It now appears certain that Turkey has provided military and medical assistance to ISIS (now Islamic State or IS) fighters over the past couple of years, allowing them refuge in and easy transit through Turkey to Syria. The Turkish IHH organization played a prominent role in this. I have written about IHH on this blog before, here and here, tracing its origin and links with intolerant Salafi-style Islam (particularly vicious in its IS incarnation — even al-Qaeda distanced itself from ISIS because it was too brutal!). Last year, I wondered how resistant Sufi Turkey was to the Salafi virus.
Since the recent announcement of IS, its wildfire-like spread throughout Syria and Iraq, and its threats and sometimes incursions into adjoining countries, the Turkish government appears to have gotten with the program. There is almost no country in the region that hasn’t lined up against IS, including Iran, since IS has threatened to destroy the major Shi’a shrines in southern Iraq, and Saudi Arabia now that IS has threatened to blow up the Kaaba. Its success has attracted thousands of foreign fighters from Europe, Canada, the US and elsewhere, making the plethora of battle-hardened jihadis with EU and US passports a major international security threat.
But like Saudi Arabia, where the state claims not to support terrorism while private Saudi foundations and donors dole out vast amounts of money to support Salafi expansion around the world, Turkey has two heads (and I don’t mean the “parallel states” of Erdogan and Gulen): 1) the official government/state and 2) cats’ paws like IHH, which the government can disavow formally, but informally support and use for its own purposes. The new old Deep State (the old one was kept busy assassinating Kurdish leaders, but new wars make new friends).
Behind the scenes are competing Jeckyl and Hyde institutions that both fund and undermine these activities (as for instance the police trying to stop a truck shipment of weapons into Syria, but being pushed aside (and fired for doing their duty) by Turkey’s secret service MIT). The focus on Gulen as the ‘parallel state’ is a red herring that draws the eye away from the Salafi switcheroo. Here is an article by David L. Phillips that makes the argument that Turkey, in one of its manifestations, is still supporting IS. Not that IS needs their support anymore!