The thing that has exacerbated the current tension between Russia and Turkey is the aftermath of Russia’s aggression against Turkey and its encroachment of Turkish air space on 24 November. The situation was further worsened by Turkey’s decision to down a Russian airplane, which consequently killed a Russian pilot and another Russian solider. The animosity between the Turks and the Russians escalated when each group began to accuse the other of cooperating with the terrorist group Daesh.
The tension began when with Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the Turkish leadership of buying oil products from Daesh as a result of the Turkish government allowing the group to transport oil through Turkish territory and selling black market oil through Turkish merchants. One of these merchants is alleged to be the son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bilal Erdogan. Russian media outlets have broadcast evidence suggesting that Bilal Erdogan has dined in Turkish café’s and restaurants with Daesh leaders.
The nature of these Russian accusations has been the cause of much anger and disappointment on the part of President Erdogan because such statements personally and negatively affect the reputation and image of the Erdogan family. Russian media sought to ruin image of the Erdogan family in the eyes of the Turkish people to the point that the Turkish government felt pushed to investigate the situation. It became apparent that the accusations waged against Bilal Erdogan were nothing but lies and that the men he was photographed with were actually the owners of the restaurant he had been visiting on that day and who had requested to take a picture with the president’s son as a souvenir. What made these restaurant owners warrant suspicion is that they had long beards and broad physiques. Their orthodox Sunni appearance is what caused Russian intelligence forces to believe that they had caught Bilal Erdogan in an unpatriotic act and therefore presented these photographs as evidence that he was dining with Daesh members. Thus, the series back and fourths between Russia and Turkey began with Russia creating false news stories in order to advance its own interests and discredit the Turkish president. These types of actions have no place in a world of expanding media and social networks.
Russia’s second lie was the accusation of the Turkish government buying petroleum from Daesh in Iraq. Russian satellites have collected much in the way of evidence to support such claims as they have photographs of petroleum tankers moving to and from the Iraqi-Turkish border as well as images of oil warehouses in both Turkey and Iraq. Yet, once again, the news appeared to be falsified as the Turkish government was quick to clarify that the oil trucks moving into Turkish territory from Iraq were actually authorised oil transports from Iraq Kurdistan. Turkey has been purchasing oil from the Kurdish region of Iraq since the two parties signed an agreement earlier this year. A Kurdish oil company and supplier confirmed the story. Thus, we now know that the Russian government has resorted to the same measures of falsifying information it used during Soviet times; however, one does not expect that as a former KGB agent of fifteen years, Vladimir Putin, would hire men of this level of stupidity whose stories can be exposed with such ease.
This being said, media outlets affiliated with the Russian-Iranian axis are still broadcasting this type of information as if it were news and as if they were not just humiliated in broad daylight.
Meanwhile, President Erdogan felt obliged to expose the actions of Syrian-born Russian businessman George Heswani, who has been known for buying oil from Daesh and selling it to the Assad regime in Syria. President Putin responded by saying that he would look into this claim further. Erdogan also challenged Putin to prove the validity of the accusations that he has waged against the Erdogan family and the Turkish state. Erdogan also called on Putin to resign from his post as spreading such rumours constitutes a breach of his presidency. The Turkish president called on the Russian leader to halt all business operations with Daesh and to cease purchasing petroleum from the terrorist group. Will the Russian president step down if he is unable to deny these rumours?
This Turkish confrontation is ongoing with Russian merchants who are currently working in Syrian territory to make enormous gains from the conflict and a great deal of profit from oil deals with Daesh in Syria and Iraq. This challenge is also addressed to Bashar Al-Assad, who has been known to cooperate with the likes of Daesh in Syria as part of a larger effort to maintain some semblance of control over oil, gas and electricity. Daesh has gained a great deal of control over resources of this kind in Syria; however, this does not separate them from the regime as the regime still holds the major lifelines of the state under their control. The cooperation between the Syrian regime and Daesh is therefore conducted as part of a secret deal between the two parties.
A recent report issued by the World Bank emphasised the importance of a good gas pipeline in Syria because more than half of electricity, as far as the Al-Assad regime is concerned, relies on gas. Many of the existing pipelines in Syria are currently under Daesh control, and if they wanted to destroy them they would have done so long ago as it would have placed the Assad regime in a dire situation. And yet, Daesh has not taken any action of this nature and this is further proof that the two parties are cooperating with one another.
Turkish intelligence forces have revealed that they have been eavesdropping on the Syrian regime’s telephone calls and that they have overheard secret agreements taking place between the Al-Assad regime and Daesh. These conversations pertained to the many challenges that the two parties have experienced in the oil and petroleum industry. These calls have also provided further evidence of meetings between the two parties just prior to the explosion in Suruc, Turkey a few months ago. Furthermore, Turkish intelligence forces also revealed knowledge suggesting that the Syrian regime sent a team to Deir Ez-Zor, an area in eastern Syria under Daesh control, as early as last week. The goal behind sending the team was to ensure that gas and petroleum reached the province of Al-Merieh.
According to the call that was monitored by the Turkish government, the Al-Assad regime allegedly sent a team of experts to the Deir Ez-Zor region in order to secure a pipeline for Russian, Iraqi or Iranian control. It is not quite clear which external party will benefit from this effort; however, one can confirm that it will not be the Syrian people themselves. During the phone call, Al-Assad warned against harming the technical team as their death could lead to power outages throughout the whole of Syrian in both areas under Daesh control and the regime’s control as well, which amounts to approximately 14 per cent of Syrian territory.
The battle of allegations and accusations versus evidence between Russia and Turkey has yet to end. In fact, the United States recently joined the frontline when it released the names of four individuals whom the US government believed to be cooperating with Daesh and are now subsequently being put on the government’s black list. Among these individuals is the Syrian-born Russian national George Heswani who, as previously mentioned, is making a great deal of money by conducting business with Daesh. What this could all mean is that Russian intelligence has been spying on Putin’s secret dealings with Daesh and has warned him not to bomb Syria under the false pretext of wanting to bring an end to the chaotic violence caused by Daesh there. It was also recently revealed that only two per cent of the airstrikes that Russia wages on Syria actually hit their intended targets.
International data have proven that Putin’s Russia and their Syrian-Iraqi axis have been secretly involved in dealings with Daesh. More importantly, Daesh’s success remains partly due to Nuri Al-Malki who handed over the city of Mosul to the terrorist organisation on 10 June, 2014. How or why this happened will forever remain a mystery.
Translated from Alkhaleejonline, 9 December, 2015.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.