Turkey Intelligence Report
The report is arranged in the following order: Terrorism (PKK/KCK, Islamic State (IS), FETÖ), Defense, Foreign Affairs (Cyprus, Syria, U.S., EU).Turkey Incidents
Terrorism: Security authorities carry out extensive operations attempting to counter the terrorist threat posed by extreme left terrorist groups and the Islamic State.PKK/KCK: A PKK plot to attack the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul with a VBIED was foiled on December 13.
FETÖ: Turkish authorities believe that the Gülen movement is behind the assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russian Ambassador in Turkey, in December 2016.Defence: Turkey is upgrading its military capabilities with weapons of advanced technology.Cyprus – Turkey: Turkey sends its own drill-ship to the Mediterranean Sea and is expected to begin exploratory drilling near Cyprus in the beginning of 2018.Syria – Turkey: Turkey is committed to a long term presence in Syria.U.S. – Turkey: President Erdogan is taking full advantage of the massive opposition against President Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.EU – Turkey: Austria’s new far right coalition government will seek EU member states willing to support its initiative to end Turkey’s EU accession process.
Terrorism: Security authorities carry out extensive operations attempting to counter the terrorist threat posed by extreme left terrorist groups and the Islamic State (IS).
IS and PKK cells are a constant and potent threat in Turkey. Counter terrorism operations are carried out on a daily basis throughout Turkey. IS and PKK have access to explosives and firearms which they are determined to use against symbolic, high value targets.
PKK: A PKK plot to attack the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul with a VBIED was foiled on December 13.
The plot involved a suicide bomber and a VBIED loaded with 60 kg of high explosives. MIT tracked the insurgents in Istanbul after intercepting communications between PKK members in Diyarbakir and Istanbul. The authorities believe that the explosives were obtained in northern Iraq and smuggled into Turkey. The OIC plot was a PKK operation against high value targets showing the determination and organizational capabilities of PKK militants who were able to mobilize their contact members in multiple locations throughout the country in a short period of time. Their ability to obtain high explosives from across the border and safely transfer them to their target location sustains their insurgency and increases the probability of a large scale attack in an urban centre.
Islamic State: The geographically dispersed IS members in Turkey and their frequent relocation within and out of the country is one of the obstacles Turkish security authorities face during their operations against IS.
Besides Istanbul, IS members are frequently captured throughout Turkey in small and large urban centres. It is a common tactic of them to prefer urban environments where they can remain undetected for long periods of time. IS members take advantage of Turkey’s geographical extent and according to their objectives, such as recruiting activities or border-crossings to Greece/EU, they disperse across Turkey. By doing so, they create a multi-layered operational front which Turkish security agencies attempt to dismantle with insiders’ tip-off or by proceeding to preventive detentions and interrogations.
An additional obstacle for Turkish authorities is the opportunities IS members have to cross the border into or out of Turkey. The IS members arrested in ÅanlÄ±urfa, Gaziantep and Hatay were either caught after entering Turkey or while preparing to cross into Syria. IS members in fear of being captured in Turkey could either attempt a border crossing into Syria or Greece.
The security implications of the IS members’ presence in Turkey can potentially be devastating as shown after the recent testimony of a Syrian IS member captured in Istanbul in November. The militant said that he was planning to carry out attacks against Turkish targets if his plan to cross into Europe was not successful.
FETÖ: Turkish authorities believe that the Gülen movement is behind the assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russian Ambassador in Turkey, in December 2016.
Turkish state prosecutors shared their belief with a visiting Russian team of investigators in Ankara that Mevlüt Mert AltÄ±ntaÅ, the individual who assassinated the Russian Ambassador, was part of a Gülen movement plot to cause the rupture of Turkish-Russian relations. Turkish prosecutors are expecting to find proof of their beliefs in the assassinator’s mobile phone which yet remains locked. President Erdogan has instructed the respective Turkish authorities to use all available means so the mobile phone’s password is cracked. An Indian based company will most likely be assigned with this task as Turkish specialists were unable to crack the code.
Defense: The Turkish Parliament approved the increased defense spending included in the 2018 national budget.
Turkey is upgrading its military capabilities with weapons of advanced technology. The future Turkish weapons deployments can potentially assist Turkey in becoming more militarily active in the Middle East, increase its military autonomy and reduce its dependence on NATO equipment, and strengthen its developing role as a regional security guarantor.
The Turkish 5th generation fighter jet TFX is planned to gradually replace the country’s existing fleet of US-made F-16 jets.
The Turkish Defence Minister has stated that the National Combat Aircraft TFX is expected to carry out its first test flight in 2023. Being a part of a Turkish long term strategic plan to increase its military superiority, the production and deployment of TFX will most likely shape the regional military balances. Further, it could potentially worsen the Greek-Turkish relations and raise the probability of a confrontation between the two countries over disputed territories at the Aegean Sea.
TFX is intended to be operable together with the F-35A fighter jets, the first batch of which Turkey expects early 2018. Although, the delivery is seriously questioned by US/NATO defense officials after the Turkish decision to obtain the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Officials are concerned that highly classified technology will be exposed to the Russians and other non-NATO countries after they are sold to Turkey.
Turkey proceeds with its plan to purchase the Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
Vladimir Kojin, Vladimir Putin’s military and technical cooperation counsellor, stated to Russian media that the final contract arrangements for the S-400 missile defense system purchase deal by Turkey will be soon completed. Russia will cover a part of the over two billion US dollars purchase cost by granting Turkey a loan.
The S-400 system will significantly upgrade Turkey’s defense capabilities and will deepen its alliance with Russia. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that, if it is needed, Turkey could invite Russian specialists, both military and civilian, to operate the system. The Turkish financial obligations to Russia will likely promote their further economic and defense relations since both countries are focused on a long term cooperation in the Middle East and President Erdogan seeks ways to reduce Turkey’s operational accountability to NATO.
Turkey plans to strengthen its border security and optimize its counter terrorism operations by deploying automated weapons systems and loitering munitions.
Turkish special forces will receive a second batch of the fixed-wing drone “ALPAGU” and rotating-wing striking drone “KARGU” in early 2018. The drones will have the ability to conduct surveillance and autonomously detect and strike beyond line-of-sight ground targets. The deployment of loitering munitions will enable precision strikes against targets operating in non accessible locations. The drones will most likely be used against PKK insurgents along the Turkish border line with Iraq and Syria and it will likely deter them from launching attacks against Turkish security posts.
Turkish Armed Forces will triple its counter mortar radars across its border with Syria and Iraq. The radars will improve security for Turkish troops at the border regions as they will detect and track mortars fired from across the border. Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli stated that the new radars will be deployed early 2018.
The Turkish President takes control of the Defense Industry Undersecretariat (SSM) under a new state-of-emergency decree.
P. Erdogan increases his state control as he will now coordinate the SSM and chair the Defense Industry Executive Committee with primary tasks being the modernization of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and deciding on the TSK strategic goals.
Cyprus – Turkey: Turkey sends its own drillship at the Mediterranean Sea and is expected to begin exploratory offshore drillings in the beginning of 2018.
The Turkish drilling ship Deepsea Metro II will arrive in Istanbul December 31 and is the Turkish response to the upcoming Cypriot drilling in block 6, off the south west coast of Cyprus, carried out by a consortium of France’s Total and Italy’s ENI companies starting on December 26.
Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has stated that Turkey will proceed to drilling in the area in 2018 but has not stated the exact location nor a concrete time framework.
Cypriot drilling is strongly supported by Italy and France and a Turkish provocation does not seem to be highly probable. Although, an increased presence of naval forces is expected around the drilling area when the Cypriot drilling begins.
Syria – Turkey: Turkey is committed to maintaining a long term presence in Syria.
During the International Meeting on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan, on December 21-22, Iran, Russia and Turkey reaffirmed their determination to continue their operations in Syria and complete the establishment of the de-escalation zones. Further, they declared their commitment to fight terrorist groups such as the IS and HayÊ¼at Taá¸¥rÄ«r al-ShÄm-HTS (ex Al-Nusra Front) until their total elimination and emphasized on the significance of the Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi on January 29-30, 2018 with the participation of all segments of the Syrian society.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt ÇavuÅoÄlu said that Turkey could imminently carry out a military operation in Afrin/Northern Syria and, if needed, it will coordinate the operation with Russia.
Turkey claims the role of peace guarantor in Syria and has established an Iranian and Russian cooperation which seemingly offers the only available viable choice for the post-war Syrian state. Controlling the northern Syria territories bordering Turkey and preventing the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from creating an independent, U.S. backed state-like formation is two objectives Turkey is trying to accomplish.
It is yet to be seen how Turkey will deal with a probable confrontation with HTS which dominates the Syrian Idlib province. Until now Turkey’s focus is on the YPG threat in Afrin and seeks ways to isolate it from domestic and foreign supply routes.
U.S. – Turkey: President Erdogan is taking full advantage of the massive opposition against President Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
On December 13 the emergency Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit took place in Istanbul after President Erdogan’s calls for a united response by the Islamic world to Trump’s decision. The summit declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine with Erdogan personally accusing P. Trump of supporting – according to him – Israel’s terrorism, occupation and torture. On Dec. 17, P. Erdogan said that Turkey wants to open an embassy in East Jerusalem.
On Dec. 21, the U.N. overwhelmingly adopted a resolution rejecting the U.S decision on Jerusalem. On Dec. 22, P. Erdogan expressed his gratitude to the countries that voted in favor of the U.N. resolution.
P. Erdogan has escalated his confrontation with U.S. and his remarks are directly targeting P. Trump. P. Erdogan uses the Jerusalem case to give justice to his previous harsh criticism on U.S. and he is declaring at all possible occasions that the fight against U.S power politics can either be won or lost.
The Jerusalem case combines two basic characteristics that P . Erdogan has manipulated to the highest degree for the strengthening of his political posture. First, the oppression of the Muslim world and second the U.S interventions and role in international affairs. Both appeal to a great extent to Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policies as they fuel nationalism and religious unity, both core elements of the Turkish society, on which P. Erdogan bases his current, and most likely his future, political strategies.
The U.S. will continue arming the YPG in Syria.
Despite the promises given by P. Trump to P. Erdogan the U.S. Department of Defense has decided to give $500 million of weapons, ammunition and vehicles to the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria to support their fight against Islamic extremist groups in Syria.
EU – Turkey: Austria’s new far right coalition government will seek EU member states willing to support its initiative to end Turkey’s EU accession process.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Austria’s new coalition government formed by the Conservative People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) as discriminating and warned the Austrian government that Turkey will respond accordingly if they continue with their plan to find allies within the EU who would support their proposal to end Turkey’s accession process.
Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik accused the Austrian government of being anti-Islam, anti-Semitic, anti-migration and xenophobic and noted that EU values are threatened by such political groups.
The new Austrian government could potentially expand its sphere of influence among EU member states by strengthening its relations with the, ruling or not, EU’s far right political parties which could on their turn apply political pressure on their respective governments. Further, it will likely pursue its anti-Turkey programme by vetoing EU Council decisions favorable to Turkey, by demanding further reductions to EU funds to Turkey, or by adopting domestic policies which do not favour immigration and asylum requests from Turkey creating further friction between the two countries.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul lawmaker Garo Paylan stated that Turkish citizens from the opposition ranks living in Europe are targets of a Turkey-based assassination group.
Garo Paylan’s intelligence was acquired and verified by multiple foreign sources which he could not disclose. He added that the assassins have lists of individuals living across Europe, most of them in Germany. German media reported that German security authorities conduct investigations following Paylan’s intelligence.
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Ministry of Interior. Republic of Turkey. December 2017, https://www.icisleri.gov.tr/
Panagiotis Vasilias, September 10, 2017, Islamic State Threat to Turkey, Intelligence Fusion, https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/single-post/2017/09/10/Islamic-State-Threat-to-Turkey
Turkish armed forces, December 2017, http://www.tsk.tr/YurticiOlaylar
Türk HavacÄ±lÄ±k ve Uzay Sanayii A.Å., Milli Muharip Uçak, December 2017, https://www.tai.com.tr/urun/milli-muharip-ucak
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, December 22, 2017, Joint statement by Iran, Russia and Turkey on the International Meeting on Syria in Astana, 21-22 December 2017, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3001212
Report written by Panagiotis Vasilias