Updated: Jul 14
SADAT International Defense and Consultancy is a Turkish-based private military contractor (PMC). Founded in 2012 by retired Brigadier General Adnan Tanrıverdi, the organization has close ties to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has become a tool used to promote Turkey’s foreign policy goals in places such as Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Uniquely, SADAT promotes a pan-Islamic worldview which aims to make Muslim countries self-sufficient and capable of having their own military alliance.
History & Foundations
Tanrıverdi found himself targeted for his Islamist views, apparently being dismissed from the army in the late 1990s. However, the political climate in Turkey underwent a transformation, marked by an increasing embrace of religion within politics. This shift became commonplace and ultimately overshadowed the secular worldview which was held by the Kemalists. Tanrıverdi had become a close friend of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who rose to power in 2003 and has remained so ever since. With their shared Islamic worldview, the two became natural allies and Tanrıverdi has even become a reported close advisor for the Turkish President. Another event in the 1990s would contribute to the SADAT founder’s worldview. (1)
Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990s led to sectarian strife, culminating in the genocide of Bosniak Muslims by Serbian forces. From Tanrıverdi's perspective, as well as that of many other Muslims, the response from Western powers to the Bosniak situation was insufficient, if not actively harmful. Despite a bombing campaign that eventually halted the Serbs' offensive, it came too late to prevent the mass killings in Srebrenica. Additionally, an arms embargo hindered the Bosniaks from acquiring the necessary weapons for self-defense. This had convinced Tanrıverdi of the need for a military alliance that would put Muslims’ defense first and foremost. (2)
With an ally in power and shifting global and regional political dynamics, Tanrıverdi and other former military officers formed SADAT in 2012. They aimed not only to be an extension of Turkish foreign policy, but to create a new Islamist world order of their own. (1)
Ideology & Objectives
SADAT’s pan-Islamic, anti-western worldview is the driving force behind its actions. Tanrıverdi wants more than to just be a supplement to Turkey’s foreign policy; he seeks the creation of a new set of institutions, states, and coalitions that would parallel and challenge those of the liberal western world order. Predicting that the coming century will be volatile, he states “peace and justice in the world hinges upon [the] appearance of Islamic Countries as a superpower on the global political scene." Through these steps, Tanrıverdi believes the Muslim world can counter the world led by the United States and United Nations, which it views as exploitative and inattentive to their needs. SADAT’s ideology is not independent of Turkish nationalistic views.
According to Tanrıverdi's perspective, which aligns with Erdogan's promotion of the neo-Ottoman nationalist position, Turkey should assume leadership of the global Islamic coalition. Authoritatively, "the unity of the Islamic countries depends on the leadership of Turkey; and the leadership of Turkey and the Islamic countries depends on the ability to render the national will dominant over all institutions of the state."(2)
Military & Political Capabilities
SADAT enjoys close ties with the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. During the 2016 coup attempt led by factions within the Turkish military, SADAT faced accusations of taking part in the suppression of the uprising.(3) Erdogan was recently reelected to another term as president; the continued reign of its close political ally means SADAT’s influence is more likely to grow than diminish over the coming years. Given Wagner’s recent adventure against Putin, some have wondered whether Tanrıverdi could eventually become rogue. However, there are no indications of tension so far and SADAT differs from Wagner in significant ways.
Though SADAT has a history of supporting Turkish-backed military adventures, “it does not appear to publicly offer a direct action or combat arms capability, like the former Executive Outcomes or the existing Wagner Group.” Its focus is offering training to different armed actors, such as the Syrian National Army and forces of the Government of National Accord in Libya.(4) According to its manifesto, the group offers conventional, unconventional, special forces, naval, and security training to countries and causes it supports.
Approach to Resistance
SADAT seeks a total restructuring of the “Muslim world.” Under this new model of organization, majority-Muslim states would reorganize into confederations based on their geography. For example, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, and Pakistan would combine into the Confederate Muslim States of the Near East. Turkey, Azerbaijan, Northern Cyprus, and others would become part of a central Asian Confederate. Each of these unions would enter into a defense organization with each other (essentially an Islamic NATO). Other international bodies such as an Islamic general assembly (akin to the UN) and a court of human rights would be established. Tanrıverdi also believes it is important for these states to develop their own defense capacity to become less reliant on the west. An additional goal of this system is to provide support to Palestine.
“Every effort should be made including use of force” to aid Palestine according to the group’s manifesto. This includes each Islamic country providing some element of military aid to Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian army. Furthermore, every Muslim should visit Palestine and al-Aqsa to appreciate the circumstances of the conflict with Israel. (5)
International Relations & Potential Alliances
SADAT has played important roles already in implementing aspects of Turkish foreign policy in places like Libya, Syria, and in the Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In Libya, SADAT recruited, trained, and supervised payment of Syrian mercenaries for deployment to help the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (which aligns with Turkey’s foreign policy goals despite the group’s own opinions of the UN). According to a U.S. Department of Defense report, SADAT is responsible for up to 5,000 mercenaries in Libya, along with training some of the GNA’s armed forces.(6) It was accused of similarly transporting Syrian mercenaries in aid of Azerbaijan in Karabakh and providing financial compensation for those willing to go.(7) These mercenaries played a vital war in Azerbaijan’s war, enduring a higher death rate than Azeri forces by some estimates.(8) Having taken part in the training of many Syrian opposition groups, SADAT was the perfect middleman to aid in recruiting and mobilisation of fighters to other countries. (9)
Tanrıverdi’s men are accused of aiding radical Jihadist groups. Israeli intelligence believes they are supporting the Gaza-based jihadist group Hamas.(10) Additionally, Turkish mob Sedat Perker boss has accused the group of aiding the Jihadist group HTS in Syria.(1) HTS has used Turkish armoured vehicles in the past; whether they were obtained in the way Perker has stated is unconfirmed.
Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy shows no signs of slowing down, likely meaning a continued role for SADAT. If Tanrıverdi gets his way, it will one day lead to a multi-polar world, with a pan-Islamic block as one of its main powers.
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - Yanarocak, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen, and Dr. Jonathan Spyer. “Turkish Militias and Proxies.” JISS, 27 Jan. 2021, jiss.org.il/en/yanarocak-spyer-turkish-militias-and-proxies/.
(2) - SADAT. (n.d.). Sadat.com.tr. SADAT International Defense Consultancy. https://sadat.com.tr/download/SADAT-eng-full-v02.pdf
(3) - Rubin, M. (2017, April 14). Did Erdogan stage the coup? | American Enterprise Institute - AEI. Did Erdogan Stage the Coup? https://www.aei.org/foreign-and-defense-policy/middle-east/did-erdogan-stage-the-coup/
(4) - Powers, M. (2021, October 8). Making sense of sadat, Turkey’s private military company. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2021/10/making-sense-of-sadat-turkeys-private-military-company/
(5) - SADAT. (n.d.). Sadat.com.tr. SADAT International Defense Consultancy. https://sadat.com.tr/download/SADAT-eng-full-v02.pdf
(6) - Powers, M. (2021, October 8). Making sense of sadat, Turkey’s private military company. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2021/10/making-sense-of-sadat-turkeys-private-military-company/
(7) - McKernan, B. (2020, September 28). Syrian rebel fighters prepare to deploy to Azerbaijan in sign of Turkey’s ambition. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/28/syrian-rebel-fighters-prepare-to-deploy-to-azerbaijan-in-sign-of-turkeys-ambition
(8) - Atalayar, D. (2020, December 4). Syrian mercenaries have suffered more casualties in Nagorno-Karabakh than in Libya. Atalayar. https://www.atalayar.com/en/articulo/politics/syrian-mercenaries-have-suffered-more-casualties-nagorno-karabakh-libya/20201204095136148716.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20SOHR%2C%20whose,have%20yet%20to%20be%20confirmed.
(9) - RIC. (2022, October 11). The Syrian National Army: The Turkish Proxy Militias of Northern Syria. Rojava Information Center. https://rojavainformationcenter.com/2022/07/the-syrian-national-army-the-turkish-proxy-militias-of-northern-syria/
(10) - Frantzman, S. (2021, May 30). Mob boss: Turkey diverted aid for Turkmen to “nusra” linked extremists. The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/mob-boss-turkey-diverted-aid-for-turkmen-to-nusra-linked-extremists-669604