Michael Rubin: Turkey’s terror sponsorship is worse than imagined

Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan

I have written much over the years about Turkey’s complicity with terrorism over the pastdecade. Interviews with a captured Islamic State prisoner, however, make clear that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s terror complicity is worse than many imagined, and not just because his son-in-law was dealing in Islamic State oil. Consider this piece from Homeland Security Today based on prison interviews with Abu Mansour al Maghrebi, the Islamic State’s liaison with Turkey’s intelligence service:’My job was to direct operatives to receive the foreign fighters in Turkey,’ Abu Mansour explains, referring to the network of ISIS-paid people who facilitated foreign fighter travel from Istanbul to the Turkish border towns of Gaziantep, Antakya, Sanliurfa, etc. ‘Most of them were paid by Dawlah [ISIS],’ Abu Mansour explains, but differentiates them from ISIS members, due to their non-ideological motivations. ‘Most of those working on the Turkish side, their goal is money,’ he said. Although when asked about ISIS networks inside Turkey, he also admits, ‘Many in Turkey believe and give their bayat [oath of allegiance] to Dawlah. There are ISIS guys living in Turkey, individuals and groups, but no armed groups inside Turkey.’ 

‘When he mentions meeting Turkish government officials in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, we suddenly upgrade him in our minds to an ISIS ambassador, which is indeed how he was functioning. ‘I passed the borders and they let me pass. [At the border,] the Turks always sent me a car and I’m protected. A team of two to three people from our side were with me. I was in charge of our team most of the time.” 

The entire article is worth reading, as Abu Mansour explains different aspects of foreign fighter missions, weapons procurement, oil sales, and Turkey’s double game with the West. Some of what Mansour may say is likely exaggeration, as this Twitter critic points out — then again, most prisoners or defectors seek to inflate their importance — and there are some mistranslations in the article: Erdogan never fought in Afghanistan although he did support the “jihad” there, and cultivated a close relationship with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the CIA cut ties with and whom the State Department designated a terrorist.

Still, even if Abu Mansour exaggerates, much of his confession remains relevant and there can be no denying that Erdogan’s Turkey is a terror sponsor and that Erdogan is a dishonest and duplicitous partner. The real questions, then, are:

  1. Why are Erdogan, his family, and senior officials in his government still welcome in the United States?
  2. Given Turkey’s apparent complicity with the Islamic State, should its state airline, already under the spotlight for weapons smuggling, have landing rights in U.S. airports?
  3. Why would any member of Congress still have their name attached to the Turkish Coalition of America’s Turkey Congressional Caucus?
  4. Why is there still any discussion whatsoever of Turkey ever receiving the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?

Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.

First published by Washington Examiner