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Illicit Oil Trade between Turkey and the KRG: RedHack Revelations

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The deputy director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) Ahmet Yayla writes that “[i]n late September [2016], a Turkish hacker group, RedHack, released the emails of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and the son[-]in[-]law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan [aka the Prez]. Hackers have claimed that they downloaded around 20 gigabytes of data from Albayrak’s email accounts. As the group started to release the emails through social media, controversial issues have been brought to the surface once again. The Turkish government was quick to react, immediately issuing a court order prohibiting the release of the hacked emails and their publication in the media. The issuance of the court order, however, lends credence to the authenticity of the leaked emails. One of the most contentious issues uncovered with the leaked email communications and documents was the transfer of oil controlled by the so[-]called Islamic State and the Erdoğan family’s involvement via a company named Powertrans”.[1]

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Following the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet,[2] a war-of-words ensued between Putin and the Prez, and various accusations hurled back and forth: “Vladimir Putin issued [his accusatory] words to the TASS news agency, the Russian state news agency whose pronouncements used to be so prominent during the Soviet and Cold War era. In response, Tayyip Erdoğan told the 15th Meeting of Municipal Headmen the following: ‘[t]hey say that we are in the midst of an effort to Islamize Turkey. Given that 99% of Turkey[‘s population] is Muslim, how can you make such a statement? Tayyip Erdoğan is a Muslim. [As] 99% of Turks.’ The Turkish President, talking about himself in the third person as is his wont, responded to Putin’s words in a facile and arguably jocular manner sure to elicit a favourable response from his audience and garner sympathy among the wider Turkish public breathlessly sucking up his every word appearing on Turkish TV. Putin’s remark was actually part of a much larger accusatory discourse linking Turkey-under-the-AKP to the Islamic State (or IS/ISIS/ISIL) and its illegitimate oil deals and weapon shipments, a charge Erdoğan dismissed in an equally light-hearted manner, saying that ‘ISIS sells the oil it extracts to Assad. [And t]hat is also where it gets its money from'”.[3] Though the Prez dismissed the Russian President’s charges easily, the Turkish hacker cooperative RedHack now seems to have provided proof positive that the Russians weren’t just inventing stories about an illicit oil trade between Raqqa and Ankara. But, as the relations between Moscow and Ankara have taken another turn for the positive, following early Turkish overtures and Russian support for the AKP-led government in the wake of the Coup-that-was-no-coup, talk of illicit oil flowing between Raqqa and Ankara has now all but dried up.[4] In some detail, Yayla explains that “[b]ased on the Russian satellite images, Islamic State oil entered Turkey via three different paths. The western path involved the transfer of oil from Raqqa through Azaz, a city in northwestern Syria, to Iskenderun port on the Mediterranean. The northern path is a busy one, with oil coming from Deir ezZor and transferred to Turkey by tankers. One satellite image from Oct. 18, 2015 shows 1,722 tankers in a queue carrying oil. The eastern path involved oil from the northeast of Syria transferred to northern Iraq and then sent to Turkey through Cizre, a town near Turkey’s border with Syria. A satellite image from Nov. 14, 2015 shows 1,104 tankers along this route. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stated that over 8,500 tankers transporting up to 200,000 tons of oil used to enter Turkey and Iraq from Islamic State-controlled territories daily. In order for oil to be transported along these routes, a large network of operations must have been set up in Turkey”.[5]

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Since then, the Russians have all but forgotten about accusing Turkey and the Islamic State of complicity, focusing instead on joint anti-terror efforts and renewed cordial relations between the Prez and Putin, including above-board pipeline deals between Moscow and Ankara: “Turkey and Russia on Monday [, 10 Ocotber 2016] signed an inter-governmental agreement on realizing the construction of the planned Turkish Stream gas pipeline to pump Russian gas under Turkish waters in the Black Sea towards Europe. The agreement was signed by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak, in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after their talks in Istanbul”, as reported by the pro-AKP Daily Sabah.[6] And now that Russia and Turkey are back in business, the Turkish hacker team RedHack has been able to prove that Putin’s earlier accusations were indeed based on credible information, as recounted by Ahmet Yayla: “[b]ased on documents released by Redhack, [the company] Powertrans was established by Ahmet Muhassiloglu and Grand Fortune Ventures, and was registered at an Istanbul address. However, soon after Powertrans was established, Muhassiloglu’s shares were sold to a Singaporean company named Lucky Ventures on April 21, 2011. It was later revealed that Grand Fortune Ventures and Lucky Ventures were established as front companies in Singapore on Aug. 8, 2008, and they moved their operations to the British Virgin Islands on Nov. 7, 2009. It was unclear who owned these companies, and therefore who owned Powertrans. Still, Powertrans was granted the privileges to carry oil from northern Iraq through Turkish oil pipelines and ports. As the Islamic State oil became available in 2014, Powertrans took the opportunity to set up schemes to transfer the oil to the Batman refinery in Turkey and to the Turkish international ports of Mersin, Dortyol, and Ceyhan”.[7]

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The ICSVE deputy director continues that the “documents released by RedHack provide evidence that Albayrak was, and still is, unofficially running the company. The documents also revealed that Albayrak’s cousin, Ekrem Keles, used to work for Çalık Holding as the coordinator for sales and marketing. Keles sent an email to Albayrak on Aug. 9, 2015 reporting on the company’s marketing in northern Iraq. Another important figure who emailed Albayrak often was Betül Yılmaz, who did not have official ties with Powertrans but was the human resources manager of Çalık Holding. Yılmaz communicated with Albayrak frequently via email to get approval for personnel issues. On Dec. 11, 2015 Albayrak wrote to his lawyer regarding a press release responding to a news report naming him as the owner of Powertrans. He asked his lawyer to edit the line by the lawyer stating, ‘his client has no longer had ties with Powertrans.’ Albayrak got upset, firing back at his lawyer, ‘What does it mean? … I have never had any ties with this company!’ The RedHack email releases supported allegations about the Erdoğan family’s illicit and corrupt business activities, which included granting opportunities and contracts without public bids to concealed companies and transferring and selling Islamic State oil. This amounts to providing the terror network with the funds to pay its fighters, to purchase weapons and explosives, and to incite violence around the world. While members of the Erdoğan family were making millions of dollars through shady business activities, their dealings with the Islamic State facilitated brutal killings and displacement of people in Syria and Iraq”.[8]

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The cooperative RedHack released the e-mail trove on 23 September 2016, but direct proof linking Ankara and Raqqa does not appear to be readily available . . . instead, there appears to be a lot of circumstantial e-mail chatter about, detailing the important role played by the Prez’ son-in-law, Berat Albayrak. On the other hand, already in March this year, a “RT Documentary crew filming in northern Syria has seen Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) documents abandoned by retreating terrorists and found by the Kurds that, along with captured IS recruits, provide a stunning insight into IS oil trade . . . Turkey, which has been actively engaged in the Syrian war since the outset, has repeatedly denied claims that it is aiding IS. However, while Ankara insists that it is the jihadist group’s sworn enemy, facts on the ground often tell a different story. RT has spoken to several witnesses who were involved in Islamic State’s trade activities and accessed the terror group’s documents, which provide insight into how and where foreign militants enter Syria to join the terrorist ‘state’ . . . RT spoke to local residents who had been forced to work in the IS oil industry about what it was like working at the terrorist-controlled oil refinery and where the extracted oil was sold. The locals attested that ‘the extracted oil was delivered to an oil refinery, where it was converted into gasoline, gas and other petroleum products. Then the refined product was sold,’ the RT documentary’s author said. ‘Then intermediaries from Raqqa and Allepo arrived to pick up the oil and often mentioned Turkey.’ Important information revealing the connection between IS and Turkey was provided by a Turkish militant previously captured by the Kurds. The IS recruit said on camera that the terrorist group does, in fact, sell oil to Turkey. ‘Without even us asking the fighter directly, he admitted that the reason why it was so easy for him to cross the Turkish border and join IS was, in part, due to the fact that Turkey also benefited. When asked how, he said that Turkey gets something out of it – something such as oil.'”.[9]

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Cover of an Islamist, anti-Assad propaganda leaflet printed in Istanbul, Turkey. / RT

Additionally, I would like to point out that the above publisher Guraba is a legitimate company in Turkey, operating openly and plainly since 1992 without experiencing any kind of repression or even legal repercussions for cooperating with the Islamic State in Syria at present. The company’s website is accessible for anyone and everyone interested.[10]

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[1] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil” World Policy Blog (17 Oct 2016). https://www.academia.edu/29217920/Hacked_Emails_Link_Turkish_Minister_to_Illicit_Oil.

[2] Can Erimtan, “Escalating the New Cold War: Turkey downs a Russian Jet” NEO (26 Nov 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/11/26/escalating-the-new-cold-war-turkey-downs-a-russian-jet/.

[3] Can Erimtan, “Putin, Tayyip Erdogan and the Issue of Sunnification: A Duel of Words” NEO (02 Dec 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/02/putin-tayyip-erdogan-and-the-issue-of-sunnification-a-duel-of-words/.

[4] See: C. Erimtan, “48 Hours in Turkey: Diplomatic Victory and Defeat followed a Terror Attack” NEO (04 July 2016). http://journal-neo.org/2016/07/04/48-hours-in-turkey-diplomatic-victory-and-defeat-followed-a-terror-attack/; C. Erimtan, “The Failed Coup Attempt – or the Dawning of Sharia Law in Turkey?” The Duran (18 July 2016). http://theduran.com/author/can-erimtan/.

[5] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[6] “Erdoğan, Putin sign agreement on Turkish Stream gas pipeline project” Daily Sabah (10 Oct 2016). http://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2016/10/10/erdogan-putin-sign-agreement-on-turkish-stream-gas-pipeline-project.

[7] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[8] Ahmet S. Yayla, “Hacked Emails Link Turkish Minister to Illicit Oil”.

[9] “ISIS, oil & Turkey: What RT found in Syrian town liberated from jihadists by Kurds (EXCLUSIVE)” RT (24 March 2016). https://www.rt.com/news/336967-isis-files-oil-turkey-exclusive/.

[x] Guraba Yayınevi. http://www.guraba.com.tr/vitrin/.

Gaming 4 Life: When Real World is Not Enough

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‘Escaping harsh reality or relaxing after a hard working day? A guilty pleasure or the only reason to wake up in the morning? Computer games are made for fun, but sometimes they cause one’s real life turning into a slaughterous level which inevitably results in Game Over. For gamers the computer is everything, so much so that they can even earn money through tournaments and sponsorships. Some even meet their future spouses online, but for others games can take up too much of their time and affect family life. Psychiatrists and psychologists argue whether or not the human mind can be negatively affected by games, but for many they instead serve to help bring people together. Published on Sep 25, 2016’.

 

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Erdoganistan

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‘Turkey has a long history of conflict with the Kurdish people whose historic homeland is spread over what is now Turkey, Syria and Iran. For many year, Kurds from the country’s South-East have campaigned for autonomy within the Turkish state. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting for independence and because it’s considered a terrorist group, is outlawed in Turkey. Until recently, a ceasefire had been in effect between the government and the PKK; that has now ended. Since then the conflict has escalated and hundreds have been killed. The local Kurdish population claims that Erdogan’s government is conducting an operation against their people. Civilians continue to die and the Turkish police enjoy unchecked authority. They insist that the widespread murder of Kurds is systematically covered up at state level. Erdogan’s government is also accused of collaborating with ISIS. The Kurds in neighbouring Syria have also formed their own resistance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units who are fighting against ISIS. Several accusations are levelled at the Turkish Government, supported by testimonies from Syrian Kurds, captured ISIS militants and Turkish journalists. They allege that Erdogan’s government buys illegal oil from ISIS, allows the militants safe passage across Turkish borders and even provides them with ammunition. Kurds also claim that with its “one nation, one country” policy, Erdogan’s government hopes to use ISIS as a tool to rid itself of the longstanding Kurdish thorn in its side. Local journalists who have reported on government hostilities towards the Kurds are routinely persecuted and at least one major independent Turkish newspaper has been taken over by the government. Reporters who cover ‘pro-Kurdish’ stories are frequently accused of association with the PKK and by extension, terrorism; many have been arrested and even killed. RT Doc hears first-hand accounts from some of the few remaining independent journalists about their investigations and why they persevere despite the danger. Published on Jun 2, 2016’.

 

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The Big Picture: Full Show 6/3/16

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‘Tonight’s Rumble discusses Trump’s “thin skin,” Paul Ryan’s “endorsement” of Trump, and how the media continues to ignore climate change. In tonight’s Conversations with Great Minds Thom discusses the dangers of fracking with Food and Water Watch’s Wenonah Hauter, author of the new book “Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment.” ‘Published on Jun 3, 2016’.

 

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Bundestag Abstimmung über „Völkermord an Armeniern”

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‘Der Bundestag wird heute über eine Resolution abstimmen, in der die Massenmorde von 1915 des Osmanischen Reichs an Armeniern als Völkermord eingestuft wird. Die Morde fanden im Ersten Weltkrieg statt, bei denen über eine Million Menschen getötet worden sein sollen. Die Türkei lehnt die Bezeichnung des Völkermordes jedoch strikt ab. Aus Protest gegen die Resolution hatten sich am Samstag und auch gestern in Berlin Hunderte Mitglieder pro-türkischer Organisationen versammelt. Bundeskanzlerin Merkel werden heute allerdings nicht bei der Abstimmung dabei sein. Sie spricht stattdessen auf einem Kongress über digitale Bildung. (2. Juni 2016)’.

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Feeling the Bern: Hilary 2016

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The American progressive writer John Stauber (cfr. THE BEST WAR EVER)[1] appears to have predicted what would happen to Bernie the moment the latter stepped on to the stage, “(as could any objective fool)” have . . . and now that the dice has finally been cast, he opines that this is “the Democrat’s political equivalent of the Bill Murray movie classic Groundhog Day, except the progressive candidate never wins the girlfriend, er, nomination, in the end. Instead, the Sanders, Deans, Browns, and Jacksons, the progressive champions of their election cycle, only change themselves from watchdogs and guard dogs to lap dogs, ensuring that cynical and outraged progressives follow their champion-cum-Pied Piper to become advocates for defeating the Republicans in November”.[2]

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Stauber goes on to say that “Bernie is an old man. He has lived a fine and worthy public life, but unfortunately he will fade into the sunset without taking the brave step of leading his supporters into finally forming a viable left party in the United States. That would be a true legacy and accomplishment. Even the right wing oligarchs of the Republican Party have realized that the shared monopoly both corporate parties wield over the political process makes a viable third party almost impossible. Yet, for all the noble tirades of the Progressives from Bill Moyers to Bernie Sanders about the power of money and how it must be removed from the process, it is the process itself that is the problem. Two parties, both pro Wall Street and pro military-industrial complex, control the political system. A majority of voters opted out of this farce democracy long ago, so only a minority votes for these parties. Big money has ensured ever tighter domination by the super rich, but even with the dream of meaningful finance reform, the shared monopoly that corporate oligarchs control with their phony two-party system is the real problem”.[3]

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‘Sanders on Whether He Would Tell Supporters to Back Hillary: ‘Make These Decisions Yourself’ . . . A young man at the Bernie Sanders–Chris Hayes MSNBC town hall tonight told him about how he and a lot of other Democrats just can’t see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in the fall. He asked, “Will you encourage your supporters to vote for Secretary Clinton?” . . . “We’re not a movement,” Sanders said, “where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, that you should all listen to me. You shouldn’t. You make these decisions yourself.” So basically, as far as Sanders is concerned, it’s incumbent upon Clinton to earn the votes of his supporters by speaking to the issues that they care about (posted 25 April 2016)’.

The inimitable Pepe Escobar puts it like this: “[s]o it’s a go for Zeus to launch the thunderbolt. Neo-Athena – minus the wisdom – Hillary Clinton, Queen of Chaos, Goddess of War, Empress of the Perma-Smirk, will finally have her shot at the U.S. presidency. After the Battle of New York, she’s on top on number of votes; number of states; number of pledged delegates; number of superdelegates. It seems as inevitable as death and offshore accounts. ‘I don’t think she’s going to be indicted’; thus spoke Donald Trump to Fox News in relation to Servergate. ‘The Democratic Party is going to protect her.’ And yet, assuming he clinches the presidency, Trump said he would pursue charges against Hillary concerning her subterranean email server. Charles Koch, for his part, now admits Hillary might make a better President than, well, Trump or any other Republican (‘It’s possible, it’s possible’) – as much as, in some respects, he considers Bill was a better President than George W. Bush. So would Koch’s billions support Hillary? ‘We would have to believe her actions would be quite different from her rhetoric.’ Which brings us to Hillary as Queen of Turbo-Charged Casino Neoliberalism. And once again, the evidence insists to suggest that her actions do not exactly match her rhetoric”.[4] Oh yes, here we go again. The Empress of Chaos as the Queen of Turbo-Charged Casino Neoliberalism on the domestic and globalist front, while talking nice and giggling uncontrollably, as the next Gaddafi dies screaming . . . or, as put by the always eloquent John Pilger, “Hillary Clinton leaves a trail of blood and suffering around the world and a clear record of exploitation and greed in her own country”.[5] Does this now mean that the only hope for a better world is . . . Trump, I mean Drumpf?!??? There are those who hold this opinion: “Trump is a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our scepticism. Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama . . . The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system . . . As presidential election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about hope”.[6]

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[1] “THE BEST WAR EVER — by John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton” The Erimtan Angle (08 Oct 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/the-best-war-ever-by-john-stauber-sheldon-rampton/.

[2] John Stauber, “#FeelTheBern Goes #UpInSmoke” CounterPunch (27 April 2016). http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/27/feelthebern-goes-upinsmoke/.

[3] John Stauber, “#FeelTheBern Goes #UpInSmoke”.

[4] Pepe Escobar, “Hillary: Wall Street’s Golden Girl” CounterPunch (27 April 2016). http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/27/hillary-wall-streets-golden-girl/.

[5] John Pilger, “Trump and Clinton: Censoring the unpalatable” RT Op-Edge (29 March 2016). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/337590-trump-clinton-censoring-pilger/.

[6] John Pilger, “Trump and Clinton: Censoring the unpalatable”.

Those 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and its Role in 9/11

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‘US President Barack Obama has said the classified pages of the 9/11 Commission report that do not “compromise major national security interests” may “hopefully” be soon released, but argued against any potential legal action against Saudi citizens. Published on Apr 20, 2016’.

‘Finally there is renewed effort to declassify 28 pages of a 838-page congressional report on the events of 9/11. It is all about the role some Saudi officials and others may have played. We have been repeatedly told that the pages are damaging. Should we be surprised? After all, it is said Riyadh supports radical ideologies and groups around the world. CrossTalking with Larry Johnson, Oliver Miles, and Eric Zuesse. Published on Apr 20, 2016’.

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