In his latest RT interview Srdja Trifkovic discusses Russian accusations that Turkey is buying large quantities of oil from the Islamic State, with President Erdogan and his family directly benefiting from the smuggling operation
RT: We are going live to Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles magazine. Russia has asked Turkey for open access to facilities crucial for ISIS oil smuggling. What will be happening next? Will Ankara go for it, what are your thoughts?
ST: Absolutely not. I think that Erdogan will scream blue murder and claim that this is all a setup and a reaction to what he calls “justified downing of the Russian plane.” The real issue is what the United States will do about this. It is quite obvious the Turkish tail has been wagging the American dog for far too long, and Erdogan has been getting away with murder, both literally and figuratively. Unless and until the United States decides that this nonsense must stop, he will continue to get away with it—and he will claim that this is just “Russian propaganda.” I also predict that the whole presentation, convincing as it was, will be partly ignored and partly distorted by the Western mainstream media.
I think the next step for the Russians would be to explore the possibility, with the government of Iraq, of extending their airstrikes to the territory of northwestern Iraq. Some of the choke-points for the oil smuggling operation have remained largely unscathed by the U.S.-led “coalition.” In order to avoid the congestion of planes, with the possibility of further incidents like the one on November 24, I am sure that these huge concentrations of trucks can be very effectively struck by Russian cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea. That is simply an off-the-cuff idea.
When it comes to actually dealing with the problem, my hunch is that the United States will continue to be reluctant to really do something about it. They have had a chance to do so for fifteen months prior to the beginning of the Russian airstrikes on September 25. But as I said, the question of all questions is whether Erdogan will finally be pressed by his Western partners to shape up and to act like a civilized person, which unfortunately he is not.
RT: Well, certainly that remains to be seen, and all eyes will be on Turkey’s reaction after what we saw and heard from this briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry. And also the Ministry has claimed that illegal ISIS oil trade involves Turkish political elite, including President Erdogan and his family. That’s a very strong accusation. What’s going to happen? Does he have any chance to prove it wrong?
ST: There is an extensive file on Erdogan’s son, Bilal Erdogan, who is a key middleman in this oil trade. Let us not forget that one and a half million [dollars] a day—now, even under the reduced circumstances—is what the Turks are actually paying to ISIS. How much the Turks are making from selling this ISIS oil on the semi-grey market is unknown, but I suspect that the profits are in the region of at least one million a day.