Small Wars Journal

IRGC Threat in the Middle East: How Safe Are Americans in Turkey?

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 9:11am

IRGC Threat in the Middle East: How Safe Are Americans in Turkey?

Mahmut Cengiz

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force General Qassim Soleimani had been killed in a drone strike by the United States on January 3, 2019, ostensibly because he was plotting imminent attacks on Americans in the Middle East.[1] It sent reverberations across the Middle East and around the word. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian government, and the IRGC responded with outrage, vowing to take revenge against the United States. The IRGC carried out the threat when it fired missiles at American military bases in Iraq. The group claimed that it had killed at least 80 American soldiers. U.S. President Donald Trump disputed the claim, saying that no Americans or Iraqis lost their lives in the missile attacks.[2] The Iranian people, based on a search of Twitter posts about the killing of Soleimani, also have spoken. The Iranian people, as seen in a research based on tweeter accounts, are strongly in favor of their government’s retaliatory attack on the United States.[3]

For Americans living in or visiting the Middle East—including Turkey, which hosts a U.S. military base—safety is a valid concern. The killing of Soleimani simply exacerbated the security situation in the region. The country has become increasingly authoritarian, relations between Turkey and the United States remain tense, the Turkish media continue to write and broadcast news reports that smear Americans, and the IRGC’s influence in Turkey is rising. Amid such volatility, how safe are Americans in Turkey?

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, which led to the overthrow of the last monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran created the IRGC and expanded the organization’s power over political and economic realms. The Quds Force, a unit in IRGC, has been responsible for the organization’s military operations abroad. The current Iranian regime adheres to a policy of forward defense, meaning that Iran will protect the country starting from outside of its borders when necessary by exporting terrorism, meddling in the internal affairs of its neighboring countries, and forming franchises of Quds Forces. Turkey is one of the countries where the IRGC has a strong influence. Since its establishment of an IRGC franchise group in Turkey known as the Salam Tawhid Quds Force (STQF), the IRGC has taken advantage of being among the so-called untouchables[4] and has expanded its influence in Turkey. This article examines IRGC activities starting from the 1990s and analyzes how the IRGC is capable of committing terrorist attacks or targeting any Americans in Turkey.  

IRGC Activities in Turkey

According to an American intelligence officer in 2005, the Quds Force divided the world into eight regions in terms of its operations (see Figure 1): Western countries (including the former Eastern Bloc); Former Soviet Union; Iraq; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India; Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan; Turkey; North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.[5] Only Turkey and Iraq are targeted as individual countries rather than as a group of countries. It makes sense that the Quds Force separated and gave more attention to Iraq, given the tension in Iran and Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s tenure and the religious leadership rivalries between Iranian and Iraqi Shia leaders. It makes no sense, however, Turkey is singled out as a targeted country. For example, Turkey could have pursued traces of the Iranian Quds Force in the 1990s while investigating murder cases that appeared to be linked to the Quds Force, but it did not do so. Turkish officials, however, never sought an answer to why the Quds Force thought Turkey should be targeted separately. Today it would not be wrong to conclude that the IRGC is more active and influential in the Turkish bureaucracy and political arena than any American can imagine. The evidence includes police investigations that were conducted until late 2013. Some of the suspects in these investigations still hold high positions in Turkey’s government and are responsible for putting all of the investigators in jail and intimidating others who might be thinking about initiating a probe that targets the IRGC in Turkey.

 

1

Figure 1: Eight directorates (regions) of Quds Force operations.[6]

The STQF’s terrorist activities in Turkey cover two periods: 1990 through 2000 and 2011 to the present. The first period was marked by violence, the assassination of secular academics and journalists (e.g., Ugur Mumcu, Bahriye Ucok, Muammer Aksoy, and Ahmet Taner Kislali), and increased Iranian influence over the Turkish government.[7] Court documents from 2000 show that the goal of the STQF is to establish a new regime similar to the Shia-based one in Iran by creating sectarian divisions within Turkey,[8] that the STQF is controlled by Iran, that the group’s members frequently visited Iran for political and military training, and that they were provided with weapons and deployed for attacks against citizens of the United States, Israel, Iraq, and the United Kingdom.[9]

Salam Tawhid Quds Force (STQF) Investigation

A new period of STQF activity in Turkey came to light in 2011 when an informant (see Figure 2) for the Turkish government complained about her husband, Huseyin Avni Yazicioglu, being linked to Iranian intelligence officials.

2

Figure 2: The informant’s statement in the police report launching the STQF investigation.[10]

The informant stated that her husband was spying on Iran and that he had organized activities aimed at spreading the influence of Shiism in Turkey. The husband had a prior conviction for anti-secular activities and was a member of an Iranian group responsible for carrying out clandestine activities such as photographing a Turkish nuclear research center and producing satellite images of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. The husband also was linked to Iran’s intelligence unit.[11] The informant’s statement prompted the prosecutor in Istanbul to launch an investigation in 2011.[12]

The Turkish investigation uncovered a huge group of STQF consisting of 241 suspects, and 56 of them were Iranians. The group was under the command of a small Quds Force cell. Two of the members were Hakki Selcuk Sanli, the founder of the group, and Faruk Koca, former deputy of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi - AKP). Both men received intelligence and religious training in Iran. Koca also worked with Yazicioglu at a nonprofit organization in the 1990s. After Koca was elected as an AKP deputy in the Turkish parliament, the Quds Force cell had a chance to be closer to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.[13] Koca also owned the house that Erdogan rented during his early years as the country’s prime minister—the same house in which the police found a bugging device.

Another cell member was Sayed Ali Akbar Mir Vekili, a general in the Quds Force. He was in charge of Quds Force activities in Turkey.[14] According to one reliable European source, Mir Vekili was responsible for the killing of more than 100 NATO soldiers, mostly Americans, in Iraq.[15] Mir Vekili had very close ties to Hakan Fidan, the current head of Turkey’s intelligence unit. Fidan acted like a member of the cell and had close ties to IRGC members from when he was younger.[16] According to the police indictment, Sanli and Koca were tasked with connecting Mir Vekili and Fidan. The cell members were meeting clandestinely at Ankara’s S’LO Cafe, a business owned by Koca.[17] The four men operated clandestinely and used code names during phone conversations. While Koca was using Furkan as a code name, Fidan used Emin/Metin, and Mir Vekili used Hamit/Huseyin as their code names.[18] Mir Vekili met clandestinely with the other cell members after the S’LO Cafe meeting and communicated with them by pay phones (see Figure 3).

3

Figure 3: Confidentiality was maintained among Quds Force cell members. In the photograph on the left, Sayed Ali Akbar Mir Vekili can be seen a short distance behind Selcuk Sanli before their meeting at the S’LO Cafe. In the photograph on the right, Mir Vekili can be seen using a pay phone to call one of the cell members.[19]

According to the police investigation, the cell members were careful about not being followed by the police. For example, one of the group’s members who met with the STQF’s another Quds Force general Naser Ghafari changed buses and bus stops eight times to spy and provide the general with a clandestine file. Police video recorded the meeting (see Figure 4).[20]

4

Figure 4: The clandestine rendezvous of STQF members in Istanbul.[21]

In another instance, Turkish STQF members attempted to observe and prepare reports on the U.S. Consulate, the Israeli Consulate, and the Nuclear Research Center in Istanbul.[22] Those observations led the STQF in 2011 to target the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul for an attack. The STQF members placed a bomb on a bicycle and detonated it at a location very close to the Israeli Consulate. One civilian was killed, and eight others were wounded. The police investigation verified the involvement of militants linked to the STQF. For example, one of the suspects, Abdulhamit Celik, received military training in Iran in the 1990s and provided the explosives to Iranian militant Rizazade Metin.[23] The police took a photograph of Celik as he met with Sanli and Mir Vekili.[24] Celik and Sanli had identical criminal records in Turkey that date to their arrest in 1996 for the murder of two opponents of the Iranian regime. Both men were released from jail in 2004 when Erdogan granted them amnesty.[25]

Funding for the STQF was provided by the IRGC. Turkish investigators discovered that members of the STQF used a hawala money-laundering system (i.e., an alternative remittance system, or informal banking arrangement that bypasses traditional financial institutions) to finance the group’s activities. Investigators found that several exchange offices in Istanbul were linked to Iranian exchange offices that served as conduits for the laundered money. If the Turkish government had not interfered with the investigation, the trail may well have led to the discovery of sources of money for the STQF in Turkey.[26]

The government’s interference included efforts to cover up the investigation of the STQF despite an abundance of solid evidence against the group. When information about the investigation was leaked, the government attempted to tamper with the facts and the evidence obtained during the investigation. For example, pro-government news outlets allegedly reported that Gulenist police officers (i.e., followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen) had wiretapped 7,000 people, including politicians, businessmen, and celebrities. The police, however, actually had wiretapped only 241 suspects. Erdogan and now former Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag issued explanations that undermined the evidence and blamed the police officers involved in the investigation.[27] In a backhanded swipe at the police, Bozdag commented that three people came together and saluted each other, saying, “Selamun aleykum (Peace be upon you),” after which the police filed papers to designate the trio as a criminal organization.[28] The designation came after two large corruption investigations in December 2013 implicated Erdogan’s family, and an investigation of government’s role in transferring weapons to al Qaeda groups in February 2014. Enraged about the three investigations, the government fired, tortured, and jailed the officers involved in the uncompleted Quds Force investigation. The police treated the judge and the prosecutor involved the IRGC investigation chief as ferocious terrorists (see Figure 5 and Figure 6). The message from the police was clear: Those who dared to investigate the IRGC and intimidate other investigators would be severely punished. Members of the IRGC in Turkey, therefore, became what the author refers to as the “untouchables.” 

5

Figure 5: The presiding judge (left) in the IRGC investigation and the prosecutor (right) in charge of the case are arrested like terrorists.

6

Figure 6: The Turkish police chief who headed the IRGC investigation in handcuffs after being arrested.

The government’s harsh response most likely stems from outrage that the police chief, the judge, and the prosecutor involved in the investigation had the audacity to name as a suspect in the case the country’s head of intelligence. The Turkish people, however, need clarification from the intelligence chief himself about why he was linked to Mir Vekili, the general who led a Quds Force cell in Turkey that operated clandestinely and who met with the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.   

The Zarrab Investigation

A Turkish police investigation of the IRGC’s financial operation in the country eventually led to the investigation of Reza Zarrab, a dual Iranian-Turkish national and gold trader who played a central role in helping the Iranian government evade U.S. sanctions (aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions) by enlisting the help of Turkish banks transfer gold to Iran starting in 2013, erupted into a corruption scandal on December 17, 2013, when it became known that Erdogan’s AKP government and high-level bureaucrats had been implicated in the illegal activity. Investigators had proved that Zarrab was the facilitator and money launderer tasked with circulating Iranian currency and opening escrow accounts in Turkish state banks in return for giving millions of dollars in bribes to Turkish ministers and bureaucrats.[29]

The IRGC’s involvement in the money-laundering operation is not surprising, given the organization’s long history of financial connections to Iran and Khamenei. In 2011, the IRGC controlled between 25 percent and 40 percent of the Iranian economy in 2011, marking a stark increase from the 5 percent it controlled in 1989.[30] In 2005, Khamenei issued an executive order in 2005 to transfer 80 percent of Iranian economic enterprises to the control of the supreme leader and the IRGC.[31] Since then, any business dealings with Iran meant doing business with the IRGC and the country’s supreme leader.[32] The IRGC is heavily involved in legal and illegal sectors of the economy, ranging from high-technology, social-housing projects, and chain stores to telecommunications and oil and gas.[33] In the illegal arena, the IRGC is active in the Iranian underground economy. The organization engages in low-level smuggling of alcohol and other contraband as well as high-level smuggling of oil. The IRGC’s smuggling activities generate an estimated $12 billion each year.[34]

When Turkish police arrested Zarrab and the sons of two cabinet ministers (Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler at the time) on December 17, Erdogan put pressure on the judiciary. The ministers’ sons were released about two months later, and the government shut down the case. When Zarrab traveled to the United States in March 2016, however, FBI agents arrested him on charges similar to the accusations made by Turkish prosecutors. Zarrab’s trials in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ended with Zarrab pleading guilty to the charges against him. In stark contrast to the Turkish government, which fired, punished, and jailed the investigators after accusing them of using fabricated evidence, the U.S. prosecutors valued and used in court the evidence and wiretappings the Turkish police had collected during their investigation of Zarrab.[35] It was this compelling evidence that prompted Zarrab to plead guilty in U.S. court.

Evidence of the IRGC’s involvement with Zarrab came from a document uncovered during an investigation of the STQF in 2011. The document proved that Mir Vekili and his team had conducted a study on corruption in Turkey, discovered corrupt activity, and prepared a report for the IRGC. Then Zarrab was assigned to Turkey to implement the gold-funneling and money-laundering schemes to help Iran skirt U.S. sanctions on the country.[36]     

Police Investigations in Igdir Province

In 2011 and 2012, Turkish police investigated the spying activities of the IRGC in Igdir province, located along Turkey’s border with Armenia, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Region, and Iran. The province is evenly populated by Turkish Shia citizens and Kurdish citizens. The police investigations revealed that Iran has considerable influence over Shias in Turkey, including those living in Igdir. Iran provides the Turkish Shias with financing for their religious activities and offers religious training in Qom province in Iran. In Igdir, all of the Shia mosques and their mollas’ salaries have been paid by Iranians. The mollas have tried to unify the Shia community in Turkey by appealing to a long-standing hatred of Sunnis. Several mollas in Igdir have arranged weekly ceremonies to smear historical Sunni leaders. One of the Igdir province governors prepared a report in 2012 about the strong authority Iran exerts over Shia mosques and mollas in the province and suggested the possibility of a link between these mosques and the Turkish government. The governor’s memo, however, was leaked. The mollas responded to the allegations by provoking the Shias to demonstrate against the governor. The governor was labeled as a terrorist, even though he had served the city well and was extremely successful at developing its infrastructure[37]

Igdir province also was the site of two other police investigations:[38] In the first investigation, the police found that IRGC members tried to gather information on military and government buildings in the eastern part of Turkey by exploiting smugglers and local residents who needed to complete transactions at Iranian customs posts but would otherwise have trouble doing so. Offers to facilitate unimpeded entry into Iran enabled the IRGC members to establish close relationships with smugglers. In exchange for safe passage, the smugglers agreed to take photographs of government buildings in Igdir province. The police investigation also revealed that Iranian officials had contacted the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) members to obtain information about military checkpoints on the Turkish side of the Iranian border.[39]

In the second incident, Turkish police pretended to be mut’ah[40] agents as part of a human-trafficking investigation. While doing so, the police discovered links between Iranian spies and the traffickers. Roughly 100 of the Iranian spies were women scattered across Turkey with the goal of establishing connections with high-level politicians and bureaucrats through a tactic known as a honey trap. The tactic which involves one person enticing another person into a false relationship in an effort to get the trapped person to reveal information the trapper wants but might be unable to get otherwise. The honey trappers thus engaged in a sexual relationship with the trapped person to whom they were assigned and worked to glean information from their targets. One of these Iranian spies was detained in Igdir province. The spy was part of a honey-trapper team that operated in Ankara. They came to Turkey to visit with Turkish Alawites and connect them to mollas in Iran.[41] A similar police investigation conducted in Istanbul confirmed the presence of a group of women who operated under the direction of Naser Ghafiri, a member of the IRGC.[42]     

The July 15 Coup Attempt and the IRGC

It is not unusual to hear about conspiracy theories in the Middle East, in part because of state-sponsored and state-supported terrorism incidents in the region. Officials in states where terrorism incidents have occurred, typically deny any role in sponsoring or supporting terrorists. Those denials make it impossible for the police to trace the links among state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East.

The author has examined the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey in a series of articles in the Small Wars Journal. According to the author’s articles, the July 15 coup attempt involved confrontations between a small group of so-called amateurish plotters (SAPs) and a larger group of counter-coup plotters (CCPs). The SAPs were ultranationalist, secular, Gulenist, Kurdish, and other opposition groups who believed in the power of the coup to overthrow the Erdogan government. They were poorly organized and did not have a plan for how to carry out the coup. Their actions were akin to suicide. The CCPs, by contrast, included the current head of intelligence and former military commanders who knew what the SAPs were planning to do but did not prevent them from acting. The CCPs knowingly enabled the confrontations to occur, believing that the government would benefit from the aftermath by creating a pretext for Erdogan to crack down on his opponents. The plan worked as CCPs had hoped. Erdogan’s response to the failed coup was to shut down more than 300 media outlets, jail hundreds of journalists, purge more than 200,000 public servants from the government bureaucracy, and detain more than 600,000 people.

After the coup attempt, Turkish cabinet ministers and the Turkish media blamed the United States for supporting the coup plotters; however, the author’s Small Wars Journal article published in July 2019 stated that the evidence showing Russian involvement is much stronger than it is for U.S. involvement. The author also discussed how Vatan Party (Patriotic Party) leader Dogu Perincek, a CCP and the mastermind behind the military purges, visited Iran several times and briefed the Iranian government and press about the coup attempt and the purges. As the author wrote in the July 2019 article, Perincek said to Iranian press, “Turkey is cleaning the connections of NATO and America from Turkish military. The purged military officers are all Americanist.”[43] In January 2020, one of the suspects in the Turkish STQF investigation said that Qassim Soleimani, a general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force (until his death on January 3, 2020), knew about the July 15 coup attempt and played a critical role in trying to prevent it. Erdogan knew about Soleimani’s active role in thwarting the coup attempt.[44] Given the tense atmosphere in Iran today and the influence the IRGC exerts on Turkish bureaucrats and politicians, it has been difficult to find evidence that corroborates what the Turkish STQF suspect meant by his. It would not be surprising, however, to find odd link between Turkish intelligence officials and IRGC members—if the Turkish people have a chance in the future to learn more about the unanswered questions and the darker aspects of the coup attempt.      

The Capacity of the Police

The AKP government in its early years protected itself from the risks of shadowy elitists, who executed periodic coups or coup attempts, by implementing the requirements for membership in the European Union. This period gave the AKP an opportunity to strengthen the country’s democratic foundations. One step toward that goal was to send hundreds of police chiefs to Western countries to learn how to modernize the police organization in Turkey. The effort paid off, starting in 2007. Turkish National Police has become one of the most professional and well-trained units in the Middle East, seizing vast amounts of illegal drugs, arresting infamous mafia bosses, and fighting against jihadist organizations. Western countries enjoyed cooperating effectively with new modernized Turkish police organization—until the December 17 and 25 corruption scandals in 2013 implicated Erdogan and his inner circle. These investigations proved that Erdogan and his ministers took millions of dollars in bribes from Zarrab, the Iranian money facilitator, and uncovered illegal activities in cooperation with al Qaeda affiliated Saudi businessman Yasin al Qadi, who opened business in Turkey. He was accused of being an al Qaida financier and subsequently was banned from flying into Turkey. The travel ban, however, did not stop Qadi from finding a way to enter the country illegally.

The fallout from the corruption investigations was devastating for Turkey’s police officers. Erdogan began to purge the police force, starting with the officers who had earned their graduate degrees from Western countries, accusing them all of being terrorists. Erdogan’s accusations clearly were contrived, given the officers’ response to having lost their jobs and thrown in jail. The purged police officers committed no acts of violence (as one would expect from terrorists), no misdemeanor offenses, and no crimes of any sort. Erdogan’s AKP government recruited more than 30,000 new police officers, none of whom receive more than brief, cursory training for the job. One of the new officers was self-radicalized, had ties to the al Qaeda franchise in Syria known as al Nusra Front, and was responsible for the murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. It is difficult to gauge the professionalism of the new police officers but, given their lack of experience with investigating organized crime and terrorism, one could reasonably conclude that Erdogan’s new police force lacks quality.

It should be noted that the Iranian IRGC enjoyed operating in Turkey after the purge of the country’s police officers. The Erdogan government turned a blind eye to crime and corruption, choosing not to initiate any investigations of Iranian spies, IRGC members, or Hezbollah militants. Evidence exists that the IRGC opened many companies in Turkey so the organization could transfer money to Hezbollah in Latin America. At the same time, Hezbollah militants have used Turkish banks to launder cocaine money. It now appears that the IRGC has the capacity to murder any of its targets in Turkey. Several opponents of the Iranian regime, for example, have been killed over the past few years in Turkey. The last murder occurred in Istanbul in 2019. Mesut Mevlevi, who was trying to uncover evidence of IRGC corruption, was killed in Istanbul in November 2019.[45]

Conclusion

The IRGC and its military wing, the Quds Force, have been two of the top security issues in the Middle East for several years. The Quds Force, for example, is involved in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, maintains close relationships with terrorist groups in the Middle East and, in 2019, and was designated a terrorist group by the United States. The IRGC, meanwhile, has stepped up its efforts to target Americans and achieved its goal of increasing tensions in the region. Soleimani, the organization’s leader, was killed this year by a U.S. drone strike. The IRGC was outraged and vowed to take revenge, including activities that threaten Americans in the Middle East. Of greatest concern for the United States in light of these threats is the security of its embassies, military bases, and citizens in the Middle East.

Turkey is one of the countries in the region where the IRGC has the capacity to threaten Americans. A review of past investigations of the IRGC and the suspects involved clearly shows the extent of the IRGC’s influence in Turkey. Turkish investigations of the IRGC, for example, found Quds Force cells that consisted of not only Turkish bureaucrats, journalists, and politicians but also Quds Force generals. One of these cells was involved in targeting the Israeli Consulate and was prepared to attack the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. Suspected members of the STQF within the Turkish government punished the investigators by putting them in jail. The action was intended to be a warning to other investigators about the folly of daring again to launch an investigation of the IRGC. The message apparently has been heard and heeded. Attempted investigations of the IRGC’s Quds Force in 2011 and 2012 resulted in severe punishment for the Turkish investigators—another implicit warning that the IRGC is an organization of “untouchables” free to continue killing opponents of the Iranian regime and Turkish secular academics and journalists. The group was not bluffing. As recently as November 2019, an Iranian journalist who had launched a probe of corruption within the IRGC was killed by members of the organization.      

The Turkish government’s response was to remain silent and look the other way. Government officials with suspected ties to the IRGC have not been ousted from their positions, the government remains reluctant to investigate Quds Force members in Turkey, the IRGC’s influence in Turkey continues to grow, and the IRGC’s reputation as a group of “untouchables” has been solidified.

The question remains: How safe are Americans in Turkey? The answer, from this author’s perspective, is not at all.

End Notes


[1] William Cummings, “What You Need to Know about Rising Tensions between the U.S. and Iran after Soleimani death,” USA Today. Accessed on January 13, 2019, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/01/06/iran-tension-soleimani-explainer/2822590001/.

[2] “Read Trump’s Speech Following Iran Missile Attack,” Politico. Accessed on January 12, 2019, from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/08/trump-speech-on-iran-missile-attack-full-statement-and-transcript-096196.

[3] Layla M. Hashemi and Steven L. Wilson, “If Any Iranians Supported Soleimani’s Killing, It Would’ve Been Dissidents on Twitter. The Opposite Happened,” Washington Post. Accessed on January 9, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/01/08/twitter-is-where-iranian-dissidents-might-support-soleimanis-killing-opposite-happened/. 

[4] Anyone who investigated or researched IRGC in Turkey until late 2013 has been put in jail and placed in solitary confinement. Turkey has conducted no investigations of the IRGC since 2014.

[5] David Dionisi JAmerican Hiroshima: The Reasons Why and a Call to Strengthen America's Democracy. Trafford Publishing, 2005. [What is the “J.”? Did you mean “Jr.”?]

[6] Dionisi, p. 8

[7] Emre Ercis, Kara Kutu Selam Tevhid Kudus Ordusu (Istanbul: Istiklal Matbaacilik, 2015), p. 37.

[8] Ibid., p. 23.

[9] Ibid., p. 25.

[10] “Selam Tevhid Orgutu Nedir,” Haberler. Accessed on January 9, 2020, from https://www.haberler.com/selam-tevhid-orgutu-nedir-6313541-haberi/.

[11] Ercis, 2012, pp. 46-53.

[12] Ibid., p. 14.

[13] Ercis, 2015, p. 15.

[14] Ibid., p. 94.

[15] Interview with a European researcher by Mahmut Cengiz, personal interview via Skype, January 2020.

[16] Ibid., p. 15.

[17] Ibid., p. 81.

[18] Ibid., pp. 15-16.

[19] “Selam Tevhid Orgutu Nedir,” Son Dakika Haberi. Accessed on January 12, 2020, from https://img.sondakika.com/haber/541/selam-tevhid-orgutu-nedir-6313541_1952_m.jpg

[20] Ibid., pp. 70-71.

[21] “Selam Tevhid Orgutu Nedir,” Haberler. Accessed on April 9, 2018, from https://www.haberler.com/selam-tevhid-orgutu-nedir-6313541-haberi/.

[22] Ibid., pp. 66-67.

[23] Ibid., pp. 73 and 77.

[24] Ibid., p. 79.

[25] Ibid., p. 78.

[26] Mahmut Cengiz and Michael Roth, The Illicit Economy in Turkey: Criminals, Terrorists and How the Syrian Conflict Fuel Underground Markets, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, p. 180.

[27] Ibid., pp. 179 and 180.

[28] Ibid., p. 180.

[29] Cengiz and Mitchel 2019, pp. 131 and 132. 

[30] Emmanuel Ottolenghi, The Pasdaran Inside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corpses (Washington, DC: FDD Press, 2011), p. 43.

[31] National Council of Resistance of Iran, The Rise of the Revolutionary Guards’ Financial Empire, p. 7.

[32] Ibid., p. 11.

[33] Ali Alfoneh, Iran Unveiled How the Revolutionary Guards is Turning Theocracy into Military Dictatorship (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2013), p. 165.

[34] Ibid., p. 190.

[35] Cengiz and Mitchel, 2019, pp. 131 and 132. 

[36] Interview with a former police officer, who was in the team investigating STQF, by Mahmut Cengiz, personal interview via Skype, January 2020.

[37] The author’s investigation experience in 2011 and 2012.

[38] The author led two investigations.

[39] Mahmut Cengiz, Turkiye’de Organize Suc Gercegi ve Terrorun Finansmani (Ankara: Seckin Yayinevi, 2015). The author of the article led this investigation. When he wanted to present the details of this investigation at an international conference in Antalya in 2012, one Iranian delegation participating in the conference and asked high-level officials to cancel the author’s presentation.

[40] “Mut’ah” refers to a temporary marriage that unifies a man and a woman as husband and wife in Shiism. This type of marriage was exploited in Turkey. Iranian mut’ah agents used this marriage to get the consent of the man before having a sexual relationship with the woman.

[41] “Iranli Ajanlar Bize Para Teklif Etti,” YouTube. Accessed on January 5, 2020, from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVYKhK6roo4.

[42] Ercis, 2015, p. 89.

[43] “Doğu Perinçek İran basınına konuştu,” YouTube. Accessed on March, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p163Xcd6v0A.

[44]İranlı Kasım Süleymani, 15 Temmuz darbe girişiminin engellenmesinde büyük rol oynadı' iddiası,” Euroenews. Accessed on January 11, 2019, from https://tr.euronews.com/2020/01/08/iranl-kasim-suleymani-15-temmuz-darbe-girisiminin-engellenmesinde-buyuk-rol-oynadi-iddiasi.

[45] “İran ajanı cinayetinin şifresi paylaştığı mesajda,” Milliyet. Accessed on January 2, 2019, from http://www.milliyet.com.tr/gundem/iran-ajani-cinayetinin-sifresi-paylastigi-mesajda-6089703.  

About the Author(s)

Dr. Mahmut Cengiz is an Assistant Professor and Research Faculty with Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) and the Schar School of Policy and Government. Dr. Cengiz has international field experience where he has delivered capacity building and training assistance to international partners in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. He also has been involved in the research projects for the Brookings Institute, European Union, and various U.S. agencies.