By Adam Kredo:
Turkey has become a principal financial hub for terrorists under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has helped Iran skirt sanctions, supported jihadi groups in Syria, and provided financial backing to Hamas, according to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
Turkey, a key U.S. ally, “has turned a blind eye” to terror financing and is potentially on the verge of crossing the line to becoming an official state sponsor of terrorism, according to the Friday report, which cites the Erdogan government’s close ties to some of the world’s top terror organizations and operatives.
The report comes just a day after 84 U.S. lawmakers and former government officialsurged President Barack Obama to confront Erdogan over his harsh repression of political opponents.
As Turkey’s support for terrorism expands, the Obama administration has remained silent out of fear of offending Erdogan, whom the White House considers a strategic asset, according to the report authored by FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Obama administration “has remained on the sidelines, expressing relatively mild concern about the crackdowns on law enforcement officials and the jailing of journalists, while electing not to mention terrorism finance issues publicly,” the report states.
“Washington’s silence stems from fears of a fall-out with Turkey, which has been a crucial ally over the years, and is situated strategically at the intersection of Europe and the Middle East,” according to the report. “But Turkey’s actions constitute a direct challenge to Washington’s sanctions regime.”
The report catalogues in detail Turkey’s cozy relationship with jihadi groups, terrorist operatives, and the Iranian regime.
Last year, “Turkey was involved in a massive sanctions-busting scheme with Tehran,” according to the report. “Now known as ‘gas-for-gold,’ the scheme helped the Iranian regime gain some $13 billion” despite international sanctions meant to stop such deals.
Additionally, over 2,000 Iranian companies are reportedly registered in Turkey, where pro-Erdogan political elites have been accused of facilitating large cash transfers with Tehran.
Turkey’s top intelligence agency is also believed to be working with Iran in a bid to “scuttle intelligence operations” aimed at stopping Iran’s nuke program, according to the report.
Erdogan has also gone to great lengths to bolster extremist rebel groups in Syria, according to the report, which cites “mounting evidence suggests that Turkey has been directly or indirectly arming, training, and even financing Sunni jihadi groups” in the country.
Turkey reportedly sent 47 tons of weapons to Syrian rebels during a six-month period in 2013, according to the report.