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25 January, 2018

Turkish Hezbollah: Erdogan's proxies in the Middle East?


The Turkish military has shelled and bombarded Syrian Kurdish positions in northern Syria for a fifth day, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to extend the offensive east of the city of Manbij. Turkey on Saturday launched the operation in the Afrin region to clear it of US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by Ankara as a threat to its security.

Despite that ISIS has been almost eliminated in the Middle East, Erdogan continues his own agenda with the primary target to crush Kurdish resistance and destroy the US plans for an autonomous Kurdish state.

An internal Stratfor document - through WikiLeaks - from the beginning of 2011, gives significant details for the Turkish Hezbollah to the point that it could be considered Erdogan's proxy army in the Middle East. As described:

Senior members of Turkish Hezbollah were released on Jan. 5 after spending ten years in jail. Their release came as a result of an amendment to the Turkish penal code made by the Turkish government in 2005, but delayed until now, which allows release of culprits, whose trials last more than ten years. Though their trials will continue, release of Hezbollah's top-brass is likely to revitalize the group in mostly Kurdish populated southeastern Turkey. Whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amended the law specifically to this end is unknown, but a reinforced Hezbollah fits perfectly into AKP's strategy to handle the Kurdish issue ahead of parliamentary elections slated for June 2011.

Not to be confused with the radical Lebanese Shia Islamist movement, the Turkish Hezbollah, a Sunni group, has been active in the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey especially in 1990s. The Turkish State has allegedly provided covert support to Hezbollah against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in an attempt to undermine PKK's military capability against the Turkish army. Ideological difference between the two groups - Hezbollah as a militant Islamist group and PKK, a secular socialist-rooted separatist movement - contributed to the struggle between the two. This balance of power between the two armed groups worked well in the Turkish state's interest until PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan was imprisoned in 1999 and a temporary ceasefire was declared, when the need for Hezbollah was gradually decreased. Hezbollah's leader Huseyin Velioglu was killed in 2000 and its senior members were jailed amid a media campaign showing killings committed by Hezbollah. Hezbollah has remained silent since then and did not engage in any militant activity.

It is still unknown whether Hezbollah will publicly align itself with AKP, which may be risky for AKP to be aligning with a militant Islamist group, especially when the governing party is working hard domestically and internationally to distance itself from its Islamist roots. But even if Hezbollah does not ally with AKP, there is no doubt that it will counterweight PKK's armed pressure in the region by reactivating its followers and will revitalize religious sentiments among Kurds to ease the ethnic tension that Erdogan's nationalist rhetoric creates. And this will work in AKP's interest.


Note that members of Turkish Hezbollah were released on Jan. 5 of 2011, that is, less than three months before the eruption of Syrian chaos.

Also as stated in the document, Turkish Hezbollah should not be confused with the Lebanese Hezbollah. In fact, Turkey wanted to get rid of the Lebanese Hezbollah, as the group is fighting on the side of Assad in Syria.

From Wikipedia:

           The 1993 report of Turkey's Parliamentary Investigation Commission referred to information that Hezbollah had a camp in the Batman region where they received political and military training and assistance from the security forces. Former Minister Fikri Sağlar said in an interview with the paper Siyah-Beyaz (Black-White) that the army not only used Hezbollah, but actually founded and sponsored the organization. He maintained that such a decision had been taken in 1985 at the highest levels – the National Security Council. On 17 January 2011 Arif Doğan, a retired colonel in the Turkish army who also claims to be a founder of JİTEM, while testifying in court in the Ergenekon case, declared that he set up Hezbollah as a contra group to force to fight and kill militants of the PKK. The organization was originally to be called Hizbul-Kontr ("Party of the Contras"). According to journalist Faik Bulut, some Hizbollah members were caught in Istanbul with 40 kg of C-4 explosive and valid Turkish National Intelligence Organization identity cards.

Recall that the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others have been accused that they were assisting directly, or indirectly, various extremist groups during the Syrian war to fulfill their agendas. There is evidence that these proxies are connected with ISIS and Al-Qaeda, or, even that they are branches of these militant Sunni Islamist organizations.

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