Erdogan and the Islamic State Oil Trade: Is Turkey Funding Terrorism?

On Thursday, acting under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the U.S. Treasury Adam Szubin stated that ISIS is selling “some” of its oil to Turkey.

This alarming revelation follows Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov’s accusation earlier this month that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family are “involved” in ISIS’s illegal oil trade and personally benefiting from it. Should Erdogan be profiting from ISIS oil, he would be caught in a public lie – one which Erdogan has already promised to resign over.

ISIS’s main funding comes from two sources: donations from wealthy Gulf “angel investors” and its illegal oil trade. According to Szubin, ISIS has earned as much as $500 million, at a rate of $40 million a month, from selling this oil. ISIS’s black market trade has been a major force in tumbling crude prices which fell this past Thursday to $35 a barrel and caused the Dow to plunge 300 points.

It is clear that Erdogan shares many of ISIS’s goals. One of ISIS’s chief rivals in Syria are Kurdish militias. These militias seek independence from Syria and, if successful, would lead to Turkey’s Kurds gaining increased confidence in its own dispute with Erdogan. This past summer, “Erdogan was enraged when Kurdish forces in Syria liberated the town of Tel Abyad from ISIS, and the Turkish military drew up a plan to invade Syria, not to fight ISIS but to set up a 30-kilometer-deep buffer zone to prevent the Syrian Kurds from controlling their own home country.” Erdogan threatened that he “would never allow the establishment of a [Kurdish] state on its southern border in the north of Syria.”

Erdogan believes Kurdish independence in Syria is more of a threat than ISIS. This explains why a video released this past September showed a Turkish train carrying war tanks and weapons which were being delivered to ISIS to help repel the Kurdish advance in Tel Abyad. It is also in Erdogan’s interest for Turkey to at least facilitate ISIS’s oil trade so ISIS can finance its hostilities with the Kurds.

Also on Thursday, an Erdogan ally filed a criminal complaint in Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office against Vladimir Putin and Antonov for “insulting the President” and “defamation.” The complaint states that the Turkish government “cannot turn a blind eye to defamation against our President by other Presidents or officials.” Perhaps the Turkish government will next file charges against the American Szubin?

It is clear that Erdogan can control Turkey’s borders when it is in his interest. He just bribed the European Union for over $3B with the promise that the Turkish military will better monitor the flow of migrants into Europe through its western border with Bulgaria and Greece.

The larger implication of Szubin’s revelation is that the US government has for the first time publicly stated that Turkey is buying ISIS’s oil. And it came just weeks after Putin accused Erdogan of shooting down the Russian fighter jet to “protect ISIS’s oil trade.”

Turkey, a NATO member, may be ISIS’s strongest military ally. And Turkey could be using US weapons to protect ISIS’s interest. If Erdogan is indeed profiting from ISIS’s oil trade, he is not only endangering American lives but doing so on the back of the US taxpayer.

If the Obama administration’s goal is to dismantle and destroy ISIS, then it is time for our president has a frank discussion with Erdogan. And Turkey’s NATO membership should be re-examined.


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