Explaining everything through intelligence plots is rightly understood as engaging in conspiracy theories. But perceiving the world’s political situation as an open society or a bed of roses completely devoid of any intelligence agency plots, if not a display of naïve belief in human goodness, at least should be understood as the least-known conspiracy theory.
For the most recent example we can look at a headline report published by Haberturk daily in 2013, which did not receive much notice. Actually our society has had its fill of “eavesdropped walkie-talkie conversation between two PKK militants exposes a sinister plot”-type news reports. Similar to the “Kandil was leveled” reports, these sorts of news items no longer receive much regard since everyone knows they’re just bad propaganda pieces.
On the other hand, this particular item was quite eye-opening not only in terms of the Syrian issue but also in terms of illustrating the current media situation. The topic of the report was a conversation, recorded by the MIT (the Turkish National Intelligence Organization), between two Syrian individuals in charge of the PKK’s Syrian operations:
Nurettin Sofi: Russia insists on now.
Şahin Cilo: Okay.
Nurettin Sofi: They say that our agency should state that, according to the information received, there are chemicals in the weapons delivered to its opponents by Turkey.
Şahin Cilo: So we should make this news in a different way, not as an agency but maybe in another way.
Nurettin Sofi: To be honest, if we blame this on the Turks, we’re going to end up having trouble with them.
Sahin Cilo: I mean we can try to do it like this; first, this news can be issued on a website on the Internet so everyone can access it.
Nurettin Sofi: They’ve asked “Şişko” for this twice. They said that he can even meet with our father. They can send the letter so that he can help them with the letter. But you should only say this, it has a historical significance.
The conversation goes in this manner. According to the Habertürk report, “Şişko” is Syrian Kurdish group PYD’s leader Salih Müslim and the “father” promised to be met, is Putin. That’s a big promise. What happened next?
This news was published on 12 September at lekolin.org (the Kurdistan Strategic Research Center) website, the PKK’s own version of ODA TV, accompanied by the document, in exactly the manner Şahin Cilo had suggested. According to the news item published by lekolin.org titled “the aid to Al-Qaida against PYD,” which had been already presented to the interior minister before the governor, and ignoring normal political procedures, even showed the courage to make the foreign affairs minister say the documents belonged to the PKK. The reports claim that the MIT and Al-Nusra met and reached an agreement in Antep, a city in the western part of Turkey`s southeast. According to the report, the MIT agreed to provide Nusra and the Free Syrian Army with chemical weapons in a document that contained some absurd items like “the Nusra Front Sharia Committee states that in the name of overthrowing the [Assad] regime the use of all devices, including chemical weapons, is allowed.”
The news on lekolin.org was first disclosed to the press by Firat News Agency after several hours, and then by the PYD’s website, PYDROJAVA, as Cilo had instructed. This “news” commissioned by Russian intelligence reached a lot of customers in Turkey. The site “Yakin Dogu,” a pro-Assad regime site, translated this “important” document from Arabic to Turkish so that Turkish-language speakers could read it. Following that, ODA TV, known for its Kemalist, even ulusalcı (“patriotic-leftist”) point of view, reported the document as a newsflash, which is to be expected. Many well-known journalists and “Middle East experts” shared the news, as well as other newspapers. News sites like Sol, Aydinlik, Yurt, Gazeteport, Gazetevatan, and the pro-PKK Özgür Gündem also used this news.
Furthermore, in an amazing coincidence, the exact same day that the lekolin.org news appeared, the indictment for an Al-Qaida case in Adana was leaked to the press. According to this indictment, the Al-Nusra and Ahrar-i Damascus organizations tried to buy sarin gas from the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, which is the Turkish state’s weapons-manufacturing company. This news immediately became headlines in all of the anti-AKP newspapers, and the chemical attack carried out the same week in Syria was linked to Turkey by some papers.
On the 18th of September , the Russian ambassador, talking at the UN Security Council gathering concerning the Guta chemical attack, claimed that the attack was not carried out by Assad; instead he claimed, using the press reports mentioned above as proof, that it was a provocation. Syria, again using the same reports, reported the Turkish government to the UN. This news, planted by Russian intelligence in friendly websites and papers, was subsequently spread to the world by Turkish and Kurdish news sources.
In other words, the Russians pressured Turkey with news reports they had commissioned, both through the Turkish press and Turkish prosecutors? And that’s not all. The indictment for the May 2013 Al-Qaida case coming to light the same day might have been just a coincidence.
So let’s conclude by reviewing dates. The date of the Guta chemical attack was August 20, and the conversation between two PKK members, according to the news, was at the beginning of September. The news item and the indictment appeared on 12 September. The Russian ambassador spoke at the UN on the 18th of September.
I wish everything were just a conspiracy theory. The moral of the story: in this country, trying to solve the Kurdish problem, being a journalist, and maintaining an ethical stance is back-breaking work.
(originally published on 9 December 2013 in Türkiye Gazetesi)