Turkey’s lax border policies have enabled ISIS to finance and arm its fighters in Syria; ISIS cells are now operating throughout Turkey.
And Turkey also helped Iran, a state sponsor of terror, evade sanctions to the tune of billions of dollars in 2012 and 2013. Yet this week, Turkey chaired the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum in New York.
It could be an item from The Onion — except it’s not satire.
Launched in 2011 after the failure of previous multilateral groups to tackle terrorism, the 30-country GCTF has itself become a farce — not least because Turkey is the co-chair, along with the United States.
Turkey holds this honor because of its rare qualities: It is a Muslim country that is a trusted US and NATO ally.
But it has also become a hub for terrorist recruiting and support — most definitely including ISIS recruiting and support, as The New York Times has reported.
Yet the GCTF promotes Turkey as part of the solution, rather than a core part of the problem.
Nor are the problems new. In 2012, Turkey blocked Israel from joining the GCTF, though the Jewish state has vast anti-terrorist experience and intelligence.
Equally absurd, GCTF members include Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, all three of which help fund or otherwise sponsor terrorism.
Qatar is the headquarters for Hamas, it was the home of the Taliban embassy and it bankrolls some of the most lethal jihadi factions in Syria.
Pakistan fathered the Taliban and continues to sponsor Islamists in Afghanistan and India. The Saudis fund Wahhabi institutions around the world, “pre-recruiting” for Islamist terror.
And just as we have allowed these “frenemies” to pursue this activity with impunity, Washington is unwilling to challenge Turkey’s terrorism problem.
The White House has failed to admonish Ankara for giving safe haven to Saleh al-Arouri, the Hamas figure who took responsibility this summer for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens. (The Israelis also identified him as the man behind a plot to topple the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank this summer.)
Similarly, Washington has chosen to given Turkey a free pass for helping Iran evade sanctions: Ankara’s “gas for gold” deals in 2012 and 2013 helped Tehran earn $12 billion or $13 billion when the world was trying to convince the mullahs to abandon their nuclear-weapons quest.
An Istanbul prosecutor’s report leaked this year suggests that Turkish companies and banks may have facilitated another $120 billion in illicit transactions.
The GCTF this week discussed best practices for countering the foreign-fighter phenomenon. Yet eastern Turkey has become the primary gateway for Middle Easterners and Europeans alike flocking to join ISIS.
Nevertheless, Washington begged Ankara to join the anti-ISIS coalition — and President Recip Tayyep Erdogan this week agreed, though it’s unclear what help he’ll provide.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Turkey secured the release of 46 Turkish hostages from ISIS — in exchange for helping to free 50 ISIS fighters captured by another Syrian faction, Liwa al-Tawhid. In other words, Turkey negotiated with the enemy we’re now fighting.
It’s also worth noting that Turkey has been out of compliance for seven years with the Financial Action Task Force, the international body that sets the standards for combatting terrorism finance.
The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum is much like the FATF — another international anti-terror body that lacks the ability to enforce its standards. Yet the GCTF doesn’t hold its members to any standards. If it did, Turkey almost certainly wouldn’t qualify.
That we continue to promote the GCTF reveals a lack of American seriousness in the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. If we were serious, we wouldn’t have Turkey as a partner.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorist-finance analyst at the US Treasury, is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- See more at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/schanzer-jonathan-boosting-turkey-as-it-backs-terror1/#sthash.3vKjUDZ8.dpuf