A Syrian-Venezuelan visiting a gold refinery in a small Turkish city
The U.S. call on the Venezuelan army to betray the President Nicolas Maduro of the country on behalf of the Speaker of Parliament Juan Guadio, whom was recognized as “interim president” by Donald Trump of the U.S. on Jan 23. That call included a huge bribe such as the possibility of lifting sanctions on Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves on earth, if Maduro is toppled. I don’t want to get into details of questions such as whether this is a slow motion version of what CIA had did in Iran in 1953 while toppling Prime Minister Muhammad Musaddiq who wanted to claim for his countries oil resources. Or questions like whether everything would have been the same if Maduro who tries to sustain a kind of Third World despotism in disguise of socialism had had the elections free and proper before taking the oath on Jan 10.
It is important how the Venezuelan army will respond to the call of the U.S. which has been backed by the Lima Group consisting of 14 countries in North and South America.
One of the key personalities who have an influence on the army is the former Interior and Defence Minister under Hugo Chavez and Deputy President under Maduro; his name is Tareck Zeidan al-Aissam Maddah. Currently his position is Maduro’s deputy on economy still holding his place in Venezuela’s national security board. And you are right, it is not a name in Spanish, it sounds Middle Eastern. Because al-Aissam is a Syrian-Venezuelan; he is the son of a Lebanese-Syrian family of Druze origin who migrated to Venezuela two generations before.
Being a member of the Venezuela branch of the Syrian Baath party in his university years as a student of law, he apparently adopted Bolivarist-socialist ideology, instead of Arab-socialism after meeting with the elder brother Adan of Hugo Chavez. Al-Aissam is currently on the U.S. Treasury’s black list due to his alleged links with drug cartels which he and Venezuelan government denies as a part of the American “smear” campaign. Assam seemingly had good relations with Syria all along. The first official visitor he received on Jan 11, a day after Maduro taking oath was Salwa Abdallah, Minister for Organizations and Federations in the cabinet of Bashar al-Assad.
Up until Trump’s Jan 23 Twit, al-Aissam has been considered as one of most propable names to replace Maduro.
Al-Aissam was in Turkey on Jan 17, almost a week after Maduro’s taking oath and almost a week before Trump’s declaration Maduro as illegitimate. He visited a small city in deep Anatolia, Çorum, which is not frequented by foreigners much other than those for touristic purposes to see the unique archaeological remnants of the Hittite civilization. He was there to visit Turkey’s third biggest gold refinery owned by a local Ahlatcı Group of Ahmet Ahlatcı. After observing the refinery, al-Aissam said that he had seen a number of refineries so far (that means he has been observing a number of them in other countries, too) but the technology used in Çorum refinery was superior.
Where did he find Çorum? Well apparently he has been studying opportunities in Turkey for some time. According to the official website of Venezuela Foreign Ministry, after consulting with Turkish Ambassador Şevki Mütevellioğlu to Caracas, al-Aissam has visited Ankara in October 2018 to meet Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and next month to be received by Turkish Deputy President Fuat Oktay.
By coincidence or not, the day after Trump’s blow to Maduro, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan was in Moscow for a pre-scheduled visit. During the visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded Erdoğan that if Turkey wanted a more effective struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) threat from Syria, the revival of the Adana Protocol of 1998 could be a way. Erdoğan did not rule that out as the U.S. administration pledged for protecting the Syria branch of the PKK which they collaborated against ISIL, against possible Turkish raids. The Adana Protocol was signed between Turkey and Syria following Hafez al-Assad’s sending PKK’s founder Abdullah Öcalan away, after sheltering him since 1979 against Turkey, after –then- Turkish President Süleyman Demirel threatened Assad with war. But there is one condition for Turkey to revive the Adana protocol is to acknowledge Assad as a legal counterpart; not very easy for Erdoğan, but not impossible as well.
Again by coincidence or not, the White House has warned Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to be careful not to become accomplices of Maduro through gold trade on Feb 1. Turkey and UAE are in opposite sides of the Middle East balances; UAE is an aggressive member of the anti-Iran axis together with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The picture is getting more and more complicated. There are three travel routes nowadays that people who have an interest in understanding what is going on should watch carefully: Ankara-Moscow-Damascus, Washington-Ankara-Moscow and Dubai-Ankara (or Istanbul, where the money is)-Caracas.