In shooting down a Russian jet operating over Syria, Turkey’s nefarious role in the Syrian conflict has intensified. It also presents a damning indictment of the West's seriousness in confronting extremism and terrorism. John Wight writes:
More, we are starting to uncover those who speak the language of anti-terrorism while in practice working to facilitate and support it.
Turkey is a key culprit in this regard. A murky relationship has long existed between Ankara, ISIS, al Nusra, and other jihadi groups operating in Syria. Indeed, on the most basic level, without their ability to pass back and forth across the Turkish border at will, those groups could not have operated as easily and effectively as they had until Russia intervened.
However, according to a report by David L Phillips of Columbia University, Turkey’s support for extremist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS has been even more extensive than previously thought. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Phillips reveals that the Turkish government, a member of NATO and a key Western ally, has been involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary. Most recently it has been exposed as a major customer for stolen Syrian oil, supplied by the terrorist group.
Perhaps the most damning evidence contained in the report when it comes to Turkey’s role, is in relation to its actions and inaction when it came to the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border in September and October of 2014.
As Phillips reveals: “Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: ‘Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobani, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There is evidence, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobani's east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobani, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.’ In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey.”
Likewise, no one will forget that earlier this year Turkey carried out airstrikes against those same Kurdish volunteers of the PKK/YPG within Syria, while depicting them as terrorists. Turkey’s oppression of its Kurdish minority going back many years is of course a matter of record.
President Erdogan and his government has undeniably been a key in the destabilization of Syria, doing its utmost to foment regime change. As with the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies, before Russia’s intervention Turkey was hovering over Syria as a vulture hovers over a dying animal, waiting for it to perish before descending to feed on its carcass.
The fact that Turkey remains a key Western ally exposes the moral high ground from which Washington and its allies have lectured Russia over its role in Syria as nothing more than a dung-heap of hypocrisy.
If the West was serious about confronting terrorism, was serious about returning stability to a region it has helped to set on fire, it would reconsider its close ties to both Turkey and the Saudis, whose governments between them have been wading in the river of blood they have helped shed these past four years. Turkey’s claim that the Russian military aircraft it shot down had encroached on its airspace and ignored multiple warnings should be treated with the credibility it deserves, especially when we recall that prior to Russia’s participation in the conflict, Turkey’s violation of Syrian airspace and the Syrian border was happening on a regular basis.
With Russia’s presence in Syria has put paid to Erdogan’s objective of toppling the Syrian government, we begin to discern its efforts to enlist the support of NATO in putting pressure on Russia to desist. It also helps to explain why the West continues to refuse President Putin’s call for cooperation and unity in the effort to eradicate ISIS and other extremist groups massacring and slaughtering their way across the country, with the intention of turning it into a mass grave.
In the wake of the recent spate of ISIS atrocities unleashed against Russian, Lebanese, and French civilians, the grounds for refusing to enter such an alliance are as indefensible as Turkey’s role in the conflict and its most recent action in shooting down a Russian aircraft.
As the man said: “Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of NUJ Europe
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. He wrote a memoir of the five years he spent in Hollywood, where he worked in the movie industry prior to becoming a full time and activist and organizer with the US antiwar movement post-9/11. The book is titled Dreams That Die and is published by Zero Books. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1