Tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to rise. Their relationship suffered a deadly blow when Turkey shot down a Russian jet last month. Ever since, Russia’s President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan have gone after each other, both in public and privately.
In the last few days, Putin has accused Turkey of buying ISIS oil. The Russian president is convinced that the terrorist group is shipping massive amounts of oil to the Turkish black market, where it’s then sold for a relatively low price.
Putin’s accusations are backed up by Mowaffak al Rubaie, a former Iraqi Governing Council member and national security advisor. He says:
In the last eight months (alone), ISIS (sold) $800 million worth of (stolen) oil on the black market of Turkey.
Al Rubaie continues:
This is Iraqi oil and Syrian oil, carried by trucks from Iraq, from Syria through the borders to Turkey and sold (at) less than 50 percent of the international oil price.
Now this either gets consumed inside, the crude refined on Turkish territory by the Turkish refineries, and sold in the Turkish market or it goes to Jihan and then in the pipelines from Jihan to the Mediterranean and sold to the international market.
Money and dollars generated by selling Iraqi and Syrian oil on the Turkish black market is like the oxygen supply to ISIS and it’s operation. Once you cut the oxygen then ISIS will suffocate.
President Erdogan realizes that this is a very serious accusation, especially so since the EU seems willing to fast-track Turkey’s membership. If European voters believe Turkey is dealing with ISIS, they’ll pressure their governments into opposing this deal. And so Erdogan is passionately defending himself:
Earlier today I spoke about this matter with Steve Bannon, CEO of Breitbart News and host of the site’s daily radio show on SiriusXM:
“You should put your documents on the table if you have any. Let’s see the documents,” Mr Erdogan said.
“We are acting with patience. It is not positive for the two countries which have reached a position which could be regarded as a strategic partnership to make emotional statements.”
President Erdogan also vowed to step down if the allegation that Turkey was buying oil from IS proved true, suggesting that President Putin should do the same if he was wrong.
Erdogan clearly understands that this accusation — that Turks are involved in buying ISIS oil =- sticks. Like Putin, Erdogan is a real autocrat who won’t even consider stepping down. Although I’m confident he has no intention of doing so, his statement implies that he too understands that the accusation alone does tremendous damage to his standing in the international community — and especially with regards to the EU.
At the same time, Erdogan is pointing fingers at Russia and Assad. Although there are reports out there saying Turks are buying ISIS oil, similar reports have popped up about Russia and the official Syrian government. Erdogan’s message to Putin is clear: two can play this game. If you think you’ve got some dirt on us, just wait and see what we have on you and your allies.
Yesterday Erdogan tried to meet with Putin when both were in Paris for the climate talks. The Russian president politely (or not so politely) turned Erdogan down, telling him they had nothing to talk about as long as the Turkish president doesn’t apologize for shooting down a Russian jet in Syria last week. Since Erdogan can’t do that — doing so would make him lose face both domestically and internationally — tensions will only increase.
The main question now is: will the international community have the courage to investigate Putin’s and Erdogan’s accusations, or are Europe and the United States just praying for this to go away? If the latter, I’m afraid they’re in for a very hard time. These men are both autocrats, and they have no intention to back down. They don’t even know what that means.