Row over intel failure in bomb attack heats up
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Deputy PM Arınç denies claims of intelligence failure. AA photoClaims that intelligence failures facilitated a deadly bombing in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on Aug. 20 have fueled a row between ruling and opposition parties as a ruling party deputy accuses the former head of Gaziantep’s police intelligence unit of negligence.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has dismissed reports that an intelligence failure paved the way for the bombing in Gaziantep that killed nine and wounded dozens more. Arınç hinted that foreign actors, especially Iran, might have played a role in the attack and are presently being investigated.
Arınç said they had no evidence of any Syrian involvement as was initially speculated, but added that an investigation into the matter continued. “This [investigation] is not limited to Syria. We are investigating all potential foreign sources that could have had a finger in such an attack, including Iran and others [in the region],” Arınç told private news channel CNNTürk late Aug. 22.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Gökhan Günaydın slammed Arınç yesterday over his denial of intelligence negligence. “If there was no intelligence negligence why was the vehicle [carrying the bomb] not chased for 15 days? Why were the necessary precautions not taken,” Günaydın asked.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Gaziantep Deputy Şamil Tayyar, blamed the former chief of the Gaziantep police’s intelligence unit Ümit Önal for the intelligence failure. Tayyar pointed out that Önal was appointed to Hatay just days before the bombing. “Information that the vehicle [carrying the bomb] was to head for Gaziantep came from Şanlıurfa two weeks before the attack. The police intelligence chief was on duty in Gaziantep at that moment, but Gaziantep police could not find the car.
We can play devil’s advocate here. The intelligence chief [Önal] might have caused this disaster by withholding information. His team is still on duty. If there’s a failure it’s his team’s fault,” Tayyar said.
The Islamic scholar and prominent figure in Turkey’s political scene, Fettullah Gülen, also hinted at an intelligence failure in a condolence letter released Aug. 22. Turkey “needed to be more careful about intelligence,” Gülen said. The renowned public figure has opened thousands of schools in Turkey and more than a hundred other countries. He has previously been accused of organizing and manipulating Turkey’s judicial and security apparatus by opposition parties. Gülen’s message was an “intelligence criticism” and was published as an advertisement in daily Zaman yesterday.
Arınç, however, said Turkey’s intelligence has been at its best in the last three years, noting that intelligence from the police, gendarmerie and Nationalist Intelligence Organization (MİT) was being collected in an “intelligence pool.”
“It’s obvious that the Gaziantep attack could not be prevented, but dozens of incidents as serious as [was seen] in Gaziantep have been prevented thanks to [good] intelligence,” Arınç said.
According to Arınç the government does not currently have any solid information on alleged links between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Mukhabarat, Syria’s intelligence organization, but an investigation is still underway. “Foreign sources may have had a role in the [Gaziantep] attack. I cannot say it’s totally impossible. We are living in such an environment that some institutions, countries and states may directly undertake such an attack or they may use subcontractors, or they may have some professional people carry out the attack. We have to investigate seriously whether [the PKK] or [Syria] were involved in the attack, instead of speaking rashly,” Arınç said.
Arınç rebuffed suggestions that the Arab Spring has turned into the Kurdish Summer, describing such a connection as “a meaningless and brainless allegation.”
Claims about Iran
Separately, Iran’s Supreme Leader has allegedly ordered the country’s Revolutionary Guards to intensify its campaign of terror attacks against the West and its allies in retaliation for supporting the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
According to Western intelligence officials, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the order to the elite Quds Force unit following a recent emergency meeting of Iran’s National Security Council in Tehran, which was held to discuss a specially-commissioned report into the implications for Iran of the ousting of al-Assad’s regime, British Daily Telegraph reported Aug. 22.
Intelligence officials say the report concludes that Iran “cannot be passive to the new threats posed to its national security,” and warns that Western support for Syrian opposition groups was placing Iran’s “resistance alliance” in jeopardy, and could seriously disrupt Iran’s access to Hizbollah in Lebanon. It advised that the Iranian regime should demonstrate to the West that there were “red lines” over what it would accept in Syria, and that a warning should be sent to “America, the Zionists, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others that they cannot act with impunity in Syria and elsewhere in the region.”