Putin: Turkey was protecting ISIL oil Smuggling; Russia urges Assad-Kurdish Alliance

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday in Paris that his government had intelligence that the reason Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet last week was to protect oil smuggling from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) through Turkey. Putin said,

“”We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory, right to the ports where it is loaded onto tankers. . . We have received additional information which unfortunately confirms that this oil, produced in areas controlled by the Islamic State and other terrorist organisations, is transported on an industrial scale to Turkey.”

In response, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said that if any proof could be brought forward that Turkey shot down the Russian plane because of Daesh petroleum, he would resign.

Erdogan tried to turn the tables on Putin by charging that a Russian national in Syria is engaged in brokering the ISIL petroleum smuggling.

Russia said Monday that the ban on importing vegetables from Turkey would remain in place. Russian sanctions on Turkey also hit the tourist trade, costing Turkey some $3 bn a year. These measures only affected Russian spending in Turkey. Turkish imports of Russian fossil fuels remain uninterrupted.

Putin has a much more effective way of bringing the pain to Erdogan, however. The leftist newspaper Radikal quoted the daily BasHaber’s interview tith

Prof. Abbas Vali of Bogazici University, who said [BBC Monitoring trans]:

“The PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] was pleased about Russia’s intervention in Syria. An alliance between the PYD and Russia is inevitable. Russia’s bombardment of the radical Islamist groups on the ground will have a huge impact on the PYD operations. (…) Russia’s operations will considerably bolster the PYD on the ground.”

The PYD and its paramilitary arm, the YPG (People’s Protection Unites) are considered by Turkey to be branches of the separatist Kurdish terrorist organization the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), but the US and Russia do not agree, and have been willing to cooperate with the leftist Kurds in Syria against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

Putin is attempting to shore up the government of Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey hopes to see it overthrown by Muslim fundamentalist rebels. Putin is angling for an alliance of the leftist Kurds with the Baath regime against Daesh Radikal notes (BBC Mon. trans.):

“In a meeting in Sochi last month ( 23 October 2015,) Vladimir Putin spoke of his country’s goals for the air operations and their intentions regarding Kurds as follows: ” You cannot separate terrorists as moderates and extremists. Defeating terrorist groups in Syria will not resolve all the problems but it will create the necessary conditions for a political solution. The government and Kurdish forces in Syria should join forces in combating terrorism. Our air operations in Syria will have positive results.”

Nothing would anger Turkey’s government more than for Russia to give military support to the Syrian Kurds in their quest to establish a connected territory, “Rojava,” linking the three major Kurdish cantons in northern Syria.

Semih Idiz of the Cumhuriyet (“the Republic), a left of center Turkish paper, revealed (BBC Monitoring trans.) that in response to the shoot down of the Russian fighter jet:

“The Russian General Staff Chief has also stated that they are going to provide aerial escorts to the jets carrying out the bombing campaign against the Turkmens, which they are going to step up substantially, “in order to protect them from behind.”

Idiz, in an article on how al-Assad is the main beneficiary of the shootdown, concluded,

“When we look at the political sphere, Moscow is going to try to render Turkey as ineffective as possible in the Syrian negotiations. It is useful to recall that the United States and Russia are spearheading the negotiations in question. And it is also useful to keep in mind that Turkey, because of a series of strategic mistakes, is one of the weakest links of the “Syrian table.”

Now if you were [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Asad, would you not be rejoicing on account of Turkey’s having shot down the Russian plane?

——

Related video:

France 24 English: “Paris Climate conference: Row between Russia & Turkey continues as Putin snubs meeting with Erdogan”

18 Responses

  1. Erdogan has really stepped in it.

    Now Russia will be sealing the Turkish/Syrian border and they have pointedly told Turkey any interference will be dealt with by deadly force. This is bad for Turkey because Russian military is now spoiling for direct retaliation against Turkey for the killing of two Russians. I would not want to be flying a Turkish military aircraft anywhere near Syria because it is now open season by the Russian military.

    I suspect that a few Turkish jets will fall from the sky before Turkey capitulates and lets be frank, Turkey will capitulate and close its border with Syria and throw ISIS to the wolves much to the displeasure of Saudi Arabia.

    Note that while the USA has reservations about bombing ISIS oil infrastructure, Russia does not, so soon ISIS will have almost no revenue – selling antiquities is a low volume, one-time deal and extorting money from the people they conquered will poison the well quickly. Once the locals get tired of the extortion, they will use the same techniques that drove the USA out of Iraq on ISIS fighters – IEDs anyone?

    • Several points:

      (1) Turkey did not kill two Russians – the pilot and co-pilot ejected safely but the pilot and a Russian marine in a rescue unit were killed by Turkmen rebels inside Syria;

      (2) an audiotape has surfaced warning the Russian jet crew that they were approaching Turkish airspace and to turn south immediately;

      (3) the primary concern that appears to have triggered the shootdown was that Turkmen rebels within Syria – whom the Turks see as brethren – and NOT ISIS were being targeted.

      • 1) is a nit-pick because the Turkmen are fully supported and possibly controlled by Turkey.

        2) the audio tape was faked up after the fact according to Russia -pick who you believe.

        3) Russia was bombing ISIS oil convoys protected by the Turkmen, so in reality, Russia was actually attacking ISIS or at leas their source of wealth.

        Turkey’s hands are very, very dirty which is why Turkey is back-pedaling so fast.

  2. On November 16 the US claimed to have destroyed 116 trucks carrying illegal oil in  ISIL controlled territories and a couple of days later the Russian Air Force announced it had destroyed 500 such trucks. Obviously the stuff must be flowing in quantities difficult for Turkey to be unaware of. PBS had a program touching on this traffaic link to youtube.com but, according to Sputnik news, link to sputniknews.com they had to use Russian footage to illustrate the US claim because the US didn’t provide any.

  3. Dear Professor: I was hoping to see some reaction to the Sunday Morning news of the Wise Heads of the GOP, McCain and Graham’s great plan to conquer ISIS-as they insist on calling the Daesh. It’s a great plan of easy No-Fly Zones, combined with Safe Havens, and is a guaranteed winner with Arab armies from all over the region flocking to our Banner and doing almost all of the fighting for us.
    I can’t imagine why no one has thought of this up to now.

  4. Putin is a complete idiot, geopolitically speaking. Even Erdogan, who is completely megalomaniac, is outmaneuvering him.

    The US needs to get out of the Middle East completely, so that it can act as an honest broker and cool down the tensions between these *morons*. Iran will probably also be trying to cool down tensions — Iran has strong interests in being allied with both Turkey and Russia.

    The US’s natural ally in the region, geopolitically speaking, is Iran. But apparently *our* government idiots haven’t figured that out yet.

    What a *mess*. This is very pre-WWI. The fascist movement in the US, currently following Trump, is the biggest worry, of course.

    • The US needs to get out of the Middle East completely, so that it can act as an honest broker …

      As it was in the Israel-Palestine tragedy?

    • I have been saying for some time that the best US policy is to withdraw from the area. However, I don’t see Erdogan outmaneuvering Putin. I see both leaders floundering and making big mistakes by their interventions. This whole area is such a mess with all the conflicting and convoluted alliances, basically arising from the Sykes-Picot Treaty and the Treaty of Versailles which set up national boundaries which bear no reality to ethnic and cultural divisions. The Middle East really needs to have a grand bargain where states and boundaries are revised to better reflect the actual ethnic and cultural groups and their desire for self governance. However, that is close to a political impossibility. This mean that we will be seeing substantial political instability for at least 20 years, and probably longer. The best bet for the US is to stay as far away as possible and hope the local states can work out something that reflects reality on the ground.

      • Someone has been facilitating the flow of illegal oil through Turkey for the benefit of IS coffers and there is speculation that Erdogan’s son is behind it, which makes his position highly questionable. The Russian response to the downed plane has been pretty controlled although highly public and accompanied by awesome defensive arrangements which can only be interpreted as warning. The current Turkish crackdown on respected media figures is a sign of weakness verging on the desperate, As the weeks pass the situation will likely go off the boil

      • “At least 20 years, and probably longer.” Um… an analogy… it’s been 67 yrs since the 1st Palestinian refugee camps were created; generations of people are still calling those places Home; as near as I can determine there’s no plan nor impetus to work new conflict boundaries EVER. 20 years? What are you smoking?

  5. What does the shooting down of a Russian plane have to do with ” the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory, right to the ports where it is loaded onto tankers”?

  6. In response, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said that if any proof could be brought forward that Turkey shot down the Russian plane because of Daesh petroleum, he would resign.

    If you believe that, let me give you a tip on a great piece of real estate. It’s a tropical plantation at the top of Mount Everest. Going real cheap. Check with your real estate agent before someone beats you to it.

  7. Time for a Kurdish State, one that is sure to become a beacon of democratic secularism in the heart of the Middle East. Egalitarian, fierce and brave, secular and where women have equal rights and often run the show. Yeah, sounds a whole lot better to ally with the Kurds than the fascist Daesh scum.

  8. Slight correction: The PYD and its paramilitary arm, the YPG (People’s Protection Unites) are considered by Turkey to be branches of the separatist Kurdish organization the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), but the US and Russia do not agree, and have been willing to cooperate with the leftist Kurds in Syria against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Turkey, the US and the EU considers the PKK to be a terrorist organisation. Russia and the UN do not.

    Factually more accurate. Cheers.

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