Turkey and Saudi Arabia accused of facilitating ISIS operations

“A number of US allies allowed their citizens to send money or volunteer with little interference, at times bordering on regime complicity. When the organization [IS] established itself in Syria a decade later, key US regional partners like Turkey facilitated the flow of fighters and logistical support in the hopes of expediting the overthrow of the Assad regime. Without the relatively permissive environments in these states, the Islamic State would have been far weaker and fighting it much easier.”

Byman’s analysis corroborates my previous reporting on evidence that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have at various times supported Islamist militant groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which went on to metamorphose into ISIS.

Two years ago, a declassified Pentagon intelligence report from 2012 revealed not only that the US government had been aware of the policy of its allies at the time, but seemed to approve of the strategy despite anticipating that it might culminate in the appearance of an IS-type entity.

In the Byman paper, however, Turkey comes in for the most detailed criticism. Noting that Turkey aggressively targeted al-Qaeda through 2012, the paper observes that “this policy changed as the Syrian civil war heated up and Ankara sought to both overthrow the government in Damascus and prevent the emergence of a strong Kurdish group.”

Byman asserts that Turkey under President Erdogan quite deliberately sponsored Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda, in its bid to oust Assad. In the early years of the war, Ankara “sought to bolster forces, including jihadists, seeking [Assad’s] overthrow. Turkey also encouraged jihadists to attack Kurdish forces in Syria.”
Turkey has also been accused of funding ISIS through the purchase of its stolen oil.  It also opposed the US supported Kurdish resistance that wound up being a key factor in the defeat of ISIS.   If the Saudis were involved it was probably through allowing some of their citizens to join the ranks of ISIS.


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