Ankara is walking a tightrope between an unceasing demonstration of power in the Aegean Sea and a desire to control all of Cyprus. In the Cypriot EEZ, aggressive moves are expected to elicit a share of energy wealth, especially after the discovery of a field by ExxonMobil in plot 10. Tayyip Erdogan’s failure to prevent the drilling of the US oil company may push him into some kind of fait accompli. But beyond the visible aspect, covert actions cannot be ruled out.
By NEFELI LYGEROU
As Nefeli Lygerou writes in SLPress.gr, Tayyip Erdogan does not only have absolute controls of the mechanisms of the Turkish state, after the mass purgings. It also has a para-statal military organization set up in 2012 for covert operations in Arab countries. The Turkish president used it to dismantle the network of former ally Fethullah Gullen. It is the same partisan organization that pioneered resistance to the coup in July 2016.
Tayyip Erdogan was betting on the well-trained organization behind the facade of a private military consulting and training company called SADAT. On its website, the company advertises that “it is the first and only company in Turkey to provide international military advice, equipment, and training, whether it be conventional war or special operations.”
The existence of the company became widely known and associated with Erdogan from the revelations of the Avni whistleblower with more than 3,000,000 followers on Twitter.
Avni revealed that this company is, in fact, a secret private army, trained alongside Erdogan’s personal guard. It has the full support of the Turkish secret services. Let us note that the persistent efforts of the main opposition to bring parliamentary scrutiny over this case have fallen into a vacuum.
The Islamic Brigadier
The company already has a rich portfolio, as it counts almost seven years of life. It was established in February 2012, just after the outbreak of the Arab Spring. Since then, the retired military commander of the Turkish army, Adnan Tanriverdi, who was born on 8 November 1944 in Constantinople, is at its helm.
After graduating from school, he studied zoology at the University of Istanbul. In 1964 he entered the Military Academy and graduated as an artillery officer with distinctions. In the late 1980s he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. Immediately after his retirement, he worked in the private sector, before setting up SADAT.
He has stated that his company “provides training and military services as well as equipment in 22 Turkish (meaning Central Asian) and Muslim states”. He even added that “while he would have liked it, it is unfortunately not possible to meet the needs of the 60 Muslim states of the world”.
Although when he was in office he was honored with the highest distinction of the Turkish army, his career ended prematurely. In 1996 he was dismissed by the Kemalists on the charge that he practiced extreme Islamic propaganda, which was disliked by the secular state. His Islamic ideology and expulsion brought him into the circle of Erdogan’s associates.
The role of SADAT in the coup
The firm preferred to act behind-the-scenes, and so it never acquired a formal status. Only after the July coup failed, the Turkish president made him a formal adviser on military matters. It was a reward because – according to Turkish sources – the SADAT secret army played a crucial role the night of the coup. He was the one who organized and guided the Erdogan supporters that took to the streets.
The mobilization against coup plotters in July 2016 was the greatest proof of the usefulness of SADAT. In recent years, the company has focused its efforts on educating young members of the ruling Justice and Development Party in order to be able to act as a militia and perform special missions. This activity has intensified since the attempted coup. At the same time, however, the company prepares, if necessary, to undertake sudden misions inside and outside Turkey.
In an interview he gave immediately after his appointment to an Islamist Kurdish Hizbullah organization (Tayyip Erdogan’s mercenary group), Adnan Tanniverdi argued that military training and recruitment in Turkey should now change. The aim must be to build a strong Islamic army that will not be controlled by the Americans and NATO.
He has written that he wants to devote his life “to one single purpose: to make the Muslim world the ultimate winner, to the global position of such high recognition and sovereignty.” For this reason, the statute of the company, when it was founded, includes the phrase “the main concern is to protect the interests of Muslims all over the world,” he said to a group of Erdogan’s associates.
Establishment and action of SADAT
According to his own statements, he decided to set up SADAT many years earlier, during a visit to Bosnia. At that time he was still a senior officer and commanded the armed forces of Bosnian Muslims. He himself, moreover, during the last decade of his tenure in the Turkish army, had been known to perform difficult and controversial special missions.
About 23 former Turkish army officers, who had been demobilized in 2000 with a link to Islamist organizations, co-operated with him for the creation of SADAT. It was the time when the Kemalists fully controlled the armed forces. Nowadays, the company has increased the number of retired officers working for it.
Immediately after its inception, SADAT began operations in Libya. Its main activity was the training and equipment of Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, which it has officially denied. According to information, it also participated in smuggling of arms and drugs, using its close ties with radical Islamist organizations around the world.
It was noted by the Russians
SADAT has been active in almost all countries where the Arab Spring movements appeared. Thus, it inevitably came to the attention of the secret services of many Western countries, most of which did not attach the proper importance. The Russian secret services were among the first to realize the precise activities and impressive action of the company before, of course, the Putin-Erdogan approach.
In a confidential document they wrote a few years earlier: “Six Belgian lorries came under scrutiny at the container port of Istanbul when unloading military equipment to be dispatched to the Syrian opposition. These lorries were carrying battle equipment for the private military company SADAT. The containers were marked with the SADAT logo and were listed as heading to İskenderun (southern Turkey) and were strictly accompanied by the words “military mission”.
Russia had even complained to the UN about the role of the company in the Syrian war, where it mainly trained and equipped jihadists. After the uproar caused, SADAT was forced to leave Syria. But he did not leave the Balkans. Needless to say, SADAT and its founder are among the most fervent supporters of Turkish expansionism in the Aegean and Thrace. The company’s action, as shown by secret documents, makes it clear that it could be particularly damaging to Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.
Un-Orthodox Warfare and Political Assassinations
Reliable Russian reports characterize SADAT as a “paramilitary group, which aims to destabilize countries.” It is worth noting that this is also the position of the main opposition in Turkey. As SADAT notes on its website, “as part of our activities we provide training in unconventional warfare in urban environments, as well as training in information collection techniques, psychological warfare, sabotage, raids, traps, and political assassinations.”
Well-informed sources report that the company is deeply involved in the trafficking of refugees and immigrants. According to the same sources, it has recruited Islamists from Central Asia, which it transferred and trained in Syria. These persons are now in Turkey and are operating trafficking rings. Once, Turgut Ozal had said that “we do not have to fight with Greece. It is enough to let Muslim immigrants cross the Greek border and settle there.” Today, Ankara uses refugee and migratory flows as a weapon to blackmail Europe and break Greece.
It is unclear whether SADAT has been involved in Thrace. However, its involvement in Albania in order to gain strategic strength and strengthen the process of transformation of the country into a Turkish satellite has been proven. According to information, SADAT is one of the institutions the Erdogan regime uses to implement its minor risk strategy.
This strategy involves small-scale and sporadic tactics, which are aggressive, but not so intense, as to provoke strong reactions. These include the collection of information. SADAT is offering to carry out such missions because it is not formally associated with the Turkish state.