Turkey may have just avoided a terror attack and an extremely costly and indefinite intervention into Syria.
Earlier this week, an 8-minute video began circulating on YouTube wherein senior Turkish defense officials, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, discuss at length their intentions to have extremist groups in Syria carry out an attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder. This attack would then serve as a pretext for a land invasion into Syria – just days prior to the leak, the Turkish government declared a violation of this site as a “red line” which could prompt such an intervention.
ISIS was to be implicated in the attack, and the Erdogan administration was going to attempt to tie ISIS to the al-Asad regime, claiming the Syrian government was funding these jihadists in order to undermine the rebellion. And so, the response from Turkey would be to assist the “good rebels,” thereby striking a simultaneous blow to ISIS and their “patron” (see video above).
Of course, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have tried, for years, to justify American interventions into Syria by accusing al-Asad of supporting al-Qaeda—much like in the leadup to the Iraq war in which Saddam Hussein was held to have played a role in 9/11. These claims are promoted in the face of a total poverty of corroborating evidence (other than vague references to “Western intelligence”) and are, in fact, easy to falsify—but they circulate in the popular media nonetheless, especially among those eager for intervention.
The Erdogan administration was going to attempt to tie ISIS to the al-Asad regimeThe irony here is that it is the Turkish government which has long supported extremist groups in Syria, especially in the border region. While they have recently scaled back this support under international pressure, the administration clearly maintains links to some these groups, which they planned to utilize in orchestrating the attack.
This is perhaps the most shocking aspect of the video: it seems to be authentic.
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Shortly after it began to go viral, the Turkish government shut down access to YouTube in order to minimize circulation. PM Erdogan condemned the leakers as enemies of Turkey, and launched an espionage inquiry to find out who released the tape—verifying explicitly and implicitly that the contents of the video are accurate: the Erdogan Administration has been caught red-handed in planning a false-flag attack to justify war with Syria.
These developments occur in a context where Turkey recently shot down a Syrian warplane in the border region, and where the Erdogan government has been gradually pushing Syria back to the forefront of the national agenda.
Of course, Erdogan is hardly the first leader to attempt a foreign intervention as a means of distracting the electorate from growing political scandals or to consolidate public support—especially in the leadup to important elections (in this case, viewed widely as a referendum on Erdogan and the AKP). But hopefully, the fact that this conspiracy has been exposed may prevent it from coming to fruition.
But maybe not.
Israel has also been taking increasingly aggressive actions against Syrian government forces—apparently angling for an escalation as well (although the purpose of an Israeli intervention would be to purge Hezbollah from Syria and likely Lebanon). The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is visiting Israel to coordinate action in Syria—and at a time when the United States is also ramping up support for the Syrian rebels and exploring “new options” for involvement in the theater.
It seems as though the U.S. and its regional allies, including Israel, Turkey and the Gulf States, are intent on perpetuating and escalating the conflict which is, at the moment, slowly winding down. Accordingly, it seems unlikely that this turn of events will be sufficient to derail the coalition’s broader ambitions–although, God willing, the leaks may generate greater skepticism and resistance from the public, in Turkey and abroad.
A version of this article was originally published by SISMEC.