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Turkey’s President Just Made A Promise About ISIS He Probably Can’t Keep

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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President Recep Erdogan of Turkey has claimed he will resign if Russian President Vladimir Putin can prove that Turkey bought oil from ISIS.

The remarks came just after the Turkish downing of a Russian Su-24 along the Turkish-Syrian border. Said Putin: “We have just received additional information proving that unfortunately, large volumes of oil, industrial volumes coming from oil fields controlled by ISIS and other terrorist organizations, enter Turkey’s territory.”

Erdogan has challenged Putin to provide proof, explicitly saying he’ll resign if Russia provides any. But there’s one problem: Turkish border guards have been complicit in ISIS oil smuggling for well over a year.

The Turkish gendarmerie, responsible for guarding the border, is a key part of the ISIS oil smuggling operation. ISIS oil smugglers have described the operation as a matter of simple transaction. Smugglers bring the oil to the border, pay off the Turkish gendarmerie, and sell the oil to black market businessmen. The poorly paid Turkish gendarmerie can make up to $500 for each shipment of smuggled ISIS oil.

The oil smuggling tradition in the Turkish gendarmerie goes back decades. During the infamous Iraqi “Oil for Food” program, where Western countries allowed Saddam Hussein to trade oil in exchange for civilian goods, it was the Turkish gendarmerie that was turning a blind eye to illegally smuggled Iraqi oil that helped fill the coffers of the Hussein regime.

Putin claims that the shooting down of the Su-24 was a retaliatory attack for Russian targeting of ISIS oil smugglers. Though Turkey has made attempts to crack down on the corruption regarding smuggling, it will be difficult to wipe clean a long and lucrative tradition.

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