Erdogan’s al Nusra Problem

While it was predictable that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would blame the so-called FETO terrorist organization run by cleric Fettulah Gulen in his Pennsylvania compound for the assissination of the Russsian ambassador earlier this week, he knows that he badly needs to keep the truth from his own countrymen. Within hours of the , DEBKA Files, a news organization closely associated with Israeli intelligence reported that wasn’t the case:

The 22-year old Turkish special operations police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, who assassinated Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara Monday, Dec. 12, was a member of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch. Atlintas approached the ambassador as he gave a speech opening a photo exhibit in the Turkish capital and shot him in the back five times. After yelling “We die in Aleppo, you die here,” he recited sentences from an Arabic prayer which are Nusra’s anthem. He went on shouting “We made an oath to die in martyrdom…it is revenge for Syria and Aleppo.”

The Russian probably agree as Russian President Vladimir Putin dryly commented that “we don’t know yet who is responsible.” Al Nusra claimed responsibility themselves yesterday.

As Erdogan controls the media in Turkey, his own people will raise their eyebrows if they find out it was al Nusra – and not the Gulenists – who killed the ambassador. They are well aware that Erdogan was soft on al Nusra earlier this year in June.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the European Union (EU) for not designating the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as “terrorist,” and said “So al-Nusra [Front] is also fighting Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)], then why do you call it a terrorist organization?”

Erdoğan made the remarks during his speech following an iftar –dinner for breaking fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan- held for nongovernmental organizations on Tuesday night at the presidential palace. The president accused  the EU of hypocrisy in terms of terrorism.

Erdoğan had made a similar statement back in February 2016. “Al-Nusra is fighting against Daesh as well. Why are you calling it bad? Al-Nusra is bad but PYD and YPG [Kurdish Peoples’ Defense Units, the armed wing of PYD] are good. The issue is different. Because al-Nusra’s position is different, [they are being differed as] good terrorists and bad terrorists,” Erdoğan had said.

Syrian radical group Al-Nusra is designated as a “terrorist organization” by Turkey, as well as the United States (US), United Nations (UN) and many countries.

In October, Erdogan went so far as to imply he had “influence” over al Nusra in Syria. From Turkish Minute in October:

In a move that came as confirmation of his influence on radical Syrian group the al-Nusra Front, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Russian President Vladimir Putin sought his assistance in clearing al-Nusra militants from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Al-Nusra, which is linked to terror group al-Qaeda, is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, as well as the United States, the UN and many other countries.

“We had a phone conversation with Mr. Putin yesterday [Tuesday] evening. We talked about Aleppo. He said they stopped aerial bombardment there as of 10 p.m. He made a request [to me for my assistance] in the eviction of al-Nusra from there. I gave the necessary orders to my fellows on this issue,” said Erdoğan, adding that Turkey and Russia reached an agreement to take al-Nusra out of Aleppo for the peace of the people of Aleppo.

Erdoğan’s remarks came during one of his regular meetings with muhtars, or neighborhood heads, at the presidential palace in Ankara on Wednesday.

The Turkish government and Erdoğan are frequently accused of supporting radical groups in Syria to ensure the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

According to this BBC report from December 15, about 30 percent of the fighters left in besieged city of Aleppo were al Nusra jihadists. Along with 50,00o trapped civilians they were allowed to leave after the phone call between Putin and Erdogan.

So Erdogan has to keep the Big Lie alive in his own country as it would be quite clear to the Turkish people that he was using a jihadist group with ties to al Qaeda for domestic political gain. His position is complicated further by the reality that his new BFF in Putin is letting him twist in the wind by not supporting his Gulenist narrative.



About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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