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THY pilots were kidnapped over Iranian agents.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Gunmen waylaid a shuttle that was transporting members of a Turkish Airlines (THY) crew that flew from ystanbul to Beirut on Aug. 9, kidnapping Turkish pilots Murat Akpynar and Murat Ay-ca. At that time, it was unclear why our pilots were kidnapped in the first place. Some media reports claimed that the kidnappers wanted to rescue relatives who had been kidnapped in Syria. However, it has been found out that the real purpose of the kidnapping of the THY pilots was to rescue nine Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) agents who are being held captive by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria.

As you might recall, 11 people were kidnapped by the Syrian opposition in the Azaz region in May last year. This incident was originally reported as, "11 Lebanese people who were returning to their country after visiting the Imam Reza shrine in Iran were kidnapped." Two of the victims were released through the mediation of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (yHH), which was assisted by the National Intelligence Organization (MyT). It was later reported that the kidnapping victims were members of the IRG. Turkey's MyT stepped in to act as a mediator in ensuring the release of two of the kidnapped IRG members to whom Iran attached great importance. Turkey's move created a crisis with the Syrian opposition. Nine of the victims are still being held by the Syrian opposition.

The recent kidnapping of the THY pilots is thought to be an attempt to save those nine IRG members. According to assessments by security forces, Iran's Hezbollah kidnapped two Turkish pilots to ensure Turkey's cooperation in the recovery of the remaining IRG members.

Iran tends to kill two birds with one stone with operations like the kidnapping of the pilots. Turkey employs various means to get its kidnapped citizens back. At this point, the yHH stands out as the institution that organized the voyage of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that was attacked by Israel, killing nine Turks.

The yHH was previously involved in the rescue of kidnapped journalists and IRG agents, and the FSA is concerned about the yHH's activities. It has been claimed that the yHH's activities are benefiting al-Nusra and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Moreover, the yHH's mediation in Syria is also playing into the hands of Iran, albeit indirectly. The countries that support the Syrian opposition -- Western countries -- do not approve of this.

This double dealing has disrupted the Syrian opposition's trust in Turkey. In particular, the yHH's rescue operations that benefit Iran and the support the MyT gives to the yHH in these operations have offended groups in the region that rely on Turkey. It has been reported that countries in the region do not understand Turkey's "love for Iran" -- and are communicating their reactions to Ankara.

Some claim that the real beneficiaries of Turkish aid sent to the region through the yHH are not known, and could include radical Chechens, al-Nusra, the PYD or even the Assad regime.

Turkey will likely take a side in the conflicts in the region and play an active role in the Sunni-Shiite conflict that may erupt in Lebanon. Some are speculating that these activities were carefully planned by Iran in order to pull Turkey into a quagmire. In this context, the kidnapping of the Turkish pilots was part of the game to force Turkey's involvement in ensuring the releasing of the nine IRG members, thereby making Turkey become a participant in the conflict.

According to the assessments, the MyT and the Foreign Ministry use the yHH as a tool. This is understandable to a certain extent, but all of the failed projects co-implemented by the yHH and the MyT played into the hands of Iran, which has in turn disrupted Turkey's image in the region, and made it look like an unreliable country that supports Iran's interests.

While there are other efforts that can be resorted to in rescuing the kidnapped pilots, using the kidnapping in negotiations over Iran's IRG agents is seen as a recent example of this.

EMRE USLU (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Sep 14, 2013
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