[Rushtalk] A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes

Carl Spitzer lynux at keepandbeararms.com
Sun Dec 27 12:02:35 MST 2015


A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes

        By Robert Parry | Consortium News| December 16, 2015

Theoretically, 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 Consortium News,
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 Consortiumnews.com’s “‘MH-17 Case: ‘Old Journalism’ vs.

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 Consortiumnews.com’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

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

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

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

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

“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

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
Consortiumnews.com’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

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


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 barnesandnoble.com).

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