Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper known for its support of Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of “support” for the Islamic State, despite the KRG’s pivotal role in fighting the jihadist group.
A Yeni Safak article published this week claims that president Masoud Barzani “supported” the creation of the Islamic State purportedly by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency, citing an alleged “document prepared by Iraqi intelligence.” Even if the document was proven legitimate, it would only show that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein was accusing Barzani of cooperation in the creation of an unnamed “jihad organization.”
The alleged intelligence document does not name the CIA, the Mossad, or the Islamic State, and offers no proof of its allegation.
The alleged intelligence document is dated September 18, 2001—13 years before al-Qaeda severed ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), establishing the modern iteration of the group. Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency allegedly claimed that Barzani “held private meetings” with French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy—who Yeni Safak notes “does not hide that he is a Jew”—to discuss the creation of a “new Tawhid and Jihad organization.” Yeni Safak does not provide any proof that the organization in question is ISIS.
Nevertheless, Yeni Safak claims, “Mossad and the CIA established Daesh, which prepared the foundations for an illegitimate state for the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Syria and Masoud Barzani in Iraq, and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Barzani supported this.”
Yeni Safak has previously accused the United States of “leading” the Islamic State and orchestrating terror attacks within Turkey.
The pro-Erdogan newspaper’s outlandish claims are newsworthy because Erdogan himself has been accusing the Mossad of organizing the Kurdistan independence referendum on September 26, which found that over 90 percent of those living in KRG-controlled territories would support secession from Iraq. Erdogan offered no evidence for his accusations, which seem to be an attempt to delegitimize the referendum.
“Who is giving you counsel? Only Israel is behind you,” Erdogan reportedly said this week, addressing Barzani. “You have taken former Foreign Minister of France your right-hand side and another Jew [Levy] to your left-hand side, working on a table with them.” Erdogan has a long history of anti-Semitic remarks and behavior.
“They are not your friends, not your friends. They are with you today, but will disappear tomorrow,” Erdogan warned.
The KRG enjoyed peaceful relations and significant business ties with Turkey before the referendum, even siding with Turkey on multiple occasions over the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish militias.
Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to openly support the Kurds’ decision to hold the referendum. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied any involvement in the KRG referendum.
“I can understand why those who support Hamas want to see the Mossad wherever things don’t work out for them,” Netanyahu said this week, “but Israel had no part in the Kurdish referendum, aside from the deep, natural and years-long sympathy of the Jewish people to the Kurdish people and its aspirations.”
The Kurdish government has insisted that the referendum is non-binding and they will not seek independence without dialogue with Baghdad. Baghdad, Tehran, and Ankara have all responded to the execution of the referendum by threatening significant economic reprisal for Erbil, the KRG’s capital.
Contrary to Yeni Safak‘s claims, the KRG’s military, the Peshmerga, have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State. The Peshmerga played a key role in eradicating the Islamic State from the outskirts of Mosul, their largest stronghold in Iraq, later protesting that the Iraqi military was “too weak” to defeat ISIS alone. The Peshmerga, a co-ed military, have integrated Yazidi women who have been the victims of harrowing Islamic State violence into their front lines. They have been so successful against ISIS that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is demanding to command the Peshmerga, requesting of Erbil this week that the Peshmerga “become[s] a part of the Iraqi national forces, under the Iraqi Federal Government’s command, and to work with ours forces to implement Iraq’s authority in all these areas.”