By way of background in trying to understand Turkey, it is the only Muslim member of NATO and, until President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power–first as Prime Minister and now as President–it had always been a democratic secular nation. President Erdogan, however, has been seizing more and more authoritarian power, in order to convert it to his own brand of Conservative Islam. He has also eliminated many signs of democracy and human rights, along the way.
When President Barack Obama began forming a coalition, including countries both from NATO and the Arab League, Turkey decided not to join. President Erdogan disagreed with Obama’s priorities, suggesting that they should remove Syrian President Bashaar Asaad instead. At that time, Obama’s legal authorization was to fight ISIS only. Erdogan has permitted ISIS recruits to travel through Turkey to enlist in the Jihad, and even sell their captured oil, to finance itself, on the Istanbul black market.
President Erdogan has focused his military, however, primarily on instigating terrorist attacks by the domestic Kurds, who have merely been trying to protect their ancient tribal homeland. The Kurdish People have inhabited an area–including parts of southern Turkey, and northern areas in Syria, Iraq and Iran–for some 3,000 years, and perhaps even longer. In 2014, Erdogan had used his success in overpowering the Kurds, after a Constitutional change, to be elected President.
There have been a number of terrorist bombings in Turkey, in recent years, and it seems that Islamic State was always quiet afterward, never mentioning any involvement, if that was the case. Erdogan had always referred to the attacks in vague comments about “terrorist organizations, including the Kurds”. Even after the Istanbul bombing, last October, when most of the 103 killed were Kurds, he remained opaque.
After the recent suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, where 44 people were killed, Erdogan once again cast blame on unspecified “terrorist organizations”, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, however, tentatively blamed ISIS. The Ataturk bombing comes in the midst of a series of suicide attacks, which ISIS claims responsibility of; however, once again Islamic State was silent. Apparently, ISIS must think that the end of Ramadan has some religious significance. The Turkish Prime Minister, at least, realized that this time, they had to face ISIS involvement: the Whole World was watching.
This string of recent attacks, both within and outside of Muslim countries certainly fits a pattern, just as the more recent attack at a Bangladeshi restaurant, in Dacca, might have shown. I doubt that this string of attacks will necessarily end withy the holy month, on July 5; but maybe these recent attacks conveys the new ISIS.
Given ISIS’ recent series of suicide attacks, and Turkey’s possibly awakening to reality, two questions are in order:
First, the Islamic State has been losing tens of thousands of its Jihadists and its recruitment has dropped, much of its captured territory has been re-captured, and its main source of income—the captured oil wells—has been devastated. Will we now be seeing this new strategy—suicide bombings in civilian locations in all parts of the world–continue?
Second, Will Turkey, with its 315 man Army, well-equipped Air Force and Navy, join the fight against the Islamic State, rather than continue to enable it by maintaining a porous border and open oil sales on its black market?