There is a difference between unsavory but legal acts an intelligence chief sometimes must undertake in the shadows versus those intelligence chiefs who essentially consolidate power while seeking to maintain the illusion that the state acts independently. To differentiate between the two is often easy, even if it might ruffle diplomatic feathers.
Turkish intelligence chief reveals Erdoğan’s true Islamist face – analyst
A more accurate reading of Turkey can be found by looking to the country’s head of intelligence rather than its diplomats, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Michael Rubin said on Thursday.
In an article for the National Interest, Rubin said officials at the U.S. State Department were too often willing to excuse the actions of Turkey and others based on the “public face constructed by their presidencies and foreign ministries”.
But the record of figures like head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) Hakan Fidan was more revealing about the country’s true intentions, Rubin said.
U.S.-educated Fidan has long been a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan, serving as a foreign policy advisor to the then-prime minister, before being appointed head of MIT in 2010. He briefly resigned the post in 2015 to stand as a parliamentary candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), before Erdoğan blocked the move.
Fidan is an admirer of Iran and has sought to use his influence to undermine Turkey’s relations with Israel, Rubin said. In 2013, Israeli intelligence officials reportedly blamed Fidan for exposing a spy-ring they were operating from Turkey against Iran, possibly in retaliation for the Gaza Flotilla incident, which saw eight Turkish citizens killed by Israeli commandos off the coast of Palestinian territory.
Rubin said Fidan had also overseen a flow of arms to al Qaida affiliated groups in Syria, and provided support to the Islamic States (ISIS). These examples demonstrate that Fidan “represents the true Turkey more than the image projected during congressional delegations to Istanbul or cocktail parties at the Turkish chancellery,” he said.