For years we have been listening to accusations that Turkey has not supported the Turkmens of Iraq and Syria. In the 1990s and early 2000s that was true because past governments as well as the incoming Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in 2002 had no control over Iraq and it was up to the powerful Turkish military to chart and execute policies regarding Iraq in general, and northern Iraq in particular. So the military rulers of Turkey who worked behind the scenes played a game of intrigue with Iraq's Turkmens rather than helping them in earnest. They had their own Turkmens and thus created divisions among the Turkmen community in Irbil and Kirkuk. They did not leave the Turkmens to set up their own political organizations and run them independent of Ankara. On the contrary, they intervened so much so that a handful of Turkmens who were courted by Ankara receive benefits and others were alienated.
Turkey did not do its homework properly on the Turkmens of Iraq and ended up usually on the losing for the Turkmens as a whole, both Sunni and Shiite. Once the military domination of Turkey's policies regarding Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq ended and the administration of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gained full control on the Turkish state file of Iraq, especially after 2007 things started to change. Ankara improved its ties with Barzani, but due to past mistakes, could only make minimal headway with the Turkmens. Turkey, through the hard work of Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was then the chief advisor and trouble shooter of Erdoğan while he was prime minister, made inroads in northern Iraq, used the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) more effectively and started to get a better grasp of the situation in the region. Turkey improved ties with Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Kurdish and Turkmen tribes, especially in northern Iraq.
All this proved an asset when Turkey managed to save the employees of its Mosul consulate who were held hostage by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) through high diplomacy and with the help of Sunni Arab tribes. Then the crisis in Syria erupted, but by then Turkey had better knowledge of the demography of the area as well as the strong tribes that made a difference. Turkey realized that it had to help the Turkmens in Syria, but even then it was too slow to react. However, when Turkey realized the growing menace of the extremist ISIS hordes invading chunks of Syria and butchering people the country took effective countering steps to help the Turkmens. It had already made contacts with the Turkmens through MİT and decided to send equipment to them to help defend themselves both against ISIS and President Bashar Assad's forces. It was also a tactical move to counter the growing influence of the Kurdish militants in the region.
But no one in Ankara dreamed that the Gülen Movement, which by then had fallen at odds with the Erdoğan administration, would take steps that bordered on treason to halt the equipment aid through its network of prosecutors and security personnel. On January 19, 2014, prosecutors and security personnel loyal to Gülen halted the TIR trucks carrying equipment to Syrian Turkmens and tried to defame the government by spreading news that the trucks were carrying weapons for ISIS and that Erdoğan was helping the bloodthirsty ISIS militants. The personnel in the trucks were made to lie on the ground and were about to be taken into custody when local officials intervened and halted the Gülenist operation that amounted to a mini-coup.
Since then the prosecutors and security personnel who undertook this awful act are under investigation and some are in custody. But a few days ago the news was once again rehashed and presented to the public by the left-wing daily Cumhuriyet as it printed photographs of the MİT's trucks and reported that arms were hidden under boxes of medical supplies. The opposition has every right to question the aims and intentions of the government. But no one has the right to play into the hands of Turkey's enemies and moreover deny the right to innocent Turkmens to defend themselves against the ISIS hordes. That goes for the Gülen Movement and for some sections of the Turkish media. Since January 2014, Turkey has been hard-pressed in its efforts to help Syrian Turkmens because of the ongoing controversy, and therefore ISIS has been wreaking havoc in Turkmen areas. Some people deserve the medal of treason. Guess who.