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This past week I went to Lebanon to meet with some leading personalities in the security business and had a chance to discuss the political and security chaos swirling around the Middle East. Of course, much of the conversation revolved around the security situation in Lebanon and Syria.
I learned quite a bit as having spent a year in Saudi, I had gotten a bit out of touch with the totality of the tragedy in Syria.
Two very large fingers were pointed at Turkey, and neither of them paints the current government in Turkey in a positive light. The two issues in question revolve around oil smuggling, and the second around the theft of Syria’s productive capital assets.
Oil Smuggling – the Lifeblood of Syria’s Insurgency
There are a few “conspiracies” regarding the theft of Syrian oil. One of the theories floated is that the son of Turkey’s President Erdogan is a chief player in an oil smuggling ring that eventually sees oil transferred to tankers and then sent to Israel. In Israel. the oil is purportedly “relabeled” and with a wink, and then sold to Europe.
It is difficult to find any real data of tankers landing in Israel via Turkey that is filled with Syrian oil, but we do have ample evidence surfacing of tankers filled with Kurdish oil making its way to Israel.
Geography shows that Turkey’s smuggling of Syrian oil is a “fait accompli”: Syria’s oil could not be efficiently transported any other way.
Ali Ediboglu, a lawmaker for the border province of Hatay from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had this to say about Turkey’s involvement in oil smuggling: Al-Monitor
“$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.”
This is not the only government official to state openly Turkey’s involvement in oil smuggling. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the middle of September, 2014.
As reported in BGN News,
Edward Markey, A Democratic senator, probed Kerry during his testimony, “Turkey doesn’t want to become part of our combat operations, because ISIL has hostages from Turkey; at the same time, Turkey has become a destination [for ISIL's oil]. In fact, the smuggled oil has now become ISIL’s lifeblood. So talk a little about Turkey and the effort to shut [ISIL] down. Talk about what we have to do with Turkey to get them to shut this down.”
Kerry replied, “Turkey understands the challenges… and will have to make some decisions in the days ahead.”
There were also discussion by Kerry that further information would have to be given behind closed doors. Perhaps he would have to tell the Senator that cutting off oil will have an effect on “our greatest ally in the Middle East – Israel”, but clearly there regardless, there is no excuse for Kerry to go behind closed doors other than to hide some rather uncomfortable details as regards what is a criminal operation for illicit oil profits.
Whole Factories Shipped to Turkey
Another story to come out of Lebanon was Turkey’s use of these foreign insurgents to raid industrial areas for the express purpose of robbing the private and state owners of their capital assets, namely, factories.
One such story was regarding a particular Syrian brand of cotton underwear, in particular, undershirts. The owner of the factory was kidnapped, killed, and then his factory dismantled and shipped to Turkey.
These stories began to be covered as early as January of 2013.
As reported in the Hurriyet Daily News, another Turkish daily, in January of 2013,
“Some 1,000 factories in the city of Aleppo have been plundered, and their stolen goods transferred to Turkey with the full knowledge and facilitation of the Turkish government,” the Foreign Ministry said in the letters. “It is an illegal act of aggression that amounts to piracy. It is an act of aggression against the Syrian people’s livelihood,” the ministry added.
The ministry charged that Turkey “is supporting terrorism while providing the conditions to help plunder Syria’s riches.”This requires a reaction by the U.N. Security Council,” the ministry said. Turkey’s alleged actions “contribute directly to cross-border crime and piracy, which require an international reaction,” it said.
As the Syrian war drags on and, as Western powers pontificate that they will double down on their efforts to arm and fund foreign groups fighting in Syria, one thing is sure: Turkey has strategic interests in working with these primitives who are fighting against Syria and its people.
The benefits to Turkey include an economy propped up by the looting of another country via armed aggression.
Surely elites in Turkey are profiting handsomely from some extremely “dirty and black money”.