Turkish border smuggling thrives under IS

Article Summary
While Turkey’s official exports to Iraq and Syria declined due to the Islamic State, trade with regions under the organization's control is growing.

The security crisis that peaked with the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (IS) has also negatively affected Turkey’s trade, especially with Iraq. Turkey has lost most of its regional market due to the war in Syria, including about 50% of its exports with Iraq. Exports to the Kurdistan Regional Government have decreased by 40%, and investments there have practically ceased. At $12 billion [in annual trade] and 700,000 truck trips a year, Iraq was Turkey’s No. 2 export market before the IS threat.

Although Turkey’s official trade with Iraq and Syria has been badly hit, an increase in trade with IS-controlled regions has drawn attention. The Syrian town of Azaz, located opposite Turkey's Kilis, came under IS control in September 2013. The volume of trade at the area's Oncupinar border crossing doubled after IS imposed its rule.

Monthly export figures at this crossing before the IS takeover were: January, $46,815,000; February, $61,994,000; March, $69,616,000; April, $75,258,000; May, $62,436,000; June, $57,446,000; July, $60,819,000; and August, $434,384,000.

Corresponding figures for 2014 under IS control increased by 79%, including: January, $96,808,000; February, $112,050,000; March, $138,280,000; April, $106,506,000; May, $113,313,000; June, $111,193,000; July, $100,489,000; and August, $778,639,000.

Accusations that Turkey was arming IS peaked as trucks going to Adana were stopped. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government covered up the incident by imposing a reporting ban. Then came foreign media reports that IS was selling oil to Turkey. The United Nations passed a resolution recently, warning countries that buying oil from IS means they would be financing terror. Nobody really knows where IS is acquiring the logistical support for its high-mobility operations.

The intensive activity at the border crossings in IS-dominated areas indicates that guns and other needs are procured from Turkey. IS reportedly purchased its pickup trucks from Turkey. Turkish police seized the organization's medical supplies as contraband.

Mahmut Tanal, a deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party, asked Interior Minister Efkan Ala about reports of IS profiting from smuggling. He asked, “Have we taken measures to cut the logistical support to IS and Jabhat al-Nusra? Are we planning any measures to do so? If not, why? What are the measures your ministry has taken in compliance with the UN Security Council decision calling for measures against IS, including disrupting flow of foreign militants and their access to financial resources and warning of sanctions against countries violating this resolution?”

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Found in: turkey, trade, smuggling, islamic state
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