US Knew Turkey Aided al Qaeda but Did Nothing to Stop It

Former US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Riccardione


When Armenian-Americans voiced their anger over Turkey’s role in the incursion into Kessab last spring, US authorities merely expressed “concern” about the well-being of Armenians and Christian minorities. Despite the community’s insistence that Turkey was directly involved in allowing the al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra rebels to freely enter Kessab, the US State Department was reticent in fingering its NATO ally.

Fast forward to today when the Obama Administration is leading a fragile coalition against the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria, an off shoot of Al Nusra known as ISIS, and Turkey is, once again, rejecting American access to its airspace in Incirlink and is refusing to join the coalition against the Islamic State.

On Friday, the London-based The Telegraph quoted former US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Riccardione as saying that Turkey has directly supported al Qaeda’s Syrian wing in defiance of the US and has worked with other hard-line al Qaeda affiliates, effectively opening its borders to Syria and allowing free access to those rebels.

Riccardione said that Turkey was attempting to make those hard-line factions more moderate. However, Al Nusra, the group credited for the invasion of Kessab, was the predecessor of ISIS as members of its core group splintered from Al Nusra to create the group that is now at the center of the US campaign.

“We ultimately had no choice but to agree to disagree,” Riccardione was quoted by The Telegraph about the US response to Turkey’s fist-hand involvement with the group.

“The Turks frankly worked with groups for a period, including al Nusra, whom we finally designated as we’re not willing to work with,” Riccardione was quoted in The Telegraph.

Essentially, the US’s response seemed to have been to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s collusion with terrorists, just as Turkey turned a blind eye to the al Qaeda rebels using its border as a transit route to Syria and the ensuing destruction and loss of life in places like Kessab and Aleppo.

While Riccardione’s statements are not the “official” US response, because he left the government when his mission ended in June, his statements paint a clear enough picture to conclude that the US knew about Turkey’s role in al Qaeda’s attack in Kessab and chose to do nothing. In fact, it also went a step further to cover up any suggestion of Turkey’s involvement and lied to its own constituents.

Riccardione’s statements and Turkey’s rejection of US efforts to fight ISIS promoted the Wall Street Journal on Monday to say: “The unavoidable conclusion is that the U.S. needs to find a better regional ally to fight ISIS.”

“The better bet is with the Kurds, who have the most on the line and are willing to provide the boots on the ground that others can’t or won’t,” said the WSJ adding, “Incirlik has been a home for U.S. forces for nearly 60 years, but perhaps it’s time to consider replacing it with a new U.S. air base in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. America may no longer have friends in Ankara, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options in the Middle East.”

This is not a “we told you so,” but rather a glimpse into the duplicitous manner in which US foreign policy is being advanced under the Obama Administration in the name of justice and US interests. When ISIS splintered from Al Nusra last summer under the auspices of Turkey, the US did not act and perpetuated its long-standing policy of providing Turkey cover for its murderous policies.

Now that the US finds itself at the center of the crisis in the region and it feels compelled to mount an international campaign against ISIS, these semi-official statements open the door for major news outlets to express outrage and propose alternatives to Turkey, which is now being viewed as a destabilizing force in the region.

One would hope that this will truly become the wake-up call for the US to think long and hard and—in the name of justice and US interests—stop its unconditional support and patronage of Turkey, which probably viewed the US’s non-response as carte blanche to, once again, wreak havoc in that region with impunity.

Meanwhile, the American public, including the Armenian community, must hold the administration accountable for its misleading policy and lies to its constituents.

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  1. zarkim said:

    Mr Obama has promised that he will get all ISIS terrorists. There is no where they can hide from him. However Mr Obama only mentions the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Somehow, he overlooks the ones in TURKEY… ISIS is very active in Turkey.
    MAKE NO MISTAKE, Mr Obama is going to make Christians safe in Syria/Iraq and he is not going to endanger them by tackling the problem in the WRONG WAY.
    Mr Obama is going to WIN THE FUTURE by letting Turkey know that harboring ISIS is against the UN and NATO rules and that Turkey’s membership of NATO and UN will be cancelled if they keep cooperating with ISIS.
    HERE’S THE DEAL, Mr Obama should eliminate ISIS from all areas including TURKEY and INVADE Turkey to liberate it from the dictator – Like they did to Iraq.

    LET ME BE CLEAR, Turkey should not be allowed to send terrorists to neighboring countries like Syria (KASSAB) and terrorise Christians. How can Mr Obama miss this detail before threatening to eliminate ISIS?
    I know, IT WILL NOT BE EASY, for Mr Obama to please all of the people, all of the time but promise is a promise.
    Mr Obama used to hate terrorists. US/allies used to look for any excuse (Even if they had to INVENT one!) to “punish” terrorists like SADDAM. Now, unfortunately Americans have decided to tolerate some terrorists and call them GOOD GUYS like Al-Qaeda.
    Mr Obama is in charge now and is going to get all these terrorists. TURKEY has nowhere to hide anymore.
    Turkey MUST provide the full details of all ISIS in Turkey (And hand them all over to Obama) and full details of all others that have entered into Syria/Iraq from Turkey – Or – face Mr Obama’s fury!
    Just in case Mr Obama does not remember, Americans/allies funded, trained and encouraged Turkey to shelter ISIS. So, they know where to look…
    And remember, THERE WILL BE COSTS/consequences if Turkey keeps buying stolen oil from ISIS.

    • Silva Panossian said:

      I wish you learn more about this geopolitical war, before you write anything…. Mr. Obama and NATO knew about the attack on Kessab before it happened… There are NATO bases on the Kessab Turkey boarder, attackers came all the way from Enjerlick where American bases are…. Obama was trying to get even with Putin for taking over Crimea Ukraine, he and his administration didn’t realize that small Armenian land will create that much problem for him from all over the world, he didn’t know Kessab has powerful fruits all over the world, that is why he had blind eyes and zipped mouth in the beginning……

      • Hratch said:

        Can you elaborate exactly how attacking Kessab punished Putin and his annexation of the Crimea? The only coincidence was that they both happened in March. Other than that, where is the correlation?

      • zarkim said:

        Dear Silva
        Thanks for your comment hayrenakiz.
        Please try to read between the lines. Americans/allies/NATO, Israel KNOW what kind of people Turks are. Don’t let them play NAIVE.
        They know the Turks and prefer them to act the way they act. It is all part of the game they play. Turkey must play the game or burn from both fires.
        Make no mistake – Turkish TERRORIST act in KASSAB was very much endorsed by Uncle Sam and friends.
        “All that glitters is not gold”

  2. Alex Postallian said:

    Everyone knows,the politicians,and especially pseudo diplomats,go around with a FOR SALE,signs on their up their back pockets for the jerky turks bribes..It wouldn’t surprise,they sold the U.S secrets and private data…How really low can you get..socializing with the mongols.,that putrid smell will always be a part of their personality….

  3. tommy said:

    Of course, the US knew. The Gulf states also helped them. US likes these al-qaeda groups because they fight secular Syria. The US needed these groups. These groups will give the US a backdoor way to attack Syria.

  4. Alexander said:


  5. Hratch said:

    How do we know what is really going on behind the scenes? Maybe there is a master plan at work. Russia sells arms to Azerbaijan and at the same time claims to defend Armenia’s borders. On the surface it seems contradictory, but there may be multiple reasons for its actions. Same for actions taken by the US, Turkey, China, or India. It’s usually wise not to pass knee jerk judgement every time it involves Turkey . To the outside observer, it looks all too obvious as a biased and desperate attempt to besmirch the foe. That which we can not prove is best left alone

    • Norin said:

      Dwarfs like you never cease to amaze me. Along with your partner in crime “Armenian”, you two are never short of criticism when Russia is involved, yet here we have a glaring example of tbe US actively acting against Armenians and other Christians in the ME and suddenly you spew your “who knows what mysterious forces are at work here, let’s not questions things we don’t understand.”

      Me and a loooong list of other folks would love to come across your weasel face someday in real life you sniveling coward, pueodo intellectual charlatans like you and Armenian should be tarred and feathered in public for your lies if not your stupidity.

  6. Silva Panossian said:

    Everyone should understand, Al-Nusra, Ahrar Sham, Jound Allah, FSA, and hundred more terrorist groups fighting in Syria are same ISIS…. They only fight each other when they can’t divide what they loot from Syrian citizens properties….. If you dig the internet and see pictures of John McCain having a meeting with “FSA REBELS” you will find Abou Albakr Albagdadi present in every picture, why USA government doesn’t question McCain if they are serious about fighting terrorism?????…..When so called AlNusra entered Kessab, they were carrying the famous ISIS black flags, and one of their leaders was Some red bearded Chechen terrorist who last month was crushed in Raqqa by Syrian Army. Back to the time when Kessab was occupied, we sow Jarba the so called “FSA” leader in Kessab, from where he promised Armenians that they are guarding our churches and homes Kessab will not be destroyed until Kessabtsies return…. We all know how well they “Guarded” Kessab… :( So USA administration can’t fool us with the story of “moderate” rebels in Syria… All USA aid went to terrorist groups in Syria, that how they gained strength and eventually took over Mussel and today they have more than $2000000 daily revenue from Iraqi and Syrian oil fields… If US and UN are serious about illuminating ISIS, Why they are not following those who are buying oil from ISIS and declaring sanctions against them????

  7. Vasken said:

    America should pay for the damages in Kesssab and Aleppo caused by Turkey’s role in al Qaeda; also, what France is sayng about this, when their foreign minister was involved up to his nostrils in the same silts?

  8. Hagop D said:

    The US knowing was something we suspected from day one. And since the US knew NATO ally Turkey was aiding Al-Qaeda, that means the US was also aiding Al-Qaeda by proxy. Our “friends” in the US government are all a bunch of liars who swallowed their neocon pills like good little children. It has been said, Turkey cannot even release a fly into Syria without the US’s knowledge and approval. Unfortunately for us, as long as NATO is in operation, USA = Turkey. We cannot do anything but wait for the day when Turkey gets kicked out of NATO, then we can start seeing some changes. It is not Turkey’s choice that the US does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. It is the choice of the US government which has been taken over by a bunch of neocons. And all these ridiculous stories about “Turkey threatens this” and “Turkey threatens that” if the Genocide is recognized is all a ruse for Turkey to take the blame for the west, USA/UK/NATO, which are the REAL Genocide deniers.

    “Turkey refused to let the US attack Iraq”, “Turkey refused to cooperate with the USA on ISIS” blah blah blah. No, the USA planned it all with Turkey. Everything is planned and has a reason. In the case of Iraq, “Turkey showed those gullible Arabs what an Islamic “friend” it is”. Same thing with this so-called ISIS. In fact, the Turkish government thinks it is so smart, it can even “fool” the US, but in fact the neocon led US government just turns a blind eye in those cases with the excuse that the US “needs Turkey” (one of their actual concerns is that Turkey keep good relations with Israel). Turkey is NATO’s Islamic arm to control the Muslim Arabs and put them in check. Turkey having the power to refuse anything against the US is a big joke, without the US there would be no Turkey. And if all of a sudden the US uttered the words “Wilsonian Armenia”, I wonder what the “great and mighty Turkish empire” would refuse then.

    • Lusik said:

      1. Totally agree.
      2.To A. Kh.: There is nothing new under the sky – turkey was, is and always will be a destabilizing force in the neighborhood. This makes it particularly attractive for military gangs. Turkey will never give up its ambition to become the ottoman empire one day. And the best enjoyment will be if this day will be brought by western powers who “destroyed” the empire one century ago (interesting timing). Of course, this will never happen, but who can forbid dreaming and keeping turks under the spell. It is an additional string of a political power. Nobody in the world believes that American diplomacy and intelligence is naïve, unaware of what comes from “trusting” turks, and nobody in the world believes that this latest example will be a wake-up call. To say that one day America can stop its “friendship” with turkey is a naïve thing to say, this is for sure. There are textbooks on turkish diplomacy and its ways of thinking-talking-acting. Finally, there are millions of people who learned all this not from books.
      So, there is nothing new under the sky. Simply more concessions are requested by turks. Both sides of the negotiation table have sharks who will grab the money (and not only money). The more expensive is the project the larger are the lumps pocketed “unnoticed”. So, don’t talk about accountability, please.
      2. I wish Mr. Riccardione writes book about his years of being ambassador in turkey.

      • Norin said:

        Thank you Lusik for injecting some sense into these articles. Well said!

        Armenian and Hraych, where are you? Your Uncle Sam has a lot to answer for, where is that scathing hawkish criticism you so eagerly use on Russia related news?

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  10. Alex Postallian said:

    When is the U.S. going to QUIT BEING jerky turkeys STOOGE…If the pseudo diplomats,have to stoop that low,to accept bribes,maybe we should pay them more,OR, CLEAN SWEEP FOUR AND AFT, of the whole dept. of CROOKS…

  11. Dave Johnson said:

    It worries and distresses me to read these stories but it also confirms what I already know; the west is so inclined towards appeasing powerful Islamist home constituencies and international states that it will not make any effort for countries like Armenia- look at what NATO did to Serbia, and what gratitude did it get from muslim countries ? There is no awareness of Armenia’s situation in the west, there is general indifference here and we have elites who are determined to portray everything done by Turkey and others as positive, we are no longer Christian in fact our elites are inclined to be hostile to anything Christian. This is the reality my Armenian brothers, the west is post – Christian and pro Islam, I love your country and its culture but to the average English person or American or Frenchman there is nothing to ally oneself with, there is ignorance and indifference. The USA under Obama is so pro Islamic that nothing is going to get in its way of facilitating Islamic expansion, certainly not Armenia.

  12. Jay said:

    Do you folks remember when, ISIL ,militants ‘captured’ 49 Turk citizens, including the consul-general, staff members and their families as ‘hostage’ back in June? Well, think again. It was a pre-planned soap-opera by Ankara to use that an excuse not to cooperate with the West. Turkey, is a safe haven for ISIL. Every wounded, ISIL, militant is shipped back to Turkey for medical treatment.

  13. Danoog said:

    Again, Turkish tail wags American Dog!
    When will our president figure out that Turks can’t be trusted?

  14. edward demian said:

    All this is good news to me. Turkey slips down the Islamic road, and the world gangs up on Turkey. Turkey is too big, too Islamic and too ambitius. It need s to be broken into manageable pieces. Kurdistan, Pontistran, Ermenistan, Etc.

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