'Turkey needs to move against IS - or terrorism could visit the streets of Istanbul'
ISIS is illegally selling Iraqi and Syrian oil on the black market at low prices. They smuggle crude into Turkey on an industrial scale. Ankara has denied ever buying Islamic State's oil.
RT: What do you know about the extent of ISIL's oil smuggling into Turkey?
Mowaffak al-Rubaie: In the last eight months, ISIS has managed to sell $800 million worth of oil on the black market in Turkey. This is Iraqi oil and Syrian oil. This is carried by trucks from Iraq, from Syria through the borders to Turkey and sold [for] less than 50 per cent of the international oil price. So it has always been sold in the region at $20-22 for the barrel. This either gets consumed inside, the crude is refined, and by the Turks in Turkish territory by the Turkish refineries and sold in the Turkish market, or it goes to Ceyhan and then in the pipelines from Ceyhan to the Mediterranean and sold to the international market.
So ISIS has made a lot of money. This is like oxygen: once you cut the oxygen, than ISIS will suffocate. And this is the oxygen supply – money and dollars generated by selling Iraqi and Syrian oil on the Turkish black market is like the oxygen supplied to ISIS and its operation. This is number one. Number two: there are still some jihadists filtering through from all over the world in Istanbul as a hub for these jihadists and trickling down to the Syrian–Turkish borders and Iraqi–Turkish border.
Now I would like to ask Mr. Erdogan. He has been violating Iraqi air space for the last 12 years at least since April 9, 2003 until this moment of time, claiming that he is trying to attack and target PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and YPG [People's Protection Units.] Also what is happening between Turkey and ISIS – let me tell you something which is not being reported in the international press – and that is the treatment of the wounded terrorists from ISIL. They get treatment in Turkish hospitals near the border and inside the hospitals. We have reports from our intelligence agencies... they have told us that there are still even the wounded ISIL fighters get treated in Istanbul itself.
RT: Who's buying the illegal crude?
MR: Well, the merchants, the businessmen, the Turkish businessmen in the black market in Turkey, and under the noses, under the auspices, if you like, of the Turkish intelligence agency and Turkish security apparatus. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that the Turkish government knows about this very well, and they are turning a blind eye to it.
RT: Do you think that Erdogan is being hypocritical then with Turkey shooting down that Russian bomber?
MR: I think this is a provocative act of Erdogan – they wanted to boost the morale of his people and his popularity, and this is for domestic consumption – I don’t think this is going to make any difference in the fight against ISIL. And I can tell you one thing from my previous life experience, if Erdogan and his government does not come clean and fight ISIL themselves then this fire fight will get to Istanbul, and in no time we will see car bombs and suicide bombers and all sort of terrorist acts in the streets in Istanbul and Ankara.
RT: Fighters hoping to join the ranks of ISIL enter Syria across the Turkish border. So why hasn't it been sealed off yet?
MR: There is no doubt in my mind that there are security officers who are sympathizing with the ISIL in Turkey and they are allowing them to percolate and infiltrate from Istanbul; they move from Istanbul to the borders and then go through the borders to Syria and then to Iraq. And this cannot happen... There is no terrorist organization which can stand alone without a neighboring country helping it, now in this case, Turkey. There is no doubt that Turkey is helping them in an indirect way or a very subtle way they are helping ISIL…
Turkey feeling vulnerable, lots of troubles internally and externally
Ankara has overreached with shooting down the Russian plane, as well as the arrest of the Turkish journalists, says Ronald G. Suny, professor of social and political history at the University of Michigan.
RT: Following Russia, Washington is pressing Turkey to close its border with Syria, to prevent the flow of weapons and fighters joining the ranks of Islamic State. Good plan, isn’t it?
Ronald G. Suny: Absolutely, it is a long overdue plan. Turkey has been a little bit complicit in this Islamic insurrection in Syria and it is time for them to choose which side they want to be on decisively.
RT: Is Turkey going to listen to the US, and finally close that border?
RS: I think that the Turkish government may be feeling a little vulnerable right now. They’ve kind of overextended, overreached with this shooting down of the Russian plane. They have a lot of troubles both internally and externally; the arrest of the journalists recently, the bombing of the Kurds, the problem with the Russians now. I think Erdogan is maybe looking for a way out. This might be one thing that he could do to sort of begin to ameliorate the situation: bring the Russians, the Americans, the Turks altogether on the same page to fight against ISIS.
RT: How important is it to seal this border off? What are the dangers if it is not sealed off?
RS: It is important. I think the Turks made some progress in this area before. But still people are moving back and forth. Remember, there are Syrian refugees who want to go the other way –they want to go into Turkey. So in some ways you want to keep that route for escape open. On the other hand, there has been too much movement the other way – Turkey has looked the other way and allowed supplies to go into people who we, and the Syrian Kurds, are fighting – that is ISIS and their allies.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.