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Parry writes: "The alleged ties between Turkish President Erdogan and Islamist terrorists in Syria is an embarrassment for the Obama administration and the U.S. news media, which would prefer to look the other way rather than face up to the danger created by an out-of-control NATO 'ally.'"

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo: Reuters)
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo: Reuters)

A Blind Eye Toward Turkey's Crimes

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

18 December 15


The alleged ties between Turkish President Erdogan and Islamist terrorists in Syria is an embarrassment for the Obama administration and the U.S. news media, which would prefer to look the other way rather than face up to the danger created by an out-of-control NATO “ally,” writes Robert Parry.

heoretically, it would be a great story for the American press: an autocrat so obsessed with overthrowing the leader of a neighboring country that he authorizes his intelligence services to collaborate with terrorists in staging a lethal sarin attack to be blamed on his enemy and thus trick major powers to launch punishing bombing raids against the enemy’s military.

And, after that scheme failed to achieve the desired intervention, the autocrat continues to have his intelligence services aid terrorists inside the neighboring country by providing weapons and safe transit for truck convoys carrying the terrorists’ oil to market. The story gets juicier because the autocrat’s son allegedly shares in the oil profits.

To make the story even more compelling, an opposition leader braves the wrath of the autocrat by seeking to expose these intelligence schemes, including the cover-up of key evidence. The autocrat’s government then seeks to prosecute the critic for “treason.”

But the problem with this story, as far as the American government and press are concerned, is that the autocratic leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in charge of Turkey, a NATO ally and his hated neighbor is the much demonized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Major U.S. news outlets and political leaders also bought into the sarin deception and simply can’t afford to admit that they once again misled the American people on a matter of war.

The Official Story of the sarin attack – as presented by Secretary of State John Kerry, Human Rights Watch and other “respectable” sources – firmly laid the blame for the Aug. 21, 2013 atrocity killing hundreds of civilians outside Damascus on Assad. That became a powerful “group think” across Official Washington.

Though a few independent media outlets, including, challenged the rush to judgment and noted the lack of evidence regarding Assad’s guilt, those doubts were brushed aside. (In an article on Aug. 30, 2013, I described the administration’s “Government Assessment” blaming Assad as a “dodgy dossier,” which offered not a single piece of verifiable proof.)

However, as with the “certainty” about Iraq’s WMD a decade earlier, Every Important Person shared the Assad-did-it “group think.” That meant — as far as Official Washington was concerned — that Assad had crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. A massive U.S. retaliatory bombing strike was considered just days away.

But Obama – at the last minute – veered away from launching those military attacks, with Official Washington concluding that Obama had shown “weakness” by not following through. What was virtually unreported was that U.S. intelligence analysts had doubts about Assad’s guilt and suspected a trap being laid by extremists.

Despite those internal questions, the U.S. government and the compliant mainstream media publicly continued to push the Assad-did-it propaganda line. In a formal address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, Obama declared, “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”

Later, a senior State Department official tried to steer me toward the Assad-is-guilty assessment of a British blogger then known as Moses Brown, a pseudonym for Eliot Higgins, who now runs an outfit called Bellingcat which follows an effective business model by reinforcing whatever the U.S. propaganda machine is churning out on a topic, except having greater credibility by posing as a “citizen blogger.” [For more on Higgins, see’s “‘MH-17 Case: ‘Old Journalism’ vs. ‘New’.”]

The supposedly conclusive proof against Assad came in a “vector analysis” developed by Human Rights Watch and The New York Times – tracing the flight paths of two rockets back to a Syrian military base northwest of Damascus. But that analysis collapsed when it became clear that only one of the rockets carried sarin and its range was less than one-third the distance between the army base and the point of impact. That meant the rocket carrying the sarin appeared to have originated in rebel territory.

But the “group think” was resistant to all empirical evidence. It was so powerful that even when the Turkish plot was uncovered by legendary investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, his usual publication, The New Yorker, refused to print it. Rebuffed in the United States – the land of freedom of the press – Hersh had to take the story to the London Review of Books to get it out in April 2014. [See’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?”]

The Easier Route

It remained easier for The New York Times, The Washington Post and other premier news outlets to simply ignore the compelling tale of possible Turkish complicity in a serious war crime. After all, what would the American people think if – after the mainstream media had failed to protect the country against the lies that led to the disastrous Iraq War – the same star news sources had done something similar on Syria by failing to ask tough questions?

It’s also now obvious that if Obama had ordered a retaliatory bombing campaign against Assad in 2013, the likely winners would have been the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which would have had the path cleared for their conquest of Damascus, creating a humanitarian catastrophe even worse than the current one.

To confess to such incompetence or dishonesty clearly had a big down-side. So, the “smart” play was to simply let the old Assad-did-it narrative sit there as something that could still be cited obliquely from time to time under the phrase “Assad gassed his own people” and thus continue to justify the slogan: “Assad must go!”

But that imperative – not to admit another major mistake – means that the major U.S. news media also must ignore the courageous statements from Eren Erdem, a deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has publicly accused the Erdogan government of blocking an investigation into Turkey’s role in procuring the sarin allegedly delivered to Al Qaeda-connected terrorists for use inside Syria.

In statements before parliament and to journalists, Erdem cited a derailed indictment that was begun by the General Prosecutor’s Office in the southern Turkish city of Adana, with the criminal case number 2013/120.

Erdem said the prosecutor’s office, using technical surveillance, discovered that an Al Qaeda jihadist named Hayyam Kasap acquired the sarin.

At the press conference, Erdem said, “Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism.”

Erdem said the released operatives were allowed to cross the border into Syria and the criminal investigation was halted.

Another CHP deputy, Ali Şeker, added that the Turkish government misled the public by claiming Russia provided the sarin and that “Assad killed his people with sarin and that requires a U.S. military intervention in Syria.”

Erdem’s disclosures, which he repeated in a recent interview with RT, the Russian network, prompted the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation into Erdem for treason. Erdem defended himself, saying the government’s actions regarding the sarin case besmirched Turkey’s international reputation. He added that he also has been receiving death threats.

“The paramilitary organization Ottoman Hearths is sharing my address [on Twitter] and plans a raid [on my house]. I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country’s prestige,” Erdem said.

ISIS Oil Smuggling

Meanwhile, President Erdogan faces growing allegations that he tolerated the Islamic State’s lucrative smuggling of oil from wells in Syria through border crossings in Turkey. Those oil convoys were bombed only last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin essentially shamed President Obama into taking action against this important source of Islamic State revenues.

Though Obama began his bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in summer 2014, the illicit oil smuggling was spared interdiction for over a year as the U.S. government sought cooperation from Erdogan, who recently acknowledged that the Islamic State and other jihadist groups are using nearly 100 kilometers of Turkey’s border to bring in recruits and supplies.

Earlier this month, Obama said he has had “repeated conversations with President Erdogan about the need to close the border between Turkey and Syria,” adding that “there’s about 98 kilometers that are still used as a transit point for foreign fighters, ISIL [Islamic State] shipping out fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities.”

Russian officials expressed shock that the Islamic State was allowed to continue operating an industrial-style delivery system involving hundreds of trucks carrying oil into Turkey. Moscow also accused Erdogan’s 34-year-old son, Bilal Erdogan, of profiting off the Islamic State’s oil trade, an allegation that he denied.

The Russians say Bilal Erdogan is one of three partners in the BMZ Group, a Turkish oil and shipping company that has purchased oil from the Islamic State. The Malta Independent reported that BMZ purchased two oil tanker ships from the Malta-based Oil Transportation & Shipping Services Co Ltd, which is owned by Azerbaijani billionaire Mubariz Mansimov.

Another three oil tankers purchased by BMZ were acquired from Palmali Shipping and Transportation Agency, which is also owned by Mansimov and which shares the same Istanbul address with Oil Transportation & Shipping Services, which is owned by Mansimov’s Palmali Group, along with dozens of other companies set up in Malta.

The Russians further assert that Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian Su-24 bomber along the Syrian-Turkish border on Nov. 24 – which led to the murder of the pilot, by Turkish-backed rebels, as he parachuted to the ground and to the death of a Russian marine on a rescue operation – was motivated by Erdogan’s fury over the destruction of his son’s Islamic State oil operation.

Erdogan has denied that charge, claiming the shoot-down was simply a case of defending Turkish territory, although, according to the Turkish account, the Russian plane strayed over a slice of Turkish territory for only 17 seconds. The Russians dispute even that, calling the attack a premeditated ambush.

President Obama and the mainstream U.S. press sided with Turkey, displaying almost relish at the deaths of Russians in Syria and also showing no sympathy for the Russian victims of an earlier terrorist bombing of a tourist flight over Sinai in Egypt. [See’s “Obama Ignores Russian Terror Victims.”]

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman expressed the prevailing attitude of Official Washington by ridiculing anyone who had praised Putin’s military intervention in Syria or who thought the Russian president was “crazy like a fox,” Friedman wrote: “Some of us thought he was just crazy.

“Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him.”

Taking Sides

The smug contempt that the mainstream U.S. media routinely shows toward anything involving Russia or Putin may help explain the cavalier disinterest in NATO member Turkey’s reckless behavior. Though Turkey’s willful shoot-down of a Russian plane that was not threatening Turkey could have precipitated a nuclear showdown between Russia and NATO, criticism of Erdogan was muted at most.

Similarly, neither the Obama administration nor the mainstream media wants to address the overwhelming evidence that Turkey – along with other U.S. “allies” such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – have been aiding and abetting Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, for years. Instead, Official Washington plays along with the fiction that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others are getting serious about combating terrorism.

The contrary reality is occasionally blurted out by a U.S. official or revealed when a U.S. intelligence report gets leaked or declassified. For instance, in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a confidential diplomatic memo, disclosed by Wikileaks, that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report from August 2012, “AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into the Islamic State] supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. … AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

The DIA report added, “The salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. … The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”

The DIA analysts already understood the risks that AQI presented both to Syria and Iraq. The report included a stark warning about the expansion of AQI, which was changing into the Islamic State. The brutal armed movement was seeing its ranks swelled by the arrival of global jihadists rallying to the black banner of Sunni militancy, intolerant of both Westerners and “heretics” from Shiite and other non-Sunni branches of Islam.

The goal was to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” where Islamic State’s caliphate is now located, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – i.e. the West, Gulf states, and Turkey – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime,” the DIA report said.

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. … were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war … [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda.”

Despite these occasional bursts of honesty, the U.S. government and the mainstream media have put their goal of having another “regime change” – this time in Syria – and their contempt for Putin ahead of any meaningful cooperation toward defeating the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

This ordering of priorities further means there is no practical reason to revisit who was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack. If Assad’s government was innocent and Ergogan’s government shared in the guilt, that would present a problem for NATO, which would have to decide if Turkey had crossed a “red line” and deserved being expelled from the military alliance.

But perhaps even more so, an admission that the U.S. government and the U.S. news media had rushed to another incorrect judgment in the Middle East – and that another war policy was driven by propaganda rather than facts – could destroy what trust the American people have left in those institutions. On a personal level, it might mean that the pundits and the politicians who were wrong about Iraq’s WMD would have to acknowledge that they had learned nothing from that disaster.

It might even renew calls for some of them – the likes of The New York Times’ Friedman and The Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt – to finally be held accountable for consistently misinforming and misleading the American people.

So, at least for now — from a perspective of self-interest — it makes more sense for the Obama administration and major news outlets to ignore the developing story of a NATO ally’s ties to terrorism, including an alleged connection to a grave war crime, the sarin attack outside Damascus.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here. your social media marketing partner


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+16 # danireland46 2015-12-18 11:11
Turkey's genocidal behavior towards the Armenians in the past is no different than their treatment of the Kurds today. Not to mention that recruited ISIS wannabes travel to Turkey for easy access to Iraq and Syria. Turkey is not a "friend" of America. but hostility against it is as bad a course of action as our hostility toward any of the muslim countries we've "helped" lately.
+10 # futhark 2015-12-18 14:16
Most interested people in the world are cognizant of the Armenian genocide by the Turks during World War I and immediately thereafter, even if the Turks are reluctant to acknowledge it. However, it wasn't just Armenians who were targeted in these mass killings. Anatolian Greeks and as many as 140 000 to 300 000 Assyrians also were slaughtered. Turkey bears a heavy burden of guilt for these atrocities. If the United States was truly concerned with the promotion of justice, it would continue to exert influence on the Turks to admit this dark part of their history.
+21 # Buddha 2015-12-18 12:18
The same kind of group-think and blind-eye towards the actions of our "allies" is happening with Saudi Arabia as well. They, and other Sunni kingdoms like UAE have been helping to fund ISIS to fight as their proxies against Shiite Assad. Just as they funded Al Qaeda and were the source of almost every 9-11 hijacker. We seriously need to realize that this region is a powder keg of sectarian hostilities, Shiite vs Sunni, Kurd vs Turk, etc...and we would be well advised to GTFO and spend our money on getting off the Oil Economy, which would defund and defuse the geopolitical importance of the region...
+4 # WBoardman 2015-12-18 12:29
Longterm, GTFO seems wise, as Buddha says.

Meanwhile, danireland missies the easy,
only slightly nuanced alternative
to showing "hostility" to Turkey
(which NATO should discipline or expel) –
the alternative?

Everyone says ISIS is the enemy
(whether they mean it or not doesn't matter here)
so what is the most obvious, effective way
to cut the legs off ISIS?
France has done it, maybe others,
but no one has done it to full effect, and "it" is

(refineries, pipelines, tanker trucks, all of it)
+5 # Radscal 2015-12-18 20:36
Russia says ISIL is making $1 million to $2 million PER DAY on the stolen oil it's sending to Turkey, so cutting off that income stream would obviously help "degrade" ISIL.

But, ISIL has also been funded directly by individuals, groups or even governments in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, etc. (and I have no doubt, the US, too) and the US/UK/Israel have been supplying them with weapons (and no, I don't believe this was all an "accident").

And, no matter how deliberately the US/UK/Israeli Intelligence Services created these Jihadist groups, I have no doubt that some of these sadistic barbarians we've set loose are not about to stop their brutality even if we cut their funding/arming sources. Someone has to seek them out and kill or imprison them. Bombs won't do that. The Syrian army, Hezbollah and the Iranian army will, but they need our support.

In summation, more must be done than just bombing the oil.
+5 # MidwestTom 2015-12-18 21:45
The US spent over one year bombing ISIS and failed to attack the long lines of trucks carrying oil ( I wonder why ), then Russia entered the game and immediately started bombing the trucks, thus cutting off some funding for ISIS.

The other interesting news this week was the arrest of a Turkish legislator for telling how Turkey provided the Sarin to the rebels (backed by the US) used in Syria two years ago. Obama wanted to attack Syria then with cruise missiles, but Russia put it's ships between the US ships and the Syrian coast.
+8 # Shades of gray matter 2015-12-18 12:31
Obama's behavior suggests that either he was originally deceived by CIA rogues, again, or that he ordered the deception. Not attacking the oil tanker caravans between ISIS & Turkey is very revealing. Turkey has learned to play US the way Saudi Arabia and others do. I haven't heard much about the drugs the Saudi princes were smuggling to Jihadi fighters. Where's the follow up on that?
+4 # torch and pitchfork 2015-12-18 12:48
"Not attacking the oil tanker caravans between ISIS & Turkey is very revealing." I wonder what it cost us to do nothing but create moonscapes on the Syrian landscape?
+4 # harleysch 2015-12-18 13:59
Shades -- it is clear from Parry's article that, despite his overall excellent reporting, he is still soft on Obama. For example, Obama continues to say Assad is responsible for the use of sarin gas, or, for a more recent example, Turkey was justified in shooting down the Russian jet.

Everything Parry reports about the immoral corruption of NATO "ally" Turkey is true. So why still give Obama the benefit of the doubt? The old argument, often cited by posters on this site, is that Obama is afraid of rogue CIA operatives! What a coward's way out! If Obama were a good guy, he would have created a legacy by crushing the CIA, the neo-cons and the lib interventionists.

Instead, he has backed them all the way, up to the point of war with Russia.

To say that the Repubs would be worse is another cowardly excuse. Of course they would do worse, look at their candidates. Does that mean Obama gets a pass, when his policy is essentially the same as Bush?

As to why he didn't bomb Syria over the sarin gas, perhaps readers remember a nationwide mobilization against an attack, and then Putin came in and bailed him out. And Obama repaid Putin by blaming him for MH17!

Obama should be indicted and tried for war crimes, and should stand trial side-by-side with his fellow war criminals, Bush and Cheney.
+4 # Radscal 2015-12-18 20:42
I, too have been critical of Parry's unwillingness to just state that Obama is as much a NeoCon as Bush II (or HRC for that matter).

But I do note that he is still getting "inside" information. Perhaps stopping short of so labeling Obama is the price he pays to maintain the access that provides us so much important information?
+1 # Anonymot 2015-12-19 19:48
"...either he was originally deceived by CIA rogues, again,..."

Obama is not, was not, deceived by the CIA. He is their voice in foreign affairs and they are his masters. Whether that is his wish or whether he is their prisoner is unimportant at this point. He has been doing as they dictate for 7 years. He will be out of here in a year and rich and famous while America will have continued the quarter-century -old downward path in search of being a democratic neofascist state.
+8 # 2015-12-18 12:50
I agree on all points. Erdogan is corrupting the country which is full of wonderful benevolent people who are being led astray by a government that has suppressed freedom of the press, jailed dissenters, and run roughshod over minorities. And he is blackmailing Europe with the refugees. He is duplicitous and corrupt. It is too bad ordinary Turks are unable to see what is happening.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+7 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2015-12-18 13:35
Many ordinary Turks ARE able to see what is happening! I spent several weeks in Turkey two years ago and was an eyewitness to some of the many demonstrations and protests going on there against Erdogan. Also had conversations with some of them.
Erdogan came into power as a populist but over time morphed into an Islamist, and he uses ruthless police tactics to suppress the many dissenters to his regime.
+3 # turtleislander 2015-12-18 13:32
The people of turkey may be as baffled and powerless as good people in the US. Sometimes I think the establishment groupthink is incapable of self.correction . The inability to reassess alliances goes back a long way, it would seem. I can remember the US backing Diem until his accursed civil war in Vietnam dragged us into perdition and fiinal defeat.
+2 # Radscal 2015-12-18 20:48
Yeah, groupthink is incapable of self-correction , by definition.

Diem was put into power by the US, and was assassinated by a CIA-backed coup when it became obvious that his pro-Catholic, anti-Buddhist policies had cost him even the facade of public support. Many of us remember the photos of Buddhist monks self-immolating , but few of us knew then or now that they were protesting Diem's policies against Buddhists, not the war more generally.
+1 # Anonymot 2015-12-19 19:58
Diem was put into power by the US, and was assassinated by a CIA-backed coup..."

Sounds like... The Shah of Iran
Sounds like... the Saddam of Iraq
Sounds like... the Kadhafi of Libya
Sounds like... others I don't know
Sounds like... others to come
+4 # MDSolomon 2015-12-18 13:57
Isn't it time we re-evaluated the supposition that the U.S., NATO, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are sovereign nations acting in mutual interest?

Once we dig a little deeper into the global power pyramid, we see that the international banking cartel and their corporations control these pseudo-democrat ic states.

Syria is in the cross hairs because, like all the other nations destroyed since 9-11, it controls its own central bank and currency. In addition, Syria is in the path of pipeline that could deliver cartel oil to Europe and break Russia's monopoly on the continent's energy supplies.

ISIS was created by the CIA, which still controls it, as an excuse to bring down any government it so chooses. The U.S. and NATO have not been attacking ISIS, but rather providing cover for them and the materiel they supply to them.

Putin called the cartel's bluff and joined "the war on terror" by actually bombing ISIS and "the Syrian opposition" (also cartel mercenaries).

The cartel created two "terrorist" events (Paris, San Bernardino) as a premise for the French to declare war (a NATO treaty prerequisite--t hey did not do this after 9-11), to join the British in furnishing air power against Syrian positions. Apparently, the Russians' anti-aircraft technology has convinced the cartel to back off from "Assad must go."

Turkey, as Putin noted the other day, is a prostitute for the cartel.
0 # Shades of gray matter 2015-12-18 15:26
I agree that Obama is either an inexcusable CHUMP for the Assad Must Go Axis, or he is, worse yet, their leader.
I also think that the public statements of USA, Russia, etc., etc., re Syria are 99% propaganda, and that the real action lies beneath the surface, and is far different than the rhetoric. I wish Obama were a leader more willing to use his skills to speak truths to America.
+4 # lfeuille 2015-12-18 20:41
"I wish Obama were a leader more willing to use his skills to speak truths to America."

But he's not. Parry and a few other journalists like Mr. Boardman are willing to do it, but the MSM won't pick up what they write and give it a broader audience. The result is that most people don't know what's going on. This is extremely frustrating to me. It just makes me want to scream. I wish there were some way to get around this blockade of knowledge.
+7 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-12-18 16:11
Gotta keep the war machine well fed so they can buy politicians who promote war. Create enemies faster than we kill them. Create enough fear to continue a bloated military budget. $600+ billion a year when a few airplane tickets or a extra few clips for an assault weapon can keep us begging for more "safety" at home. RIDICULOUS!
0 # Archie1954 2015-12-20 15:18
To ignore those responsible for treachery and murder is to be complicit with them in their evil and infamy!

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