In Turkey and beyond, the release of U.S. diplomatic cables on website WikiLeaks has sparked a round of conspiracy theories.
Turkish leaders appear convinced that state actors, in particular the U.S. itself or Israel—rather than Julian Assange of WikiLeaks—are behind the release of U.S. State Department cables, whose contents have embarrassed leaders around the globe.
The skepticism about WikiLeaks’ independence is widespread and appears to be rooted in sheer disbelief that the world’s most powerful nation can’t stop its secrets from spilling onto the Internet. That sentiment pairs with a willingness to believe the worst of Israel. Neither is limited to Turkey.
“Undoubtedly, the Western governments and the Zionist regime were involved,” said Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin offered up on CNN’s Larry King Live that “experts” believe WikiLeaks is being deliberately “inflated” by others, to be used for political purposes at a later date.
“Assange clearly has very well-informed high-level protectors who aren’t for the first time ‘leaking’ strictly secret documents to him by the ton. There is no doubt that these protectors have their own, far from altruistic, goals,” wrote the official Rossiskaya Gazeta on Thursday, surmising that U.S. officials were trying to revive a “rusted-through American bureaucratic machine.”
“It could be Barack Obama himself,” the newspaper said.
“No one in the United States government with a brain in their head wanted to see this happen,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “This is a crime, not grand strategy. We will work through it, but it has done substantial damage.”
Turkish conspiracy theorists have long speculated that Israel is seeking to get rid of an Islamic-leaning Turkish government that has turned sharply against its former ally. The alleged Israeli goal, these people say, is to replace the Justice and Development party’s rule with a more friendly Turkish regime.
The WikiLeaks documents include reports of widespread corruption among government ministers, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family, which opposition leaders have sought to highlight, triggering a furious response from the prime minister.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul started the ball rolling earlier this week, when he said of the cable leakage: “I think it has a system. It seems that it has an aim.”
Huseyin Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development party, or AKP, said Wednesday that Israel was behind the document release. The evidence, he told reporters, was that “Israel is very pleased” and was so quick to say it had nothing to fear.
“How did they know that?” Mr. Celik asked, adding that “the main goal of these leaks was to weaken the Turkish government.”
The Israeli Embassy in Ankara issued a statement Thursday denying any role in the WikiLeaks release of some 250,000 documents.
Some Turkish newspaper columnists see more complex forces at work. It’s a plot by a global “deep state,” a kind of rogue organization within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that aims to weaken President Barack Obama, reshape the geopolitical playing field in Europe and the Middle East and whip Turkey into line, according to a Thursday column by Samill Tayyar of the religious conservative Star newspaper.
Comments from newspaper readers suggest the conspiracy theories are widely believed. “This has been prepared by the U.S. and Israel, it is one way to start the World War III from the Middle East by setting the Muslim countries against each other,” said one reader of Hurriyet, the daily paper of Turkey’s secularist establishment.
Not everyone is buying it, though. “Turkish AKP Party Members reveal: ‘Israel is responsible for the extinction of the Dinosaurs,'” commented one reader on Mr. Celik’s claims, on Hurriyet’s English-language newspaper site.
On Thursday, after returning from meeting other leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kazakhstan, Mr. Gul appeared to have changed his tune.
“I don’t believe much in these conspiracy theories,” he said on Turkey’s NTV television. “All of the documents have not been released yet, as far as I know, so maybe some will come out [about Israel] later.”
Israel could have engineered the release of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents on WikiLeaks as a plot to corner Turkey on both domestic and foreign policy, according to a senior ruling party official.
“One has to look at which countries are pleased with these. Israel is very pleased. Israel has been making statements for days, even before the release of these documents,” Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the party’s spokesperson, told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
Following initial reaction to the leaked U.S. Embassy cables, which have revealed diplomatic secrets about Turkey, Azerbaijan, its Middle Eastern neighbors, Turkish officials have started to suspect that “the main cause of these leaks was to weaken the Turkish government.”
The first signal came from President Abdullah Gül, who said Tuesday the leaks seemed to be a result of a systematic work with some purpose behind it.
Though government officials like Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek avoided naming Israel in their public statements Wednesday, Çelik, a close aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, singled out the country with his comments Wednesday.
“Documents were released and they immediately said, ‘Israel will not suffer from this.’ How did they know that?” Çelik said.
Are they selling the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the streets of Ankara yet? I’m sure it’s a best seller in the Turkish government.
the conspiracies are becoming more elaborate by the day. by the end of the week they will be slick enough for a printable brochure or PDF and by next month you can expect a coffee table book