Gulen ‘money man’ back in Turkey, says report

Memduh Cikmaz after being arrested. (Twitter image)
Updated 27 November 2017

Gulen ‘money man’ back in Turkey, says report

ANKARA: Turkish spies working in Sudan have repatriated a businessman accused of links to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen after he was caught in a joint operation, state media reported Monday.
Memduh Cikmaz is accused of giving millions to the movement run by US-based Gulen, who Ankara claims ordered the July 15, 2016 attempt to end President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.
Cikmaz was captured in a joint operation involving Sudanese intelligence after the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) located him two months earlier, security sources told Anadolu news agency.
Cikmaz, with business interests in petrol stations and brick factories, was returned to Turkey early on Monday, the agency said.
He had gone to Sudan in January 2016 but sources told Anadolu he continued to send millions of dollars to the movement.
Cikmaz was accused of “managing an armed terror organization” in a previous arrest warrant. Anadolu described him as the Gulen group’s “money vault.”
The agency said MIT had created a special team to locate suspected Gulenists abroad.
Turkey refers to Gulen’s group as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO) but the movement insists it is peaceful and promotes education, denying any terror links.
Its network stretches from Turkey to Africa and Central Asia to the US.
Gulen denies Turkey’s accusations of involvement in last year’s failed coup.
Ankara launched a widespread crackdown on the group, arresting more than 50,000 people over alleged links since July last year.
During high-level diplomatic visits, Ankara has also urged Pakistan and Tanzania to crackdown on the Gulen network, especially its schools.

Police briefly detain academic
Turkish academic Fikret Baskaya was briefly detained on Monday as part of an operation targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Twelve other suspects were detained along with Baskaya, it said. Further information about the other suspects’ status was not immediately available.
Baris Yarkadas, a lawmaker from the main opposition CHP, wrote on Twitter that Baskaya, 77, had been detained at his home in the capital and that police had seized some of his personal possessions.
Baskaya, who is an author and university lecturer, was later released after giving a statement to police, another CHP lawmaker, Murat Emir, said in a tweet.
He added that Baskaya was detained over an article he wrote on Nov. 7, called “Real Terror is State Terror,” in which Baskaya said Turkey’s Kurds suffered oppression at the hands of authorities. The investigation is ongoing despite Baskaya’s release, Emir said.
Anadolu said arrest warrants had been issued for a total of 17 people on allegations of aiding the PKK and spreading the group’s propaganda on social media. Operations to detain the other suspects were ongoing.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2020

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.