Turkish military contractor SADAT has always been in Libya

Turkey’s military cooperation deal with Libya signed on Nov. 27 includes provisions on “guest personnel,” which has led to opposition parties asking whether private contractor SADAT Defence Consultancy would be among the civilian groups to be deployed to the war-torn North African country.

Turkey’s presidency on Monday submitted a motion to parliament for the approval of troop deployment to Libya, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) hoping to rush a bill through before the end of the parliament’s recess on Jan. 7.

The military cooperation deal says Turkey may send civilian persons who are members of defence and security organisations to Libya.

“No other deals Turkey has signed with other countries has such an open ended, tacit definition,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy on the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission Utku Çakırözer said.

“Who are these defence and security organisations mentioned in the memorandum, who will be controlling them?” Çakırözer added.

However, SADAT, founded by former Turkish Brig.Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdi, has been in Libya since it first emerged. The first time SADAT mentioned Libya on its website was in May 2013, when it held a visit “to determine the needs of New Libyan Armed Forces”.

SADAT had been providing training and equipment to Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, and secret services had the company on their radar for it.

The reports had also said former Turkish army officers in SADAT had consisted mainly of special war experts who had been dismissed from the army due to their Islamist leanings.

Tanrıverdi, who is also the chief security advisor to President Erdoğan, spent most of his career in the Turkish army’s Special War Department. He later served as the president of the Association of Justice Defenders (ASDER), which formed the basis of SADAT.

Tanrıverdi mead headlines last week during an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit when he said his company was paving the way for the arrival of the Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer of Islam, according to Islamic teachings.

Erdoğan's chief military advisor also said the Islamic world would become united under the leadership of Mahdi.

“It is clear that SADAT follows and enforces Erdoğan’s agenda without the constraints of being a government entity,” former Pentagon official Michael Rubin wrote in 2017.

Rubin, as well as others in international media, said SADAT had played an active role in suppressing the coup attempt of July 15, 2016 in Turkey. Rubin also said SADAT received funding from the Turkish government to train some 3,000 foreign fighters to be deployed in Syria and Libya.

The Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Nusra were among groups that SADAT provided military training to, according to Rubin.

Centre-right opposition Good (İYİ) Party’s leader and former Interior Minister Meral Akşener in January 2018 said SADAT ran training camps in central Anatolia, “rumoured to create chaos in Turkey during elections” in June the same year.

SADAT responded to allegations by accusing Rubin of ties to the Gülen movement, which Turkey maintains orchestrated the 2016 coup attempt, citing an Ankara court’s dismissal of an inquiry into the camps Akşener mentioned.

The company also said none of its personnel coordinated with each other, although they were on the streets against the coup attempt “like every patriotic Turkish person,” and that “there have never been works carried out by SADAT in Turkey or in another country during any election process”.

Another major point of contention was SADAT’s involvement with the Esedullah Teams, a special operations force that was active during the urban conflict in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast in 2015 and was cited in a EU report on Turkey as being responsible for “grave human rights violations, including the deliberate killing of civilians”.

SADAT established a series of bases in Turkey’s north-western Marmara region to train Syrian anti-Assad opposition forces, and at least one of these bases in the Kocaeli province formerly belonged to the Turkish Navy, according to a 2012 report by opposition daily Aydınlık. SADAT has denied the claim.

Tanrıverdi has not denied his support for the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA), and in 2012 called for Turkey to endow a diplomatic mission to the FSA Command and issue diplomatic passports to military and civilian personnel the FSA deemed fit.

However, there are allegations that the relationship extended beyond FSA and constituted support for al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra.

Tanrıverdi in February detailed his dream of a confederal Islamic state that would encompass 61 Muslim-majority countries, placed in eight groups by ethnicity and location, during the second International Islamic Union Congress, supported by his Strategic Research Centre for Defenders of Justice (ASSAM).

Islamic countries should establish Islamic unity ministries that would convene regularly to discuss how a union could be established, Tanrıverdi said in a speech in the congress.

Turkey, Iran, Syria, the Iraqi Resistance Organisation and Palestine should be the core of defence cooperation between Islamic countries, Tanrıverdi said, with a rapid deployment force of Islam to be established, consisting of an amphibious brigade, an armoured brigade and an aero-landing brigade.

Israeli security service Shin Bet in 2018 accused SADAT of facilitating the transfer of funds and equipment to Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas.

CHP lawmaker Necati Yıllmaz in 2016 asked then-prime minister Bengali Yıldırım which countries SADAT was connected to, whether it offered intelligence training for any foreign countries, whether it had camps abroad, and whether allegations of its ties with Al Nusra, Al Qaeda and ISIS were true.

Yıldırım left the questions unanswered.

In case of another social movement like the 2013 Gezi Park protests or a workers’ movement gaining momentum, SADAT could come out and kill people with impunity claiming they were terrorists, former CHP lawmaker Fikri Sağlar said in 2018.