I live a safe life in Norway, 4,750 kilometers from SDF’s battle against IS in and around the prison in Hasakah.
Jens Stoltenberg was the Prime Minister of Norway for eight years, from 2005 to 2013, before he was appointed as the Secretary General of NATO, in 2014. When I was a member of parliament in the 1990s, Stoltenberg was a minister in two Labour Party governments.
Seven days after he was appointed as the Secretary General of NATO, Stoltenberg visited the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At that time, IS had just started its attack on Kobanê.
It was common knowledge that Turkey provided weapons and other forms of support to jihadist groups in Syria. Girê Spî (Arabic: Tel Abyad) was the main border crossing for foreign fighters traveling through Turkey to join IS.
I remember the photo evidence from January 2014, showing local police stopping three trucks close by the border to Syria in Hatay province. The Hürriyet published the pictures and a video 16 months later. The trucks contained weapons – missiles, grenade launchers and ammunition. This was just one of many transports in the period from November 2013 to May 2014.
The conservative American think-tank Center for Security Policy gave a detailed description in a report dated the 14th of May 2014:
“Questions have arisen in Turkey over allegations that trucks belonging to Turkey’s intelligence service National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have been crossing the Syrian border, transporting arms and ammunition to unidentified parties in Syria. Deputy for the opposition party Republican People’s Party(CHP) Mahmut Tanal has openly raised questions in a letter to Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk about sightings of three MİT trucks present at Şanlıurfa police department on May 6th being later seen crossing the Syrian border on May 7th. Tanal asked if the trucks were indeed carrying weapons to militant groups.
“Prosecutor Ali Doğan stated in court that MİT trucks had made over 2,000 trips from Turkey into Syria, filing a verdict of non-prosecution regarding investigation into the trucks after he was appointed as Adana chief public prosecutor. The mention of 2,000 trucks appears again in an alleged quote from MİT head Hakan Fidan, who mentions sending 2,000 trucks with military equipment to Syria in a top secret conversation between Fidan, then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and General Chief of Staff Yaşar Güler in March 2014.
“Prosecutor Aziz Takçı was present when several MİT trucks were stopped in the Ceyhan district of the Adana province. Takçı states that he saw copious amounts of munitions, including artillery shells, inside the trucks, but the chief prosecutor of Adana and the governor showed up with hundreds of police and informed Takçı that the trucks belonged to the Turkish intelligence service and were not to be stopped. However, Takçı checked the license plates of the trucks allegedly belonging to MİT. He found out that the trucks belonged to suspects who were affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Of course, it seems to be a common belief among Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party that Al-Qaeda is not a terrorist organization.
“Another prosecutor, Ahmet Karaca, now under arrest, claimed that an investigation into the trucks’ destination uncovered that the trucks were delivering arms to an Islamic State camp.
“Turkey’s aid for Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq is more or less an open secret at this point.”
CHP Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan presented the documentation at a press conference on July 21, 2014. He quoted from police documents when he gave a detailed description of the weapons that were crossing the border into Syria.
Of course, Western intelligence services knew all about this when the NATO Secretary-General from Norway told Turkish television channels that “NATO supports Turkey’s fight against terrorism” in October 2014. He did his best to hide Turkey’s well-documented support for IS.
Ahmet Karaca and seven police officers, state attorneys and military officials were later sentenced to 17-26 years in prison for exposing MIT’s arms shipments to jihadist groups in Syria.
The T24 news website wrote about the verdicts in June 2019. Ipa.news reproduced the following on June 29, 2019:
“Turkish ex-judiciary and military officials who seized trucks loaded with weapons bound for Syria six years ago have been sentenced to jail terms between 17 and 26 years.”
“The T24 news website reported on Friday that the Turkish Court of Cassation (Yargitay) passed down sentences to the former judiciary and military officials who seized the trucks run by Turkey’s state intelligence agency in 2013 and 2014.
“Ahmet Karaca, former Adana Deputy Chief prosecutor was sentenced to 18 years and nine months.”
Since January the 20th this year, I have read daily news reports on how the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Asayish and other forces of the AANES (Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria) have fought to repel the biggest IS attack since the SDF defeated the IS caliphate in 2019. IS attacked the prison in Hasakeh to free thousands of IS fighters. Some of them are senior IS leaders. Turkey carried out air strikes against SDF forces that were on their way to take part in the fight against IS. The United States now controls airspace over this part of Syria. Turkish airstrikes must therefore have US consent. When the United States allowed this Turkish attack, the United States provided indirect but very important support to the IS rebels in Hasakeh.
Two days after the attack, Ned Price, a spokesman of the US State Department, said that IS had planned this attack for a long time: “Attacking the detention facility was a top ISIS priority for more than a year.” Captured IS fighters have described how the attack was planned from Turkish-occupied Serêkaniyê (Arabic: Ras al-Ain). Over a period of several months, groups of IS fighters had moved to the Gweiran area near the prison.
On behalf of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, spokesman Ned Price called on the United States’ allies a week later. He asked Norway and other allies to “support rehabilitation initiatives and soon repatriate their citizens and other detainees left in northeastern Syria.”
This, in words, is support for the AANES. But so far it is only words. Norway and other NATO countries are passive. And the United States, which has dominant power in NATO, has done nothing to put pressure on its allies.
NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg’s statements on Turkish television in October 2014 and the statements from the White House in January 2022 are part of a big deceptive game: They want to give the impression that they are fighting IS terror. But at the same time they are supporting the main ally of IS. Turkey.
Erling Folkvord is a former member of the Norwegian Parliament.