The veil was lifted on how Turkish President Recep Erdogan was able to get 49 Turkish diplomats captured in Mosul when ISIS conquered Iraq’s second largest city in June. He exchanged more than 180 Jihadists, including two British citizens to obtain the release of Turkish diplomats and their families. Those jihadists had been caught on the so-called Turkish Jihadist highway that Erdogan had provided emboldening the foreign fighter contingents for Al Qaeda affiliate al Nusra and ISIS.
Yesterday, I listened with interest to an NPR interview with a Syrian ‘guide’ who had run a profitable business infiltrating those foreign jihadists into Syria to join up with the Al Nusra and ISIS, until Erdogan’s security forces were commanded to shut it down. Perhaps, the ability of ISIS to smuggle oil from captured fields in Syria may also have played a role in providing baksheesh to keep the jihadist highway in operation bringing in both recruits and the cash to pay them.
Our friends at Erdogan Failure sent us this Hurriyet Daily report excerpted from a Times of London article, on the exchange, “180 jihadists traded by Turkey for hostages: report”:
Some 180 jihadists, including two British citizens, were handed over to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the deal to secure the release of the hostages abducted from Turkey’s consulate in Mosul, The Times has reported.
A total of 49 Turkish Embassy staff were held hostage by ISIL for 101 days before being released on Sept. 20.
The Times reported that 18-year-old Shabazz Suleman and 26-year-old Hisham Folkard are thought to be among the 180 jihadists returned in exchange, and are being investigated by British counter-terrorism officers.
The report said it has gained access to the list of the swapped jihadists, which also includes three French citizens, two Swedish citizens, two Macedonians, one Swiss and one Belgian.
Turkey contacted tribes in the region and other armed groups to achieve the deal, it added.
The world’s media provided a rostrum for President Erdogan, an elected Islamist autocrat, to exercise ultimate chutzpah at the border town of Suruc teeming with 180,000 Kurdish and other Syrian refugees. Reported by the UK The Independent, Erdogan predicted the imminent fall of Kobani to ISIS. Further, that he would only put troops on the ground, if he could secure a corridor inside Syria fighting to overthrow the Assad regime. All while US supplied tanks of the Turkish army, the largest land force member of NATO, were poised on the border capable of firing rounds at US tanks and mobile artillery captured by ISIS battering the lightly armed Kurdish YPG forces.
This is eerily akin to Stalin’s orders for Russian forces in August of 1944 to remain on the east bank of the Vistula River when the Polish Resistance Uprising in Warsaw against Nazi forces, only to be decimated virtually destroying what remained of the city. As we know from the history of that valiant episode by Polish resistance, allied air drops to supply Polish contingents landed in the possession of German forces. Moreover, Stalin denied use by US air force units based in Poltava in the western Ukraine to make those air drops. Consider the limited air attacks by the US-led coalition air forces on ISIS in the outer precincts of Kobani to be the contemporary equivalent.
In Erdogan’s case, his appearance at the Syrian border backfired, as Kurds rose up in anger inside Turkey and throughout emigre communities in Europe. Many in the West were troubled by Erdogan’s stance. Interviews with Former Pentagon and CIA chef under Obama, Leon Panetta, based on his new book, Worthy Fights, suggested ineffective leadership by President Obama .Obama who took advice from what a Wall Street Journal called the “Mettenich Munchkins” in the West Wing in an editorial,” Who Really Lost Iraq?”.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured photos is of the freed Turkish hostages being welcomed at the airport in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Sept. 20, 2014. AP Photo