Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad accused Turkey in an interview this week of direct “involvement” in the alleged smuggling of Syrian oil by the Islamic State (ISIS) using “the umbrella of the American Air Forces.”
Speaking to Russian state propaganda outlet RT in an interview published on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “creating war in different areas [of the world] just to distract his own public opinion in Turkey from focusing on his behavior within Turkey … especially after his scandal, scandalous relation with ISIS in Syria.”
Continuing, Assad said in English:
ISIS used to sell Syrian oil through Turkey, with the umbrella of the American Air Forces, and of course the support of the Turkish – the involvement of the Turks, not the support, the involvement – in selling this oil.
Assad referred to previous allegations by Russia and Israel that Turkey was involved in the smuggling of oil out of Syria by ISIS.
In November 2015, then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev indicated that Russia had information “about [the] direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS.”
The BBC reported in January 2016 that then-Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon had recently accused Turkey of purchasing oil from ISIS.
“As you know, Daesh [Islamic State] enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended,” Yaalon said.
He also alleged that Turkey had “permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and back.”
U.S. state department officials in December 2015 “rejected Russian allegations of Turkish government involvement” in the ISIS oil smuggling trade, “but a state department spokesman said IS oil was being smuggled into Turkey via middlemen,” according to the BBC report.
The Islamic State actively and forcefully identified America as its ideological enemy and threatened the destruction of the country. An American military operation resulted in the death of ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019. No evidence exists that the U.S. Air Force or any other part of the U.S. government has aided ISIS, nor did Assad provide any.
Elsewhere in his RT interview on Tuesday, Assad accused Turkey of sending “Syrian terrorists” to Azerbaijan to bolster the country’s ground forces in its recent conflict with Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We definitely can confirm it, not because we have evidence, but because sometimes when you don’t have evidence you have indication,” Assad claimed.
“Turkey used those terrorists, coming from different countries in Syria. They used the same method in Libya; they used Syrian terrorists in Libya, maybe with other nationalities. So, it’s self-evident and very much probable that they are using that [method] in Nagorno-Karabakh because, as I said earlier, they are the one who started this problem, this conflict [sic]; they encouraged this conflict. So, they want to achieve something and they’re going to use the same method,” Assad explained.
“So, we can say for sure that they’ve been using Syrian and other nationalities of terrorists in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he concluded.
Assad’s claims that Turkey has sent Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan have been echoed over the past week and a half by the leaders of other countries, including France, Armenia, and Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron on October 2 accused Turkey of sending Syrian “jihadists” to fight for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Macron cited alleged intelligence reports establishing that “300 Syrian fighters drawn from ‘jihadist groups’ from the Syrian city of Aleppo had passed through the Turkish city of Gaziantep en route for Azerbaijan.”
“These fighters are known, tracked, and identified,” Macron alleged, adding that he would call Erdoğan “in the coming days” to confront him over the crossing of a “red line.” The French president said he urged “all NATO partners to face up to the behavior of a NATO member.”
Rostam Bakoyana, a Yazidi member of Armenia’s parliament, told Kurdish news agency Rudaw on September 29 that “Turkey is backing Azerbaijan by sending in terrorists of opposition from Syria and Turkish soldiers to join the Azerbaijan forces.”
The day before, on September 28, Armenia’s Ambassador to Moscow Vardan Toghanyan also alleged that Turkey sent about 4,000 Syrian militants to fight for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied the accusations.