Barçin YİNANÇ On Wednesday, while four terrorists were heading towards the American Consulate in Istanbul, the Conrad Hotel in Besiktaş, not too far from İstinye where the consulate building moved a few years ago, was swarming with U.S. agents.
Top narcotic officials in charge of fighting the world's most vicious drug lords were gathered at the Conrad while the deadly attack took place in front of the consulate. The news dropped like a bomb at the gathering, bringing together top law enforcement officials from 91 countries, from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's, or DEA, acting administrator, Michele Leonhart, to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos.
Praise for Turkish police:
At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, a few minutes before the attack, the DEA's officials had scheduled a press conference for a small group of journalists. I was among them. First Leonhart and then Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, and Mark Destito, the DEA's regional director based in Ankara, briefed us about the conference.
They all praised the Turkish Police's success in the fight against drug trafficking. For those who might not be so familiar with the issue, it's worth reminding that Afghanistan is one of the three major heroin production centers in the world and the Balkan route passing from Turkey is one of the two primary routes used to smuggle heroine. �The anchor point for the Balkan Route is Turkey, which remains a major staging area and transportation route for heroin destined for European markets,� says the Web site of Interpol. In short, Turkey is under heavy pressure to prevent drug trafficking.
U.S. officials praised especially Turkey's performance of the last two years. �Turkey has put so much pressure that the drug barons started to look for another route,� said Leonhart. A large amount of heroine coming from Afghanistan was seized thanks to the efforts of Turkish officials.
It goes without saying, after the American military intervention to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban's ban on drug production vanished and as the United States and its NATO allies were unable to come up with an alternative for economic survival, opium production exploded in Afghanistan.
At any rate, the United States seems very happy with Turkish efforts to deal with a problem that in a way was aggravated by its own acts. In fact, this is why U.S. officials picked Turkey as the venue for their 26th International Drug Enforcement Conference. And interestingly, the bloody terror attack coincided with the conference. And the very first findings points to Afghanistan.
Just as is the case with the fight against drug trafficking, Turkey and the United States are in an intense cooperation in the fight against terror. Most probably, the operations that look place last winter against Al-qaeda cells in Turkey's southeastern city of Gaziantep were the result of the sharing of intelligence between the two.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's meeting last autumn with U.S. President George W. Bush, which resulted with the improvement of bilateral ties, is said to be a turning point in the cooperation against terrorism. This is especially true as far as the fight against the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Europe is concerned, according to Turkish sources. The U.S. exerts pressure on its European allies and share intelligence in order to eradicate the PKK.
The German contribution:
Hence the kidnapping of the three German tourists did not come as a surprise. In fact, the German government issued a travel warning on 4 of July, for certain regions in Turkey. Ağrı was not among them. But obviously their perception of threat led them to issue the warning just a few days ago. It is not very difficult to understand why. The German government, which very recently banned the pro-PKK TV channel in Germany, is also expected to hand over some of the PKK members it is holding.
Some might argue that the timing of the two acts that took place the same day is related to the Turkish political turmoil. The evidence to prove that remains yet to be seen. But in the absence of such evidence, we can also speculate that they might be the signs of panic, of terrorist organizations which are finding harder to survive due to increased cooperation between intelligence officials. Does that sound too optimistic?