On Jan 1, news broke that a big rig was stopped in the city of Hatay en route to Syria. Initially the focus of the news was on the Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), but savvy observers quickly realized the involvement of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) was the real news. Different sources confirmed that MIT personnel were accompanying the big rig and that they had prevented a police search. Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse deserves credit for accomplishing the difficult task of explaining the complexities of embedded false news, conspiracy theories and facts succinctly of the big rig scandal and other issues on Turkish-Syrian border.
While many pundits have focused on whether foundations such as the IHH are overstepping their boundaries from humanitarian to lethal aid in the Middle East, I have been struggling to understand how the MIT ended up in the midst of this crisis. Observers of Turkish politics cannot miss that since the start of the Syrian civil war in mid-2011, the MIT’s powers have expanded, so much so that many argue the MIT now is in a position to dominate the foreign and defense ministries in Turkey. Careful followers of Erdogan also realize that while talking about Syria, his focus has shifted from the Turkish Foreign Ministry to the MIT. Intriguingly, despite multiple military crisis and terror attacks from the Syrian border, we fail to find crucial statements from the General Staff or the defense minister in the news. One exception perhaps was when Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz explained that the arms sent to Syria were for hunting sports, not for rebels. Since Turkish arms transfers have been registered by the Turkish Statistics Institution (TUIK) and United Nations records, on Jan. 7 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu formally accepted Turkish arms shipments, exclusively to help Turkmen in Syria.