SPECKHARD: As Turkey’s Erdogan Visits White House, Remember He Is No Friend To US


Anne Speckhard International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism
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“Will Erdogan’s thugs try to hurt me?” was my first question upon being invited to speak at a rally in front of the White House during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s upcoming visit. The rally is to halt Turkey’s attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), our allies in northeastern Syria who are fighting ISIS. Turkey has displaced over 160,000 Syrians and killed at least 90 civilians, including women and children.

It isn’t a foolish question, given that the last time Erdogan visited Washington, Turkish security “officers” harmed several U.S. federal agents, and at least one D.C. policeman was punched in the nose causing massive blood flow. Another melee occurred when members of his security detail roughed up demonstrators and attempted to evict Turkish journalists from attending his speech. Strobe Talbott, president of Brookings, was so upset that he personally went out to escort the journalists back into the building and it was reported that he even threatened to cancel Erdogan’s talk if his thugs didn’t stand down.

This is nothing compared to what is going on in Turkey and just across the border in northeast Syria. Since the 2016 so-called “coup,” Erdogan’s security apparatus has basically shut down free press and arrested and removed from their jobs more than 100,000 of its own citizens, including any journalists who dare to speak out against his dictatorial tendencies. In recent weeks anyone who refers to the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria as an invasion also risks arrest. One of my Tweets showing a small boy lying face down on rubble asking if this child is one of the PKK terrorists Erdogan wanted to kill is being blocked by a Turkish court — along with other Tweets from American experts asking similar questions.

Turkey, a member of NATO, recently breached the sovereign boundaries of Syria while equipping and paying for an army of thugs who embrace ISIS ideology to attack the Syrian Kurds. Erdogan is attacking our trusted ally. The Kurds lost 11,000 members defeating ISIS territorially and were peacefully and democratically ruling the area it won back from ISIS — until Turkey’s recent invasion. He calls these Kurds terrorists. But to name anyone who speaks out against them as a terrorist and enemy of the state is a common tactic of dictatorial regimes.

In that regard I can identify, as I was recently disinvited from being a speaker at the NATO Centre of Excellence in Ankara when Turkish officials realized I had questioned the seemingly manufactured coup and the subsequent mass arrests that resulted in Erdogan consolidating power. I was labeled a Gulenist, which equates to terrorist in Turkey, and I was warned by the U.S. embassy that they could do nothing to protect me from being arrested and possibly held for months if I traveled to Turkey.

I also learned that three high-level Turkish military members were being investigated for having invited me. I served as the first NATO chair of the Research Task Group on Psycho-Social and Cultural Aspects of Terrorism, as well as an expert for numerous other NATO counterterrorism initiatives, as well as having spoken countless times as a counter terrorism expert both at the NATO Centre of Excellence in Ankara and for NATO around the world. I might also mention that I am married to a now retired U.S. ambassador and have worked with Turks, both in the diplomatic corps and outside of it, many times over my career. But during this reign of Erdogan, as I speak out against brutality and misuse of power in Turkey, I’m a terrorist.

So be it. But in the spirit of fair play, let us name some of the things that Erdogan is guilty of. I have interviewed over 200 former ISIS cadres over the past three years and time and again they’ve recounted Turkey’s complicity with ISIS.

The porous Turkish border was the gateway for the 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries streaming into Syria to join ISIS. Turkey aided and abetted this terrorism, believing militant jihadist groups, including ISIS, could create a bulwark against the Kurds and even destroy them. One ISIS emir I interviewed in March of 2019 spoke of high-level negotiations he held on behalf of ISIS, with the Turkish intelligence organization (MIT) and Turkey’s military.

According to him, ISIS delegations were even hosted in Ankara, where agreements were made about how to hide foreign fighters crossing into Syria, hide the treatment of wounded ISIS fighters in Turkey, and hide how Turkey maintained levels of water in the Euphrates River to allow ISIS to generate electricity via the Tabqa Dam.

Even today, Turkey plays a double game, having agreed to a ceasefire it continues to violate with unabated drone, mortar and bombing attacks. A Turkish air strike recently hit American retired U.S. Ranger, Dave Eubank’s team, killing one of his teammates and wounding another. Turkish backed militants also recently dragged a Syrian Kurdish politician from her car and assassinated her. They also filmed themselves trampling the body of a Kurdish soldier’s body while calling her a prostitute and dog. She had been a fighter with the YPJ (People’s Protection Unit) and very likely was one of the brave soldiers who faced down ISIS.

Erdogan is busy labeling others as terrorists. It’s high time to name the real purveyor of terror, Erdogan himself.

Anne Speckhard (@AnneSpeckhard), Ph.D., is director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters around the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.