Turkey has become a key global hub of illicit and terrorist financing – undermining U.S. counter-terrorism efforts against Sunni jihadists and playing a key role in busting Washington’s sanctions against Iran – according to a new report [PDF] published last week by Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The report cites at least eight distinct schemes involving Iran, Al Qaeda, jihadists in Syria, Hamas, the recently raided Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), China, and huge swaths of the international banking world. The National Journal had already reported earlier in February that Turkey ignored U.S. calls made from “the highest levels” to assist in tracking terrorists availing themselves of Turkish soil and resources. ABC News covered the new FDD report, conveying a call from Schanzer urging the Obama administration to exert pressure on Ankara regarding illicit finance, opposite what the outlet described as “a clear hands-off message” sent last month by Secretary of State John Kerry in a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
What makes Turkey so different from other allies to which the U.S. can turn a blind eye, Schanzer pointed out, is the fact that it is a NATO ally and is trying to gain admission into the European Union. Because of its Western leanings, the country has long been considered a firewall against Islamist extremism, something that is now at risk, he argued. “The goal here is to prevent Turkey from continuing to slide in a very dangerous direction,” Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department, said.
The Washington Free Beacon also highlighted portions of the report evaluating the White House’s position.
The Obama administration “has remained on the sidelines, expressing relatively mild concern about the crackdowns on law enforcement officials and the jailing of journalists, while electing not to mention terrorism finance issues publicly,” the report states. “Washington’s silence stems from fears of a fall-out with Turkey, which has been a crucial ally over the years, and is situated strategically at the intersection of Europe and the Middle East,” according to the report. “But Turkey’s actions constitute a direct challenge to Washington’s sanctions regime.”
Schanzer’s report comes a day after over 80 top foreign policy figures from across the political spectrum dispatched a letter to President Barack Obama calling for elevated pressure on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to halt an ongoing assault on democratic liberties.
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