Yes, Batman. Not the caped screen hero. Instead,
we’re talking about the city of the same name, located in
Turkey’s southeastern region. It is where Turkey’s state-owned
oil industry is centered.
Batman is also
where the oil smuggling routes run by the Islamic State terror
network are centered, according to surveillance images released
this week by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Air reconnaissance photos show thousands of
trucks running stolen oil from Syrian state-owned fields in the
east of the country converging on the Turkish city of Batman,
near the Syrian border.
The oil smuggling operation has been going for
at least two years since the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror
group took over the oilfields in eastern Syria near the city of
Deir Ezzor. The illicit trade is reckoned to have been earning
the jihadists up to $3 million a day to help fund their war
against the Syrian government of President Assad.
But smuggled oil needs a buyer for the
enterprise to work. Enter Turkey. This week, before the latest
data release from the Russian Ministry of Defense, President
Vladimir Putin repeated claims that Turkish authorities were
involved in facilitating the terrorist oil trade. Putin told
world leaders at the Paris climate change conference that this
was a factor in why Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian
fighter jet last week, with the loss of the pilot’s life and
that of another serviceman during a follow-up rescue mission.
Erdogan reacted angrily to the claim, dismissing it as
“slander”. Erdogan testily put the challenge to Russia to
present its proof.
“The accusation that Turkey allegedly buys
crude oil from Islamic State is unacceptable, and to say it is
amoral,” said Erdogan.
“You can’t just say things, you need to present
evidence. If documents exist — let’s see them. If this fact is
proven, I will not stay in my position.”
If Erdogan is a man of his word, which is
doubtful, then he should start packing his bags. Right now.
The evidence presented by Russia’s military
high command shows beyond any doubt that Turkey is central to
Islamic State’s illegal oil trade and thus the terror group’s
ability to fund its violence.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly
Antonov didn’t mince words about the revelation. He said:
“According to our data, the top political
leadership of the country – President Erdogan and his family –
is involved in this criminal business.”
What is particularly incriminating from the
Russian data is that the east Syrian oil route operated by IS is
destined for the Turkish city of Batman. Batman is the heart of
the Turk oil industry. It is where the country’s biggest
oilfield is located and where major refineries are based.
From Batman there is a 500-kilometre pipeline
running westwards to the Mediterranean port cities of Dortyol
and Ceyhan, both located in the Gulf of Iskenderun. The
pipeline, which has a capacity to supply up to 30 million
barrels of crude oil a year, is owned and operated by Turkey’s
state-owned BOTAS Petroleum Corporation.
The port of Ceyhan is where the licensed
shipping company BMZ owned by President Erdogan’s son Bilal and
other family members is based. BMZ is a big Turkish player in
the global oil trade.
Significantly, Turkish newspaper Today's
in September this year that Erdogan’s BMZ spent $36 million in
acquiring two new oil tankers to bring its total fleet to five.
The ships are believed to ferry much of their crude oil cargos
to Japan and other Asian countries. Business is booming and it’s
Putin had earlier responded to Erdogan’s
denials of collusion in terrorist oil smuggling by saying that
“it is hard to imagine how the Turkish
authorities could not be aware of the industrial-scale transport
of oil across its border.”
But now Russian aerial images have presented a
complete picture of how this massive oil supply is being routed
through Turkey with state-owned companies.
The personal complicity of Erdogan through his
family shipping business makes his resignation unquestionable.
Furthermore, the Turkish president should face prosecution for
gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes.
Surely, the Americans must know about the
industrial-scale oil smuggling routes? For more than a year,
since the US began bombing raids on Syria, allegedly against the
Islamic State terror network, the oil smuggling has been
This week, General Joseph Dunford, the
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told
a Congressional committee that it was only in the last two
months that the Pentagon got serious with airstrikes on IS oil
routes. He admitted that for more than a year, the Pentagon
hadn’t bothered because it wasn’t communicating sufficiently
with the State Department. Dunford and the US Defense Secretary
Ashton Carter, who was also giving evidence to the same
committee, both claimed that the decision not to strike oil
trucks run by terrorists was to taken in order to
“avoid civilian casualties.”
That explanation does not stack up. The fact
is, as Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General
Sergey Rudskoy said; the US has done little to nothing to halt
the terror oil trade out of Syria. Russia, by contrast, has
destroyed dozens of oil processing facilities and over 1,000
trucks since it began its military intervention less than two
months ago – wholesale damage that has cut terror smuggling
revenues by 50 percent, according to the Russian military.
Now that Russia has presented a damning
picture of how Islamic State and other jihadist terror groups
have been financing their terror campaign in Syria a ball of
questions is in the US court.
Turkey is a member of the US-led NATO military
alliance, the organization supposedly responsible for
maintaining security and defense in Europe. Turkey must surely
be kicked out of NATO for its role in sponsoring terrorism.
How can France, in particular, remain in the same military
alliance with a country that is financing terror groups that
were involved in a mass killing on the streets of Paris only
three weeks ago?
But Washington and its allies have much more
to answer for. Oil convoys heading north into Turkey is just one
half of a giant racket, with the other half involving convoys of
weapons and jihadists fighters heading south into Syria. US and
British military intelligence are implicated in this terror
to American journalist Seymour Hersh.
The weapons supply from Turkey to terror
groups in Syria, with the collusion of Turkish state
intelligence, is coming to light with the
arrest last week of Turkish journalists who have dared to
uncover the state-sponsored oil-for-weapons racket.
Russia’s latest evidence presents a stark
choice. The world can now see who is fueling conflict and
terrorism in Syria and beyond. Turkey is a state sponsor of
terrorism. And other NATO members are also implicated. If legal
sanctions do not follow, then we will know, chillingly, that the
world has descended into gangsterism and barbarism.