Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during an official visit to Iran on January 28-29, 2014
Benjamin Weinthal of The Jerusalem Postreported yesterday about revelations that an Iranian backed terrorists group has strong ties with Turkey’s ruling AKP party.
Citing the work of counter-intelligence expert John Schindler, Weinthal writes that the “dismissal of an investigation into an Iranian-linked terrorist group” suggested that “[t]he decision to pull the plug on the investigation had to have come ‘from the highest level of government.'” Though secular opponents of the government opposed the decision to drop the case, they were unable to gain any traction.
“Ali Fuat Yılmazer, former head of the Istanbul police’s intelligence unit, conducted an extensive investigation that revealed Tawhid-Salam had penetrated the Turkish government and the AKP at the highest levels, and was a tool of the Pasdaran. For this, he was thrown in jail on trumped-up charges,” he said.
Pasdaran is an informal name for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Schindler continued, “Tawhid-Salam, which also goes by the revealing name ‘Jerusalem Army,’ has long been believed to be a front for Iranian intelligence, particularly its most feared component, the elite Quds [“Jerusalem”] Force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which handles covert action abroad.”
Schindler recounted the terror group’s record to Weinthal, noting that “Tawhid-Salam goes back to the mid-1990s and has been blamed for several terrorist incidents, including the 2011 bombing of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, which wounded several people, as well as a thwarted bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, in early 2012… It also is believed to be behind the murders of several anti-Tehran activists in Turkey in the 1990s.”
However, the ties between Turkey and Tawhid-Salam go beyond the latter’s support of terror. “Tawhid-Salam operatives have been observed surveilling an important NATO radar base in Turkey, a sensitive site that monitors possible Iranian missile launches,” according to Schindler.
Turkey’s ties to Iran aren’t limited to matters of intelligence and terror. In Where the Shadiest Players Find a Home, published in the September 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Schanzer recounts:
Turkey also engaged in 2012 and 2013 in a sanctions-busting scheme with Iran. Amidst global financial pressure to convince Iran’s leadership to dismantle its illicit nuclear program, Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank was executing “gas-for-gold” transactions with Iran, and helping Tehran circumvent sanctions. At the time, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan unabashedly admitted, Turkey’s “gold exports [to Iran] end up like payments for our natural gas purchases.”
The sale of gold was technically legal because the gold was going to individuals, not the government of Iran. And trade with individuals was not, at the time, in violation of sanctions. But it was undeniable that the Turks were violating the spirit of the sanctions regime. … According to a report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics, “Iran’s golden loophole” allowed Iran to receive over $13 billion before gas-for-gold slowed to a trickle.