(RIEAS Junior Analyst and Coordinator at the World Security Network Foundation Southeastern Europe Office)
The past 5 years have witnessed the political dominance of the AKP party (Adalet Ve Kalkinma Partisi) in Turkish politics. Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul are often considered by Western analysts to represent a version of the Christian-Democrats of the European political systems. What is actually happening is a virtual takeover of the state apparatus of Turkey by a new brand of Islamists, albeit not identical with the Middle Eastern ones, but rather of a national Turkish-Ottoman idiosyncrasy.
Around 4,200 public appointments over the past few years have been taken over by Islamists, and another 3,700 averted by the late President Sezer; whilst there is clear evidence of a cash flow from the Middle East to Turkey. The Middle East Quarterly in an article two years ago (1) reported around an abundance of undeclared capital flowing in the country over the past five years that has its social and political ramifications as well. Between 2002 and 2003, the summary balance of payments for net error and omission category—basically unexplained income—increased from $149 million to almost $4 billion.
Further, a 2006 US State Department report (2) states, that Turkish-based contraband traffickers transfer money to pay narcotics suppliers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, reportedly through alternative remittance systems. The funds are transferred to accounts in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern countries. The money is then paid to the Pakistani and Afghan traffickers. The combination of an expanding drug trade originating from Afghanistan, the dramatic undeclared funds import into to Turkey from the Middle East and the Islamization of the state apparatus is a first clear sign of what might come up next.
Also a prominent Erdoğan advisor, named Cuneyd Zapsu has been described by the center-right liberal daily Hürriyet as "Erdoğan's right hand man, and he is also heavily involved in “green money” businesses .Other prominent companies close to Islamist causes, according to Turkish businessmen, journalists, and current and former government officials, include Istikbaland Yimpaş. The former, founded in the Islamist stronghold of Kayseri, owns the Anadolu Finance House, an Islamic bank (3).
Moreover certain connections can be outlined for the financial institutions that are linked to Islamic causes in Turkey, such as the Al Baraka Finance and the link between Faisal Bank (Now named Family Finance) which has its roots in Saudi Arabia and the core of the Islamic elite of that country. The former is linked to Islamic-Balkan affairs. Vakufska Banka (Islamic bank in Bosnia) has several partners in Europe and especially in Turkey, where the bank is above all the main correspondent of Al Baraka Turkish Finance House. Mohamed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, financial head of al-Qaida in Spain, and financier of the Hamburg cell, transferred to UBL Courier for Europe, Mohamed Baiahah (aka Abu Khaled), and $97,000 US on July 2000, through al Baraka Turkish Finance House in Turkey. According to the Spanish police documentation, Muhamed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi used several times Al Baraka Turkish Finance House to transfer money to al-Qaida operatives (4).
Another important element in the overall Islamic framework of modern day Turkish politics is the infamous Yasin Al-Qadi case. Yasin Al-Qadi was designated by the US Treasury Department on October 12, 2001 as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” pursuant to Executive Order 13224. On July 11/2006, Mr. Erdogan publicly vouched for the sincerity of Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi financier identified by both the U.N. and U.S. Treasury Department as an al Qaeda financier (5). In March 2005, Turkish authorities concluded an investigation into Yassin Kadi’s suspected links with al-Qaeda. The Arab News described the probe’s findings: "Turkey’s chief public prosecutor has formally ruled that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Saudi businessman and philanthropist Yassin Abdullah Al-Qadi has had contact with or has assisted the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization"
The probe concluded that, far from being a member or supporter of Al-Qaeda, Al-Qadi was above board and his actions were at all times wholly legitimate. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took no issue with his chief prosecutor’s questionable ruling (6).
Another notable individual in the aforementioned story is Mr. Zapsu, who in 2001 helped Mr. Erdogan found the Justice and Development Party; and has also supported an Islamic charity Mr. Qadi founded that is at the center of the U.S. and Security Council decision to freeze the Saudi businessman’s assets. A Turkish financial-police report seen by The Wall Street Journal found that in the 1990s, "Mr. Zapsu and his mother gave $300,000 to Mr. Qadi’s Muwafaq charity, which U.S. officials labeled a front for al Qaeda shortly after 9/11.”
Moreover “Central Intelligence Agency reports say Muwafaq, now defunct, specialized in purchasing and smuggling arms for Islamic radicals. The U.S. government’s special commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and law-enforcement agencies has cited Saudi-backed Islamic charities as a primary source of funding for al Qaeda.”
Mr. Zapsu also had business ties to two other Islamic banks funded with Saudi capital — Dallah Al Baraka and Dar Al Mal Al Islam — that were accused of supporting al Qaeda in civil suits filed by families of Sept. 11 victims in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Both defendants adamantly denied the allegations, and the court dismissed claims against Al Baraka (7).
Lastly the current President of the Republic, Abdullah Gul was employed as an analyst in the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, between 1983 and 1991, a position that enabled him to get in contact with the inner dealings of the Islamic finance transfers of a global scale. In sort the leadership in Turkey is pretty much aware of the web of transactions of the Islamic financial system, which on their turn, have proved to be interlinked in certain cases with terrorism.
The Kurdish issue is one of the main factors of the Turkish-Syrian-Iranian entente. Unverified but respectable sources point out towards the inclusion of foreign fundamentalist elements into the mainstream Turkish society, that propagate the antithesis to Western values, anti-Semitism and action against Christians as the attacks against priests and Churches have shown in the past. This is being done through the use of unofficial channels of support that originate in foreign capitals and are supported by Islamist circles within Turkey.
There is a substantial list of evidence that Ankara does not feel constrained by its NATO membership and/or Westward orientation to cooperate with Teheran and Damascus. The Middle Eastern culminations which are numerous and certainly alarming will reveal hopefully in the near future a clearer view. The alignment between these three former hostile nations might be attributed to realpolitik (Kurds), or it might imply a greater strategic convergence based on the assumption that the USA will eventually retreat from Iraq. In such a scenario a geopolitical black hole would be created in the center of gravity of the Middle East and these three powers would be more than eager to control.
1) Middle East Quarterly-Winter 2005-, By Michael Rubin, “Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey”, P. 1. Website: http://www.meforum.org/article/684
2) Report (2006) by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
March 2006 USA DEPARTMENT OF STATE. Website: www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2006/vol2/html/62145.htm