ISIS fighters routinely obtained medical treatment in Turkish hospitals across the border. The Turkish government also supplied water to the terror group and allowed it to sell tens of millions of dollars of oil via Turkey.
“We negotiated to send our fighters to the hospitals [in Turkey]”, said Abu Mansour. “There was facilitation — they didn’t look at the passports of those coming for treatment. It was always an open gate. If we had an ambulance we could cross without question. We could cross [into Turkey] at many places. They don’t ask about official identities. We just have to let them know.”
Turkish state intelligence was intimately involved in this process, he claimed:
The MIT was made aware of every critical situation and they sent the ambulances to the border. There were also hospitals close to the border. Those who received critical care were treated there and they [the MIT] sent the others all over Turkey depending on their needs. There were very interested doctors, Syrian and Turkish, who wanted to help. So, if there were not facilities to serve them on the border, they would be sent further into Turkey for this.”
Medical bills were largely paid for by ISIS, but “some Turkish public hospitals took these fighters for free. It was not only for our fighters but also for the victims of bombings. I don’t know how many were treated in Turkey, but it was routine… I just know this agreement to open the gates for our wounded and that there were ambulances sent for them. It was a ‘state- to- state’ agreement regarding our wounded. I negotiated these agreements. For the wounded, medical and other supplies to pass, and I negotiated about water also, the Euphrates.”
Water supplied by Turkey allowed ISIS to farm and even generate electricity from dams:
Actually we [Syria] had an agreement with Turkey for 400 cubic meters per second [of water] into Syria. After the revolution, they started to decrease the quantity of water to 150 cubic meters per second. After our negotiations [in 2014] it returned to 400. We needed it for electrical power and as a vital source of living.”
ISIS water agreement with Turkey “took a long time to negotiate,” according to Abu Mansour. In return, ISIS gave the Turkish government guarantees that the country would be “safe and stable” from ISIS attack. “In negotiations, I could not say I would attack Turkey. This is the language of gangs, but I would say we will try to keep Turkey from the field battle, we will not see Turkey as an enemy. They understood what we are talking about. We said many times, ‘You are not our enemy and not our friend.’”
Abu Mansour further claimed Turkey was the primary conduit for ISIS oil sales: “Most of the Syrian oil was going to Turkey, and just small amounts went to the Bashar regime…. This happened spontaneously. There are many traders to do that and Turkey was the only market in which to send oil. Their traders paid for the oil that went into Turkey.”
Most of these deals occurred via Turkish middleman who were sanctioned by the authorities:
Oil that went to the Syrian government — some went by pipes, some by trucks. Oil sent by Dawlah [ISIS] to Turkey was arranged by traders from Turkey who came to take the oil with our permissions. Traders came from the Syrian side also.”
Oil sales via Turkey, Abu Mansour confirmed, were instrumental in bankrolling ISIS’ military onslaught. “In Syria the oil was enough to pay for the weapons and everything needed,” he said. “[Our oil revenues] were more than 14 million dollars per month and half of this oil money is more than enough to pay for everything needed for our weapons expenditures.”
These claims lend credence to an earlier investigation by INSURGE into ISIS oil sales which raised questions not just about Turkish state complicity, but also that of a number of Iraqi Kurdish and Western companies.
However, Abu Mansour denied that ISIS received weapons or funding directly from Turkey. Instead he claimed that weapons were routinely obtained by ISIS from sources inside armed opposition groups: “Anti-government Syrian people provided us with weapons; many mafias and groups traded weapons to us.”
A familiar story
Abu Mansour’s claims about Turkish military intelligence’s direct support for ISIS have been corroborated by other sources. In 2016, I interviewed Ahmet Sait Yayla, Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Division of Turkish National Police between 2010 and 2012, who went on to become Chief of the Public Order and Crime Prevention Division until 2014.
Yayla told me in extensive detail how he had witnessed first-hand that his own police counter-terrorism operations were scuppered due to Turkish intelligence liaisons which protected ISIS fighters, routinely granted them free passage in and out of Turkey, and provided them medical treatment in Turkish hospitals.
He had however gone much further in describing how he had seen evidence of direct Turkish military and financial sponsorship for some ISIS operations. Yayla’s detailed testimony suggests that Abu Mansour’s role as chief negotiator with Turkish intelligence did not cover certain key strategic issues such as direct military and financial support, which would explain why Abu Mansour was not aware of it.
My story on Yayla was banned in a Turkish court order last year sent to US tech and social media companies.
INSURGE previously reported other emerging evidence from Western intelligence sources indicating Turkish state complicity in the expansion of ISIS across Syria.
The new revelations reinforce questions about why Western governments have ignored the evidence of state-sponsorship of ISIS — within NATO no less — despite international laws requiring firm action against entities found to be supporting terrorism.
The double game
In 2014, Abu Mansour alleges that Turkey was allowing foreign fighters into Syria while pretending to take measures against them:
Turkey wanted to make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the borders… They just want to control, they need to be known, and how they enter, so they ask me to tell who has entered and where. Actually, the Turkish side said, ‘You should reduce, change the way you do it, the way you cross. For example, don’t come with a group to enter because it’s clear that a bunch of people entered. Enter only specific gates. Come without any weapons. Don’t come with long beards. Your entry from north to south should be hidden as much as possible.’”
Once again, Turkish intelligence was directly involved: “[In 2014,] they opened some legal gates under the eye of Turkish intel that our people went in and out through. But, entry into Syria was easier than return to Turkey. Turkey controlled the movements.”
ISIS terrorist attacks in Turkey orchestrated by Turkish MIT agents?
Perhaps Abu Mansour’s most controversial claim is that ISIS attacks inside Turkey — on Istanbul airport, at the Reina nightclub and on the streets in Ankara and Istanbul — were not in ISIS’ own interests, but were likely carried out under the orders of Turkish intelligence officers who had infiltrated ISIS:
The ISIS external emni ordered it. And I think that there were Turkish MIT guys inside the external emni. I suspected that the striking at the airport was not for the benefit of IS, but Turkish groups of IS who wanted to strike Turkey, or they were affected by other agencies that don’t want a relationship between Dawlah and Turkey. It makes no sense, otherwise, because most of our people came through that airport.”
His explanation for this is that the orders for the attack did not come from ISIS leadership proper, but from Turkish MIT officers:
These orders for these attacks in Turkey were from those MIT guys inside Dawlah but not from our political side. They didn’t want to destroy Erdogan, just change his road in the matter of the Syrian issue. They wanted him to use his army to attack Syria, and to attack Dawlah. The airport attack makes a good excuse for him to come into Syria.”
To be sure, there is no way to independently verify Abu Mansour’s extraordinary allegations against Turkish state intelligence, but they are partly corroborated by the claims of another former ISIS operative, Savas Yildas, who was captured by the YPG during the ISIS attack on the Kurdish province of Gire Spi (Tel Abyad) in Syria. Abu Mansour added that during his imprisonment in Kurdish YPG prisons, he had heard “that the Turkish government, after they were in Raqqa, took 40 persons out that were part of Turkish security agencies.”
The new revelations contradict years of a conventional narrative which has portrayed ISIS as a spontaneous movement erupting without significant state support.
Turkey is hardly the only state which Western intelligence agencies knew were financing ISIS — others include Saudi Arabia and Qatar.