Wikileaks’ releases of emails from the Turkish President’s son-in-law prove that the Turkish state has been intimately involved in smuggling oil for the Islamic State.
One of the great enigmas of the Islamic State’s rapid rise to a globally-recognized terrorist organization was how it was financed. Though Wikileaks had previously confirmed that some Middle East monarchies, namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were directly funding ISIS, this has never been publicly acknowledged by most governments. Instead, the officially given reason for ISIS’ full coffers was the sale of oil from territories it controlled. However, no one seemed to know how they were selling the oil, as no government or corporation could buy ISIS oil directly without rousing accusations of aiding and financing the terrorist group.
The explanation given for how ISIS had managed to make $50 million every month in oil sales was that smugglers working with ISIS were selling the oil to middlemen in Turkey. Turkey’s government sternly denied its involvement in the trade and announced that it had taken steps to tighten border security and that they had “effectively stopped oil smuggling” across its border. However, at the time, it did not comment on oil equipment and engineers entering Syria from Turkey to aid ISIS in the management of its illicitly acquired oil resources.
By 2015, accusations began to swirl claiming that the Turkish government, as well as President Erdogan’s family, were actively engaged in ISIS oil smuggling. Such accusations only grew stronger when tensions between Russia and Turkey reached new heights following Turkey’s attack on a Russian military plane in Syrian airspace. Turkey’s president Erdogan vowed to resign if Turkey’s involvement with ISIS oil could be proven. It was during this time that a Turkish Marxist hacking organization, Red Hack, managed to access nearly 20 GB of emails belonging to Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.
Just a few days ago, Wikileaks published Albayrak’s emails. They show that Albayrak was acting as the “unofficial consultant” to the Powertrans oil company, the only company allowed to import and export oil within Turkey. Both the President, Albayrak, and other Turkish government officials have denied their connection to the company as it is the only means by which ISIS oil could end up in Turkey. As the Press Project notes, the ownership of Powertrans is not clear as its equities have moved rather sporadically from country to country, shifting from Istanbul to Singapore and, then, to the Virgin Islands. However, Wikileaks has shown that the real owner of Powertrans is Calik Holding, which was then headed by Albayrak. In nearly 30 emails, Albayrak approves numerous staff changes at Powertrans as well as future hirings and wages. Other emails show him discussing and planning Powertrans’ marketing strategy in Northern Iraq.
Yet, the most unusual of all the emails was an exchange between Albayrak and Turkish Energy Minister Mustafa Dogan Inal. The topic of the conversations was a rebuttal statement that Albayrak would deliver to deny that he ever had any sort of connection to Powertrans. Dogan Inal, also Albayrak’s lawyer, wrote “my client has no longer any ties to the company.” Albayrak corrected him replying “what is that supposed to mean? I never had any ties to the company!” However, other exchanges found among Albayrak’s emails, mentioned above, prove otherwise.
Essentially, these latest revelations prove that Turkey’s government and the President’s family were all involved in financing ISIS by managing its oil trade. Though ISIS has now lost many of its oil fields, this was the chief means by which the organization claimed to have financed itself and allowed it to expand its “reign of terror” throughout several Middle Eastern nations. Wikileaks has just proven that Erdogan’s family and administration are guilty of aiding these terrorists. However, it is likely that the US administration knew about this long before, just as they did with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Such revelations, though damning, are unlikely to change much on the international stage as the United States and several of its allies also have their own shady connections to groups aiding the Islamic State.