and leak to the public a top secret meeting held in a place where the most delicate security issues of the state are discussed." But outrage over the leak seems intended to distract from the actual conent of the leak…
OK, first a little context. The plot of land where Suleyman Shah is buried lies within Syria, but is held to be sovereign Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara—signed by Turkey and France, which was occupying Syria at that time. Under the pact, Turkey has the right to station guards and hoist its flag at the site. Ever since 1921, a small detachment of Turkish soldiers has been guarding the tomb around the clock. Article 9 of the treaty allocated some 80,000 square feet of Syrian territory to Turkey, 60 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border. When the area was flooded in 1974 by the new Lake Assad in a Syrian hydro-electric project, the grave was relocated to a new site, 20 miles from the Turkish border. Despite the ongoing hostilities in Syria, Turkey has continued to maintain a contingent of soldiers at the site. In return for giving Turkey territorial rights over the site, France obtained several economic concessions, including rail and mineral rights. This arrangement seems dubious under international law, as a colonial power was bartering with occupied territory. (Business Insider, Reuters, March 27; Asbarez.com, March 18)
The leaked conversation was between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, his undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, intelligence chief Hakan Fida, and an official named Yaşar Güler, who no English-language account seems to have identified. We aren't told who took the video or how it was leaked. Here's an unedited excerpt from the transcript, which the usual suspects (Banoosh, IBT, Voltaire Net) are displaying as evidence of a "false flag" conspiracy:
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.
Hakan Fidan: I'll send 4 men from Syria, if that's what it takes. I'll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.
Yaşar Güler: It's a direct cause of war. I mean, what're going to do is a direct cause of war.
OK, this seems really incriminating, if the transcript is to be believed. But we aren't told who did the translation. And note the sloppiness on some very critical points. E.g., the line "what're [sic] going to do is a direct cause of war." The non-existent contraction "what're" leaves ambiguous whether Güler meant "what we're going to do" or "what they're going to do." Were his words actually ambiguous? Or was this an intentional fudge by the anonymous translator? Were these officials planning a "false flag" attack, or their response to a potential real attack on the site by Qaedsts? Bloomberg reports that the Qaedist faction ISIS had already threaetened the tomb. Attacking it would hardly be out of character for them, as Qaedists and their ilk consider veneration of graves to be idolatry, and have been very busy destroying the tombs of Islamic saints from Syria to Pakistan to Mali to Tunisia to Libya.
Furthermore, the conspiracy theorists seem to assume the "false flag" attack would be a subterfuge to invade Syria and destabilize Bashar Assad. If the plot is indeed real, it seems more likely that the aim of the attack would be to beat the Qaedists to the punch so as to have a pretext to intervene against them. Destabilizing Assad might be a secondary concern at this point, or he may even be precived as at least a de facto ally against al-Qaeda.
Finally, as we've had plenty of occassion to ask before… If "false flag" attacks were really that obvious, why would they work?