Which Western countries are supporting al-Qaeda?
A key aspect of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s discourse on Daesh, the Arabic acronym for ISIL, is his view that the organization is a project that some circles are using as a pretext for plans they are attempting to implement in Syria.
“We know very well by whom the Daesh elements in the region are fed, trained and kept ready to be used when necessary,” Erdoğan said on Dec. 12, 2018, in a clear reflection of his view.
Prior to that, on Nov. 27, 2018, Erdoğan had called Daesh “a project constantly being pumped up and exaggerated to frighten the world.”
The president also said Daesh was a “balloon” Turkey had burst with Operation Euphrates Shield.
The president’s statements in this regard have many recent examples. The important point here is that Erdoğan never specified the circles that use Daesh, never mentioned any country and, in a sense, left the specification to the discretion of the public. As a result, Erdoğan’s analysis of Daesh significantly differentiates from Western countries’ threat assessment towards this terrorist organization.
A similar view on Daesh, to the president’s, was seen in a statement made by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. But its context was not on Daesh, but al-Qaeda’s extension Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib.
Last Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu, on a visit to Demirören Media Group’s headquarters in the capital Ankara, said “I, too, know a fact.”
“Some Western countries in the coalition are encouraging the HTS to terminate the Idlib Memorandum. They are giving money and support. First, to terminate the Idlib Memorandum, and second, to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee. Just because we are behind it,” he added.
The phrase “just because we are behind it” is the key which breaks the code here. What’s meant is the process carried out between the Astana partners — Turkey, Russia and Iran — in order to find a political solution to the Syrian problem. The Astana mechanism significantly outweighed the initiatives of the United Nations and Western countries for the last two years and the constitutional committee preparations in this context.
At this point, we should draw special attention to the fact that, after the commencement of the Astana process last year, France, the U.S., the U.K. and Germany started an initiative called the “Small Group” to address the search for a political solution in Syria by taking on its side Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. The fact that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are trying to counterbalance Turkey and Iran in the region, taking their place in this group also makes sense.
If the statement along the lines “the supply of money and aid some Western countries provide to the HTS” had been written on the column of a columnist who is susceptible to conspiracy theories, this could have been approached with skepticism. But this statement was made by Turkey’s foreign minister.
Whichever way this is considered, the statement is an extremely strong one that must be taken quite seriously. It is difficult to imagine that a foreign minister would make such an accusation without the presence of concrete intelligence. On top of that, Çavuşoğlu has given partial explanation by saying “some Western countries,” on the preclusion for the establishment of a constitutional committee.
When one sees this statement, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin’s remarks at a press conference he held with Erdoğan on Jan. 23 in Moscow, inevitably comes to mind. Putin had complained about Western countries, which have been trying to obstruct Turkey’s and Russia’s efforts on gathering the constitutional committee.
Putin had announced that the three countries have taken it to the U.N. secretary-general, asking him to not endorse a declaration the Astana partners will make on Dec. 18-19, 2018 in Geneva. Putin had said these countries were France, Germany and the U.K.
It would be unfair to directly associate the Russian leader’s complaints on some Western countries’ demarche with Çavuşoğlu’s statement. However, it is difficult to prevent these words from being misread when a foreign minister uses general expressions on such a sensitive subject.
In any case, Çavuşoğlu’s statements can be regarded as an expression of deep distrust prevailing in Ankara toward the West on the subject of Syria.