Since the emergence of civil war in Syria, Turkey has become an active player in the conflicts and has openly backed opposition groups under Free Syrian Army (FSA) as well as Islamic groups mainly Al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra against Assad regime.
Jabhat al-Nusra was seen to be the most powerful anti-Assad front. They claimed their sympathy to Al-Qaeda from the beginning of Syrian civil war; they also controlled some parts of Syrian and challenged Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PYD). As Turkey was afraid of Kurdish expansion in North, the group was getting closer to Turkey and become a trusted ally to challenge YPG one one hand, and Assad regime on the other hand. This relationship was also confirmed by the former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone who has admitted that “the Turks frankly worked with groups for a period. Including al Nusra, whom we finally designated as we’re not willing to work with.”
However, Jabhat al-Nusra couldn’t remain as a united Islamic front, but some of its leadership and members were split and established the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS has a greater ambition compare to Jabhat al-Nusra and has intended to expand their domination to other Muslim countries in order to establish Islamic Caliphate.
ISIS was obviously attracted Muslim radical all around the world and in a very short time, they become the most powerful Islamic group and controlled large part of Syria and Sunni inhabited areas in northern Iraq. Part of the ISIS succession could be related to the Turkey supports. The Kurdish Protection Units has revealed Turkey supports to ISIS and Nusra front before two year, but the international community remained silence until most recently. Several videos have been posted in social media networks and shows how Turkey and Jihadists cooperating.
Financially, Turkey has become a good customer of ISIS oil. The Turkish opposition MP Ali Adiboglu, from Republican people’s Party (CHP) confirmed this allegation in the interview with Taraf and indicated that:
“$800 million worth of oil that ISIS obtained from regions it occupied this year [the Rumeilan oil fields in northern Syria — and most recently Mosul] is being sold in Turkey. They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep. They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.”
In fact, the total diesel fuel smuggled by ISIS to Turkey is about 1,500 tons which comprises 3.5% of the Turkey consumption. Turkey has made this deal to insure cheap oil compare to international market. On the other hand, this could be interpreted as financial support to the Jihadists in order to maintain their operation both in Syria and Iraq.
Another accusation to Turkey is providing health support to the Jihadists. Most recently, some reports indicating that ISIS militants and some of their leaders including Abu Bakir Al-Baghdadi was hospitalized in Urfa, Turkey. Also, Turkey supplies medical treatments and equipment to ISIS fighters.
Moreover, the reports from Turkish Medias indicating that more than 10% of the ISIS members are Turkish citizens. Besides, some of the Jihadists who have joined the ISIS are originally Turkish but holding Belgium, German, and French citizenship. Turkey also helps other nationalities who wish to join ISIS. Adiboglu designated that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved and as he said without their knowledge, none of this can be happening.
So, the situation is now more challenging to Turkey especially after ISIS controlled Iraqi second largest city of Musil. ISIS is no longer threat to Iraq and Syria only, but it’s a serious threat to the global security and needs to be halted. However, the group is financially and militarily strong enough and not easy to break down without suppressing their resources. Hence, the US and its allies are seeking to limit countries and groups that are cooperating with ISIS. On 15 August 2014, the Security Council Adopted Resolution 2170 condemns gross and widespread abuse of human rights by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The resolution was calling on all United Nations Member States to act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. Obviously, Turkey is the main focus of the world media and may face problem if they wish to maintain its ties with ISIS. Some countries like Iraq, Syria and Germany already accused Turkey for supporting Jihadists especially for helping those who want to join ISIS through Turkish border.
In all, the truth is there and Turkey can no longer deny its support to Jihadists. Therefore, things are not yet out of control and Turkey can decide whether to join America and its allies in fighting terrorism, or to remain silent and maintain its relationship with ISIS. The challenges are not easy and Turkey will not be a winner in either case.