Turkish Smoke and Mirrors

Conspiracy theories run rife in Turkey.

Turkey is a field of daisies for conspiracy freaks, as there is ample opportunity to romp around. In the 1990s with the low-intensity war against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) there was a whole spate of extra-judicial killings involving not only suspected members of the PKK and its supporters but also critical journalists. With the capture of Abdullah Öcalan in 1999 and the advent of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government in 2002, all this was supposed to come to an end.

Now Turkey’s prime minister (and former foreign minister) Ahmet Davutoglu, who is generally regarded as President Erdogan’s stooge, has warned Kurdish voters that unless the AKP is returned to power at the new elections on November 1, they can expect a new period of unsolved murders and disappearances of Kurdish dissidents. Not that this hasn’t already happened.

The greatest threat to President Erdogan’s grip on power is the rise of the Kurdish-based HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) under the leadership of Selahattin Demirtas and his co-chair Figen Yüksekdag. At the June elections the HDP was the first Kurdish party to exceed the electoral threshold of 10 percent and with 13 percent of the votes seized 80 of the Turkish parliament’s 550 seats that the AKP regarded as belonging to them. Erdogan publicly declared the HDP was the parliamentary extension of the PKK, and in the run-up to the elections there were attacks on the HDP’s offices, supporters and vehicles as well as a bomb attack on a party rally in Diyarbakir two days before.  

According to the state-run Anadolu Agency the original target of the two suicide bombers at the Ankara peace rally on October 10 was the HDP’s offices in Ankara, and according to Turkish daily Cumhuriyet plans were also made to target an HDP election rally in Gaziantep. After the renewal of the conflict between government forces and the PKK following the suicide bombing in the Kurdish town Suruc on July 20, more than 130 attacks have been launched on HDP offices and Kurds throughout Turkey in an attempt to discredit the party before the November elections. 

Taking a step back, there is an overall link between these attacks and the AKP government’s (read: the dyad Davutoglu and Erdogan’s) discredited foreign policy on Syria, the aim of which was to replace Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite rule with a Sunni regime. Originally backed by the US, this policy has seriously backfired, leaving Erdogan and Davutoglu twisting in the wind. As a declassified report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 makes clear, the West, Gulf states and Turkey initially supported the Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda opposition in Syria, but now this has morphed into ISIL and the Al Nusra Front, the situation has changed. 

Close links between Turkey, in particular Erdogan’s Prætorian Guard, MIT (National Intelligence Organization), and ISIL and the Al Nusra Front are well documented, but Turkey’s covert support of ISIL has turned out to be a two-edged sword. Nevertheless, Erdogan and Davutoglu have never given up trying to enlist the USA’s support in their attempt to overthrow Assad, by first calling for the creation of a ‘safe zone’, a no-fly area ostensibly for refugees in Syria, but Russia’s support of Assad has scuttled this plan. 

Furthermore, there have been incidents, staged or otherwise, which Erdogan and Davutoglu have used to pressure Obama into intervening; for example, two car bombs in the border town of Reyhanli in May 2013. Five days later, Erdogan (then prime minister), Davutoglu and Hakan Fidan, head of MIT, met with Obama in the White House to convince him of the threat posed by Syria to Turkey. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has in a controversial article in The London Review of Books claimed that the sarin gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013 was in fact staged with sarin gas supplied through Turkey to cross Obama’s red lines and provoke a strike on Syria. Two deputies from the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) have claimed that an investigation into Turkey’s role in the gas attack has been derailed.

Shortly before local elections last March, a recording of a national security meeting surfaced on YouTube, where Hakan Fidan offered to stage a false flag operation putting the blame on ISIL to justify the Turkish army’s intervention in Syria. Hours later YouTube was blocked on grounds of national security. 

The HDP’s co-chair, Selahattin Demirtas, has alleged that the attack on the Ankara rally was carried out with the support of  “elements within the state,” and President Erdogan has declared that the massacre was “a collective act” involving ISIL, the PKK, the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party), the PKK’s Syrian sister party, and the Mukhabarat, the Syrian intelligence service. This points to a remarkable degree of cooperation, which opens for a whole new round of conspiracy theories.