This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Having It Their Way

"I want to emphasize this afternoon the importance of the ties between the United States and Turkey, particularly the security relationship at this particular moment."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has effusively praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's contributions to the fight against IS.
"It is no secret that Turkey has become a fertile ground for jihadist activity. Turkey says it fights IS. Maybe it does. But just randomly and reluctantly." 
Discreetly unnamed EU ambassador in Ankara

"The crime [beheading of three priests in Syria by Chechen Islamists with ISIL] was not committed against Turkey and the lack of an agreement on extraditions [with Syria constrains the court from judgement]."
Turkish court of law, Istanbul

"Turkish intelligence would not help me if I were a member of al-Qaeda. We were in contact with Turkish intelligence all the time. Turkey sent us arms, cars and money when we were fighting in Syria. Turkey was helping us because we were fighting against [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad."
Magomet Abdurakmanov, Chechen jihadist

"No sooner did they become cognizant of my faith [an Alawite Shiite nurse] than the wave of intimidation began. I knew many things... who was running the corps. I saw Sumeyye Erdogan [daughter of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, giving medical aid to wounded Islamic State jihadists] frequently at our headquarters in Sanliurfa ... I am indeed terrified."
Shiite nurse, working clandestinely for covert medical corps, Sanliurfa, Turkey
Makeshift barricades fill the streets as left-wing protesters light a fire trying to avoid tear gas used by police to disperse them, in Istanbul, Sunday, during clashes between police and people protesting against Turkey's operation against Kurdish militants. Turkey has bombed Islamic State positions near the Turkish border in Syria, also targeting Kurdish rebels in Iraq and carried out widespread police operations against suspected Kurdish and IS militants and other outlawed groups inside Turkey. Cagdas Erdogan/AP

"We don’t know how many of them [refugees from ISIL, along with ISIL jihadis mingling with refugees] sympathize with IS or are IS."
"We not only have Syrian potential IS members but we also have Turkish potential IS members in our society too. There is some radical Islam in Turkey, and it can be armed and militant if provoked."
Turkish politician Hursit Gunes

Turkey's President Erdogan is firmly convinced that his interests and that of his country lie in violently confronting the Kurdistan Workers' Party militants, considered by his administration to be a terrorist group. Turkey's fixation on an independent Kurdistan carved partially out of Turkish territory perceives the Kurds as a far greater threat to the country's stability and economic and social welfare than the border threat of Islamic State caliphate jihadis.

The Turkish military was tasked with rounding up terrorist within the country, and hundreds were taken into custody, most of whom were felt to be sympathizers of the PKK. Turkey was amenable to giving the support the emerging Islamic State sought on its way to conquest in Syria and Iraq as long as the jihadists posed no threat to Turkey and helped it achieve its goal of having Syria's President Bashar al-Assad removed from power.

So while it gave practical support to the jihadists it stood by as Syrian Kurds just over the border in Kobani were being massacred by ISIL fighters. The Islamic State jihadis were, in their siege of the town and onslaught of its residents, performing a task that Ankara felt was long overdue. The Turkish military stood close to the border in full distant view of the town of Kobani being bombed, even while its desperate civilian population fled, to enter Turkey for temporary haven.

Until very recently, Turkey was content to let Islamic State run wild in Syria. Cartoon: Middle East Forum

Islamic State has more than its share of admirers in Turkey. The Turkish government was very well aware that oil was being smuggled across the border from Syria into Turkey to reach a black market that would net Islamic State up to $1-million in profit to support their operations, on a weekly basis. Turkish police turned a blind eye to the smuggling. Estimates of the number of Turks who have joined the militants have ranged from several hundred to over a thousand. 114 Turkish nationals are held to have have died while fighting for ISIL in Syria.

A member of NATO, Turkey nevertheless refused to give permission for the U.S.-led coalition to use Turkish air bases for their bombing runs against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Turkey hadn't succeeded in its efforts to persuade the U.S. and NATO that bombing missions should take place targeting the Syrian regime and its military. Doing so would obviously have seen casualties not only within the Syrian military but its Iranian al-Quds military advisers as well as Hezbollah fighters.

At a time when the U.S.  the Security Council members and the E.U. were engaged in sensitive negotiations with Iran that wouldn't have gone over very well.

"Now that it is pretty obvious that Turkey joined the United States to target IS, I think it is very likely that IS will retaliate. It has a pretty sophisticated network of recruits, safe havens, and smuggling routes, and it will use those routes to strike back at Turkey. These guys know Turkey in and out", remarked Soner Cagaptay, Turkish research program director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

So Turkey is looking for NATO commitment to be demonstrated in defense of one of their own, in accordance with NATO's charter. Playing both ends against the middle, Turkey has valued its NATO membership, rarely acting within that collective as a team player, cognizant of its very particular needs as a country with a history of tyrannical control under the Ottoman Empire of the entire Middle East and beyond, and the benefits that accrue to it as a member of a European self-protection group.

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