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Is Turkey Arming Jihadists?

Last week, I noted that Turkey may soon find itself on the Financial Action Task Force’s black list alongside Iran and North Korea because of its failure to take action against terrorist financing. Adam Marx, an avid reader of COMMENTARY and an informal student of Turkey, was kind enough to point out that a new law on Turkey’s books may not be enough, given Turkey’s recent trend not only to finance terrorists in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, but also to arm radical Islamists. If everyone—Chuck Hagel and Obama’s CIA pick John Brennan—agrees that Hamas and Mohamed Morsi represent the worst, most bigoted aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood, then there should no longer be any illusion regarding Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose political roots are in the same movement. Eric Trager’s essay asking why so many Western analysts got the Muslim Brotherhood wrong and addressing the myths which so many still grasp is a must read. But while there is a reckoning with regard to Egypt, Erdoğan and his Western supporters have gotten away with murder.

Greece, for example, last month intercepted a Turkish ship that apparently was part of an effort to arm either Libyan jihadists or, even worse, transit weaponry to al-Qaeda affiliates in northern Mali. Likewise, Yemeni authorities twice last month reportedly seized Turkish arms bound for al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen. Syrian Kurds regularly complain that Turkey is shipping weaponry to the al-Qaeda elements in Syria like the Nusra Front, because Erdoğan would rather have a radical Islamist entity on Turkey’s border than a secular Kurdish canton.

If there’s one lesson which can be drawn from the past two decades, it is that the strategy of various Middle Eastern states to support Jihadism abroad while crushing terrorists at home backfires. Saudi princes believed that they could fund al-Qaeda abroad, only to have the group start attacking Saudis and foreign workers inside the Kingdom. Bashar al-Assad also believed that he could use al-Qaeda to undermine Iraq and perhaps Jordan, only to find himself fighting a death struggle with the same al-Qaeda alumni inside Syria. If Erdoğan continues down the path of promoting the Muslim Brotherhood and even more radical groups abroad, he may very well set the stage for a terrorist backlash in Turkey in coming years. The terrorists of course will have primary blame for their actions but, when that instability occurs, the Turks—and those who have supported Erdoğan’s religious agenda—will have no one to blame but themselves for such a short-sighted strategy.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this originally, it seems that a suicide bomber has attacked a side entrance to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Our thoughts are with the victims. Alas, this will not be the last suicide bombing Turkey experiences.

UPDATE 2: The U.S. tipped off Turkey about the presence of bin Laden’s fugitive son-in-law not only in Turkey, but in a swank section of the capital. Turkey has decided to extradite the fugitive to Iran, rather than hand him over to U.S. authorities.


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