US unwilling to acknowledge Turkey-ISIS oil trade ‘smacks of direct patronage’ – Russian top brass

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Russia’s Defense Ministry has slammed Washington’s reaction to the outing of the secret oil trade between Turkey and Islamic State terrorists, calling it a “theatre of the absurd” and saying it looks rather like “direct patronage.”

“Finally, our colleagues from the State Department and the Pentagon have confirmed that the photo-proof, which we presented at a briefing [on December 2], of the origin and destination of the stolen oil, coming from the areas controlled by the terrorists, is authentic,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told a media briefing on Saturday.

“However, the US claim that they ‘don’t see the border crossings with tanker trucks crossing the border,’ raises a smile, if only, because the photos are still images,” he added.

The spokesman advised the American side to have a look through the videos, which were also presented by the Russian Defense Ministry, showing “how the tanker trucks not only drive through checkpoints at the Turkish border, but pass through them without even stopping.”

If the Russian evidence is not enough, the US and its allies should look at the footage from their own state-of-the art drones, “the number of which has recently tripled above the Turkish-Syrian border and oil-rich areas controlled by the terrorists,” he said.

According to Konashenkov, it should be impossible for the Western coalition to miss the oil smuggling business running between Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Turkey, given their range of technical capabilities in Syria and Iraq.

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“So when US officials claim that they do not see oil smuggled by terrorists to Turkey, this is already not dodging the issue, but smacks of a direct patronage,” he added.

The spokesman pointed out that the coalition’s drones and warplanes have been intensively using Incirlik Air Base in Turkey for their operations.

On Friday, an unnamed US State Department official confirmed to Reuters that the Russian photos of thousands of oil tanker trucks in Syria were authentic.

However, the official stressed that he hasn’t seen “the imagery of the border crossing with trucks crossing the border, and that’s because I don’t believe that exists.”

Konashenkov also commented on a recent statement by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who said at a Senate hearing that “over the past several weeks” the Pentagon has “intensified the air campaign against ISIL’s war-sustaining oil enterprise.”

With the US-led air campaign against Islamic State beginning in September 2014, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman wondered: “Does this mean that over the last one and a half years the Americans were only destroying non-war-sustaining infrastructure of the militants?”

“Now we know where the bandits got the money to buy weapons, recruit new supporters, and stage bloody acts of terror, and why the territory controlled by IS increased by hundreds of times during this period,” he said.

Konashenkov called recent statements by the US State Department and Pentagon “‘a theater of absurd,’ based on double standards and the wordplay.”

“First, they see something – then they don’t. They divide the opposition into moderate and non-moderate. Even terrorists, in their view, can be bad or very bad,” he said.

“We are convinced that terrorism has no comparative degrees or nationalities. Terrorism – an absolute evil that must be fought in all its manifestations,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry released photo and video proof that the main smuggling route for oil produced by Islamic State terrorists runs through Turkey, accusing Turkish leadership, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of being involved in the criminal trade.

Russia’s claims were denied by both Ankara and Washington, with Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, calling Turkey “a great partner.”