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[was] appunti e note sul mondo islamico contemporaneo

Wikileaks: commercio fra Iran e Turchia


Eravamo rimasti a un cablogramma del 1979 e al pittoresco modo di descrivere la realtà economica dell’Iran che quel testo aveva.

Ricordavo a tutti, in quel contesto, che i cablogrammi Wikileaks non ci dicono molto di quel paese – almeno in forma diretta – perché lì dal 1979 non c’è un’ambasciata statunitense.

I due cable, uno sul commercio fra Iran e Turchia e l’altro su una visita degli addetti all’economia dell’Ambasciata americana a posti di frontiera turchi (entrambi del 2009) ci confermano della difficoltà che hanno gli americani di reperire informazioni certe sull’Iran (se non a livello TOP SECRET, che noi non conosciamo) e dell’atteggiamento paranoide (anche se probabilmente giustificato, dal loro punto di vista) nel monitorare le relazioni Iran-Turchia.

Soprattutto, però, ci descrivono la realtà di due potenze regionali o, se non tali, “in emersione” che, per motivi geopolitici ovvi (confinano, hanno gasdotti in comune etc.) hanno rapporti commerciali stabili (sebbene difficili).

Rapporti sui quali gli americani non possono metter bocca.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ANKARA1084 2009-07-29 04:04 2011-02-01 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Ankara

DE RUEHAK #1084/01 2100405
R 290405Z JUL 09

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 001084


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/28/2029

REF: A. 08 ANKARA 1837
B. 08 ISTANBUL 540

Classified By: A/DCM Daniel O,Grady for reason 1.4(d).

1.(S/NF) This information is being sent in cable format at the request of a visiting analyst. The report had previously been disseminated via email.

2.(S/NF) Summary: Econoffs recently traveled to Van to do research on potential development projects in eastern Turkey. In addition to the meetings held with local government officials (reported Ref A), we visited the two border checkpoints with Iran: Gurbulak and Kapikoy. We held discussions on capabilities and needs with officials at both facilities, and were given a tour of the Gurbulak facility. The conditions at the two border posts varied starkly; Gurbulak had more modern conveniences and scanning equipment, while Kapikoy had no scanning equipment at all, and even the living arrangements seemed to be substandard. End summary.

Gurbulak ——–

3.(S/NF) Gurbulak is the main Customs points for traffic from Iran to Turkey, and lies in the shadow of Mt. Ararat on Turkey’s northeastern border. We approached the Gurbulak checkpoint from Dogubeyazit along the only road in the region leading to Iran. Approximately 1 km from the checkpoint, there were trucks lined up waiting to be checked. Car traffic was allowed to ride in the oncoming lanes to cut in front of the trucks. About 500 yards before the checkpoint, a Jandarma soldier stopped us and asked for identification, then waved us through to the Customs station. The Customs checkpoint security station did not ask for any identification and told us that we could proceed after we told them that we were there to see “someone” and were not going to Iran. While approaching the border, we saw numerous people coming to and from Iran, in addition to trucks and cars transiting the border. The director of the border crossing, Hasan Demirci, assembled high level officers from all offices of the facility including customs enforcement, police, and customs valuation departments. None of the other officials were identified during the meeting and the subsequent tour by name – they were identified by title only. Demirci told us that he was the only one authorized to talk to the embassy, and that he only brought in the other officers because he was new to the post. As a result, he was reluctant to identify anyone else by name.

4.(S/NF) The officials discussed the facility’s needs at length. They said that they do not need additional physical infrastructure at the checkpoint, as the entire post was recently rebuilt, but that they do need more scanning equipment. Demirci said that 3000 people and 400-500 trucks cross the checkpoint daily. Numerous travelers also enter Turkey from Iran in private cars and buses, which Demirci said are primarily going to Syria. While the checkpoint has a large x-ray to scan incoming vehicles, they do not have an airport-style x-ray to scan the baggage of people crossing the border on foot. Demirci said that baggage searches are now done by hand, reducing the effectiveness of the search. He admitted that, in general, only people who “act suspiciously” are fully searched, with the majority simply being waved through.

5.(S/NF) The facility has serious problems with its power supply. Even during our brief visit to the facility there were numerous power outages. According to the Chief of Customs Enforcement, the power is frequently out for up to 12 hours at a time, and the facility’s backup generators only supply the housing facilities. In the winter, this problem is exacerbated by local residents stealing power from the grid. When the power goes out, the facility’s scanning and camera equipment go out as well, meaning that traffic is passing unscanned for hours at a time. While we were at the border station, the camera system for taking photos of license plates was also broken, although the Chief of Enforcement said that a new one was expected soon.

6.(S/NF) All vehicles entering and leaving Turkey pass through radiation scanners. The scanners, which are made by the Turkish Atomic Energy Commission (TAEK), are centrally monitored in Ankara. The deputy chief of enforcement stated that they have no control over this system, although there is an alarm should a substance be detected. As the vehicles pass through the gate, a customs officer manually inserts the vehicle’s information into the customs computer system. ANKARA 00001084 002 OF 003 After passing through this area, the trucks then pass through a decontamination shower into an inspection area. The chief of enforcement said that 80 per cent of the vehicles are put through the vehicle x-ray. The x-ray itself is located in a large metal structure, with a smaller structure next to it where the computers and technicians are located. The day that we were at the facility, the x-ray was not scanning vehicles because technicians were installing software to scan for inorganic and organic material. When the x-ray is operational, the images of the vehicles are indefinitely stored in the system along with copies of its paperwork. The x-ray software identifies suspicious areas in vehicles and flags it for the operator, who alerts enforcement. If a suspect vehicle is identified, it is then moved to the nearby enforcement building. The building consists of two vehicle bays that can accommodate semi trucks and buses. There are mechanic pits below the bays and a machine to remove tires from rims. Inspection is done by hand in this area, targeted by the x-ray results. If contraband is found, the driver is taken for an interview with a lawyer on site and put in a holding cell in the inspection area for transfer to the nearest court in Dogubeyazit.

7.(S/NF) Requested equipment: During the meeting with Demirci and the subsequent tour, the enforcement chief asked us for help procuring multiple pieces of equipment, including: optical passport readers, the previously mentioned baggage x-ray, carbon dioxide detectors, ion scanners for drugs, chemical kits for drugs, an explosive swab test machine, and a videoscope for searching vehicles in the inspection bay. (Note: The requests made by these local officials were clearly not coordinated with the central government and do not constitute a formal request from the Government of Turkey. Any request would have to be coordinated by the MFA, and we have not received requests from the MFA for such equipment to date.

Kapikoy ——-

8.(S/NF) Kapikoy is located due east from Van on the Iranian border in what could charitably be described as “the middle of nowhere.” It is the only train crossing from Iran for both goods and people. There are 4 passenger trains a week and numerous freight trains. The customs checkpoint is not physically located on the border, but is 1-2 km inside Turkey at the Kapikoy rail station. On the border itself, there is a small free trade zone and a Jandarma base. Trains are brought into Turkey by an Iranian locomotive, which drops the cars off at the checkpoint and leaves them for a Turkish locomotive from Van. Upon arrival in Van, the train is loaded on a train ferry and shipped across the lake to Tatvan. From there it could go in several directions, to include other destinations in Turkey or Syria.

9.(S/NF) There are 11 customs officers led by Soner Kucuk, the chief of the customs office. Kucuk said that 5 of his officers were new to the customs service and were often in training, meaning that his effective strength is actually much less than 11 people. Kucuk also said that he has no electronic scanning equipment of any kind at the checkpoint, and all searches for contraband are conducted by hand and with two dogs. As at Gurbulak, people are allowed to pass unless they do something to arouse the suspicion of the customs officer. The officers generally only check the passenger compartments due to time constraints.

10.(S/NF) Morale appeared to be very low at the checkpoint because of the backwater nature of the post. They are fully dependent on Turkish Railways for all maintenance services, and as at Gurbulak the power systems are very spotty. The customs officers have two official vehicles at the checkpoint, but one was inoperable, and there was no fuel for the other. Kucuk said that he and his officers normally have to walk the 2 km to the free trade zone to get food and other necessities. This further reduces the number of available inspectors, as someone is almost always on the road. It appeared to us that the Kucuk and his officers were more focused on their own safety than on screening the passage of goods – the checkpoint was out of view from the Jandarma base and Kucuk was concerned that they could easily come under PKK attack from the hills that surround the outpost. After security, they focus primarily on counternarcotics, with only cursory attention paid to countering other forms of smuggling. When asked about smuggling in the railcars, as opposed to an individual trying to smuggle things in his baggage or on his person, Kucuk expressed surprise and asked why anyone would smuggle things in railcars. Also, he ANKARA 00001084 003 OF 003 continued, the lack of heavy lift equipment and manpower made checking the railcars for smuggled goods nearly impossible.

11.(S/NF) When asked about their needs, Kucuk said he needed everything, describing the post’s living conditions (including food) as substandard. He plaintively asked us to remind Ankara that Kapikoy exists, noting that the fax informing him of our arrival was the first he had received in weeks. Also, the lack of trained manpower and scanning equipment hamper his ability to carry out his job, so any type of improvement in that regard would be helpful.

Comment ——-

12.(S/NF) The two customs posts we visited provided starkly different views of life on the Turco-Iranian border – while Gurbulak had some problems, the facilities are spotless and gleaming, and its needs are mostly in the realm of advanced scanning capabilities (assuming the power is working). Visiting Kapikoy, on the other hand, is like traveling back in time to an Ottoman border crossing, lacking any of the tools necessary to carry out modern customs work. In both posts, however, there is a sense that when operational capabilities are not running optimally (either because the power is out or because the capacity never existed in the first place), the border is left open to anyone who is not overtly suspicious. Visit Ankara’s Classified Web Site at xxxxxxxxxxxx JEFFREY

Econoffs recently traveled to Van to do research on potential development projects in eastern Turkey. In addition to the meetings held with local government officials (reported Ref A), we visited the two border checkpoints with Iran: Gurbulak and Kapikoy. We held discussions on capabilities and needs with officials at both facilities, and were given a tour of the Gurbulak facility. The conditions at the two border posts varied starkly; Gurbulak had more modern conveniences and scanning equipment, while Kapikoy had no scanning equipment at all, and even the living arrangements seemed to be substandard.


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ISTANBUL399 2009-10-19 06:06 2010-12-29 21:09 SECRET Consulate Istanbul

DE RUEHIT #0399/01 2920628
P 190628Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/09/2029


Classified By: Deputy Principal Officer Win Dayton; Reason 1.5 (d)

1. (S) Summary: A Turkish businessman who deals extensively in Iran told us that the only way to do business there safely is through an Iranian partner with high-level regime connections, in his case a partner he claims is connected to
the son of Supreme Leader Khamenei. Our contact cautioned that two state-owned Turkish banks — Halk and Ziraat — are exploring opening up branch offices in Tehran to give Turkish businesses a banking option other than Bank Mellat. Our contact is working with the Tehran municipality to open a new shopping mall, which has brought him into close contact with Tehran Mayor Qalibaf’s staff. Those interlocutors told him that Qalibaf is already setting himself up to be the establishment’s choice for president in 2013. Our contact also urged the USG to “make a deal” with Iran soon,  because “time is running out”, hinting that Khamenei’s health is a concern, and that the succession of a new Leader could lead to a period of instability inconducive to engagement between Iran and the U.S. Comment: We cannot confirm the veracity of our contact’s claims that his business partner is close to the Khamenei family, but that Iranian partner’s claims are at least plausible. We also have no basis to judge his claims of failing health on the part of Supreme Leader Khamenei, beyond having heard similar rumors from other contacts. We give serious credence to our contact’s claim that for a foreign company to do business effectively in Iran, it needs to have a regime-affiliated partner or protector working on its behalf within the system. End summary.

An insider’s perspective

2. (C) We met recently with Keyhan Ozdemir (please strictly protect), a director of Pars-Invest, a Turkish company with construction, real estate, and energy investments in Iran.
Ozdemir claims to have Iranian business partners with direct connections to Supreme Leader Khamenei’s family, including an Iranian business partner who claims a close personal connection to Khamenei’s son Mojtaba. Ozdemir does not participate in Turkish business-sponsored conferences or trade fairs with Iranian counterparts, such as the early October Turkey-Iran Business Council (TIBC) conference (ref C), dismissing them as “window dressing”. Instead, he candidly asserted to us that to get deals done in Iran a foreign company needs a well-connected Iranian “protector”,
preferably a partner with IRGC or Supreme Leader connections.
Reinforcing that point, Ozdemir explained that the Turkey-Iran commerce has slowed down considerably in 2009 in
large part for three reasons, two political and one economic: (1) Most Turkish companies, which are not politically
“plugged-in” inside Iran, drew back from Iranian investment following the June elections out of fear of political risk.
“These are the companies that need trade associations like the TIBC to make introductions for them.” (2) Turkish
companies that had been well connected to former President Rafsanjani’s business empire have been edged out since June by IRGC companies and by IRGC-affiliated Bonyads (politically-connected charitable foundations that act as
holding companies), and (3) Turkey’s investment of Iranian hydrocarbons has been down significantly in 2009. On the
other hand, Ozdemir concurs with the conventional wisdom that Turkey-Iran trade will increase in the remainder of 2009 and into 2010. He says he is optimistic that his own biggest pending deal — to develop a modern shopping mall in Tehran — will soon receive funding approval from the Tehran municipality, reflective of the Iranian economy’s resiliency even in hard times.

3. (C) The key sector to watch, according to Ozdemir, is the banking sector, as Turkish-Iran trade cannot expand
significantly without more efficient banking cooperation. Ozdemir told us that Turkish state-owned banks Halk and
Ziraat have been quietly seeking Turkish and Iranian government permission to open bank branch offices in Tehran.
(Halk and Ziraat already have small “representative offices” in Tehran, he claimed, but these offices do not perform
banking functions.) The primary function would be to offer banking services to Turkish companies and investors in Iran, to give them a banking option other than Bank Mellat, the lone Iranian bank that operates in Turkey. According to
Ozdemir, the GoT has cautioned Halk and Ziraat to “go slow” until it becomes more clear whether international diplomacy with Iran succeeds or fails, and thus whether the risk of significantly tougher banking sanctions on Iran lessens or

ISTANBUL 00000399 002 OF 002

increases. Most of Ozdemir’s deals in Iran are paid in Euros, as “Iranians prefer Euros to (Turkish) Lira and Turks
definitely don’t want (Iranian) Rials.”

4. (C) Regarding Iran’s approach to privatization, Ozdemir asserted that privatizing certain sectors is a genuine
priority for Khamenei, though he does not want to push the bureaucracy (including the IRGC) too hard. According to
Ozdemir, Khamenei is willing to continue to push for so-called privatization in the petrochemical industry,
electricity production and distribution, transportation, “some” shipping and banking, and some Bonyads. But Ozdemir
underscored that Khamenei is committed to keeping the telecommunications and hydrocarbon sectors is “safe hands.”
The chief problem is that Iranian decision-makers “don’t understand what privatization means.” Selling a state-run
bank or a telecommunications company to a holding company that itself is controlled by regime entities (per ref C) “is
not privatization.” Ozdemir said that Tehran Mayor Qalibaf, alone among Iran’s top leadership, understands and supports the western concept of privatization and the need for Iran to have a stronger private sector.

Qalibaf already running for 2013 Presidential elections
——————————————— ——–

5. (C) From discussions with Tehran municipality officials reporting directly to Tehran Mayor Qalibaf, Ozdemir assessed that Qalibaf is already in full campaign mode for the 2013 Iranian Presidential election. Qalibaf is actively
maneuvering behind the scenes to lock in support from Supreme Leader Khamenei, and indeed Qalibaf’s decision not to run in the June election this year was based on an unspoken understanding that staying out this time would position him well to be the establishment’s preferred choice next time.
According to Ozdemir, Qalibaf is using the benefits of his office to build a sizable war-chest of campaign funds, though
he is careful to ensure that his and his staff’s “energetic” collection of such funds does not adversely impact Tehran’s
municipal services or other operations, or his reputation as an effective manager.

“Time is Running Out” to make a deal with Khamenei
——————————————— —–

6. (C) Turning to a brief discussion of current diplomacy vis-a-vis Iran, Ozdemir urged the USG to “make a deal” with
Iran soon, because “time is running out”. He hinted that Ayatollah Khamenei’s health is a concern. Khamenei wants to
ensure a smooth succession for his son, Mojtaba, to succeed him, but Ozdemir assessed that the installation of a new
Supreme Leader in Iran, if it becomes necessary in the coming year or two, could lead to a period of instability that would be inconducive to engagement between Iran and the U.S.


7. (S) We cannot confirm the veracity of Ozdemir’s claim that his Iranian business partner is personally close to
Mojtaba Khamenei, although we have met that Iranian business partner (ref A) and can confirm that his claims to a Khamenei family connection are at least plausible. We also have no basis to judge Ozdemir’s claims of failing health on the part of Supreme Leader Khamenei, beyond having heard similar rumors from other contacts (Ref B). We give serious credence to Ozdemir’s claim that for a foreign company to do business effectively in Iran, it must have a regime-affiliated partner or protector working on its behalf within the system.


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