Notes From the Margins…

Turkey’s False Flag

  • March 30, 2014
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No matter how many countries are shattered, no matter how many times the consequences of ‘humanitarian interventions’ fail to live up to their expectations, nothing seems to shake the fairytale version of Western foreign policy that is retold again and again by politicians and the media.

This week for example, the centre-left New Statesman has a horrendous front cover showing a slavering Russian bear embracing the world in its claws, with the headline ‘Time to Rearm?’   And The Observer has a hand-wringing article which seeks to resurrect the discredited ‘Blair doctrine’ of humanitarian intervention once again in Syria.

Both discussions exude the same familiar assumptions, namely

  • The world is divided into good guys and bad guys.   The former category consists of western governments and their allies, whether taken individually or collectively as members of the ‘international community’.
  • On the other side there are assorted dictatorships, authoritarian and undemocratic states, terrorists, jihadists, and gangster states like Russia.
  • In this world the west is always innocent and always benign.   It has no aggressive intentions.  It does not engage in realpolitik.   Its foreign policy is guided almost exclusively by moral principles.    It has no geostrategic or economic interests.   Sordid preoccupations such as oil reserves, energy resources and pipeline routes do not interest us.
  • From these foundations, it is taken for granted that the west does not engage in ‘regime change’ or any other political outcomes to suit its geopolitical priorities, and nor do our allies, and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of ‘conspiracy theory.’
  • This benevolence is particularly striking in regard to terrorism.  The west, according to the fairytale, does not engage in terrorism or ‘talk to terrorists’, and it does not enter into alliances with states that promote or engage in terrorist activity.

From time to time evidence emerges to challenge these assumptions.   This week, for example, Turkey’s beleaguered Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been engaged in a futile and counterproductive attempt to ban Youtube and Twitter.

Erdogan did this after leaked Youtube posts revealed a recent conversation between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and a number of high-ranking Turkish officials earlier this year, discussing weapons shipments to Syrian rebels and the possibility of carrying out a faked an al-Qaeda attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, founder of the Ottoman Empire, in Syria, in order to justify a military invasion with tanks and special forces.

The authenticity of the recording has not been verified, but nor have I heard any evidence to suggest that it is not authentic.     It is not clear when this conversation took place, but its participants included intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, army deputy chief of staff Yasar Guler, and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, and there is no doubt about their intentions.

Discussing the plan, Sinirlioglu says ‘We’re going to portray this as Al-Qaeda, there’s no distress there if it is a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.‘

To which Guler replies, ‘We don”t have any problems with that.’

Prime Minister Erdogan also appears to be aware of the planning for this operation, according to the following exchange:


Davetoglu:    Just between us, Prime Minister said that this (attacking the Tomb of Suleyman Sah) should also be considered as an opportunity in this conjuncture.’

Hakan: Sir, look, if the justification- we can- I can send four men to the other side, and make them fire 8 missiles to deserted territory. It is not a problem! Justification can be created.

It certainly can if the will is there.   Faking such an incident is clearly so normal for Erdogan’s cronies that the morality of it doesn’t even emerge as an issue to be discussed.   The only problem lies in its follow-up strategy and doability, according to Guler, who worries that ‘We cannot implement the decision, we are paralyzed for various reasons, this is our problem Mr. Minister. The apparatus of the state is not working’.

And then there are other protagonists to consider, as this exchange makes clear:

Ahmet Davutolu: Yes, we will pass on to that okay take it and I am coming. You cannot say to the US Secretary of State, ‘we need to take strong measures.’

Hakan Fidan: Well, sir, what I am saying is-

Ahmet Davutolu: Then he will say, you did not even defend your own land. We had many friendly conversations, mostly with Kerry and he told me exactly this, did you decide to strike and –

Yaser Guler: Sir, we did, we did a hundred times. With US.

Whether this means that Kerry was actually aware of these particular plans, or whether the US had been actively pressuring Turkey to attack Syria is clear.  You might expect the revelation that a key NATO member has been plotting to fake a terrorist attack to justify a war, with the possible collusion of the world’s greatest democracy to be at least worthy of further analysis and discussion.

But with the exception of Reuters, this leak has barely aroused any attention at all.   And why should it?     Because fairytales about knights and dragons may not be true, but as every child knows, they are so much nicer than reality.

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  1. Carrie

    30th Mar 2014 - 6:00 pm

    Listen to Saturday’s Radio Four Today programme [] Turkey item starts at 1:10:00 however most important bit from 1:14:00 – Turkish MP. He indicates (about 1:16:00) that the meeting from which the tape(s) were leaked took place two days ago, which would be 26 or 27 March. BBC’s Mishal Husain ignores the statement; either she has no idea about the ‘false flag’ leak or chooses to ignore. Whatever the exact date of the ‘leaked’ meeting, it would seem to have happened and to be recent. ( has quite a bit on this topic too.)

    • Matt

      30th Mar 2014 - 7:23 pm

      Thanks for these links Carrie. Yes, Husain doesn’t address the content whatsoever does she? Even when the MP specifically mentions the meeting that went out on the Youtube tape. As you say, either she was badly-prepared (odd, given how easy it is to find transcripts) or she chose not to delve into them. Instead it became a debate about the Turkish government’s willingness to tolerate free speech, and the MP driveling on about social media regulation. And your average listener would suppose the whole business is about Erdogan’s willingness to tolerate ‘criticism’ – even when the whole point of banning twitter was to bad actual references to leaked conversations implicating his administration in high-level corruption! And they call this journalism!

  2. Carrie

    30th Mar 2014 - 7:51 pm

    “And they call this journalism!” Unfortunately the Today prog seems now to be ‘agenda’ driven – as are large swathes of Radio 4. In reporting the tragedy of the Somerset Levels, Farming Today has barely bothered to conceal it’s Enviro/RSPB/Common Ground bias.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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