Last month, only after losing his party’s parliamentary majority, President Erdogan realized that there are dangerous terrorists in neighboring Syria who are a threat to Turkey’s security.
Ironically, these are the same terrorists that Ankara has been arming, assisting their infiltration into Syria, and having them treated in Turkish hospitals. It is estimated that as many as 25,000 foreign and 1,000 Turkish Jihadists have crossed Turkey’s border in recent years trying to topple Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Using the excuse that a Turkish soldier was killed by a shot fired from Syria last week, Erdogan ordered a series of bombing raids by land and air in Northern Syria and Iraq, as well as rounding up over 1,000 individuals in Turkey suspected of being Kurdish fighters, leftist militants, and ISIS followers.
After several years of reluctance, the Turkish government finally announced on July 24 that it would allow the United States to use one or more of its air bases to launch attacks on Jihadist groups in Syria.
Rather than fighting ISIS terrorists or cooperating with United States military operations in Syria and Iraq, Erdogan’s true intent is to consolidate his own hold on power and accomplish the following self-serving objectives:
1) Turkey’s President realizes that should his ruling party fail to form a coalition government, he would be obliged to call a new round of parliamentary elections. Therefore, by taking bold actions against ISIS and Kurdish fighters, Erdogan hopes that Turkish voters would give his party the few extra seats needed to regain a majority in Parliament.
2) Another important purpose for bombing Northern Syria and PKK bases in Iraq and arresting hundreds of Kurdish militants in Turkey is not fighting ISIS, but preventing Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds from joining hands to create an independent Kurdistan.
3) By carrying out military raids in Syria, Erdogan hopes to accomplish his long sought dream of toppling the Syrian government and installing a puppet regime, thus expanding his personal power as a neo-Ottoman Sultan.
4) Finally, by making brash declarations against ISIS and allowing Americans to use the Incirlik airbase, Turkey intends to convince the United States and Western Europe that it is a reliable NATO ally and loyal partner in the fight against terrorism. Creating such a positive image is particularly important at a time when the major powers are finalizing a nuclear agreement with Iran, which would increase the latter’s strategic role in the region and diminish that of Turkey.
By pursuing the foregoing four objectives, Erdogan is running the risk of destabilizing Turkey and neighboring states:
1) By attacking ISIS targets in Northern Syria, ostensibly in retaliation for the killed Turkish soldier, Ankara is breaking its secret understanding with ISIS to refrain from mutual attacks. ISIS is now compelled to hit back. Last week’s suicide attack in the Turkish town of Suruc, killing 32 persons and wounding over 100, is probably the precursor of such ISIS terror acts throughout Turkey.
2) Turkey broke last week the ceasefire agreement it had signed with the PKK in 2013, by bombing the latter’s bases in Northern Iraq and arresting hundreds of Kurdish militants in Turkey. The PKK has already retaliated by killing several Turkish policemen, and promising more bloodshed. Furthermore, by attacking Kurds in Syria and Iraq, Turkey would be weakening the only force that has successfully fought against ISIS. Since the United States views Kurdish fighters as its substitute troops on the ground, Turkish attacks against Kurds would undermine U.S. military objectives in the region.
3) Should Erdogan invade Northern Syria ostensibly to establish “a safety zone,” Turkish troops are likely to suffer many casualties, battling not only the Syrian army, but also heavily armed Kurdish fighters, and scores of rag-tag Jihadist groups. Turkey could also be confronted by Iranian troops coming to the aid of their Syrian ally and Hizbullah fighters from Lebanon who have been backing the Assad regime.
The Turkish President’s self-serving fake war against terrorism could have the tragic consequence of escalating the violence throughout Turkey and neighboring countries. If Ankara is truly interested in countering the Jihadists, it should have done that long ago, instead of arming and abetting ISIS and other terror groups. Turkish leaders are now going to reap what they sowed. They can only blame themselves!
Harut Sassounian is the Publisher of The California Courier
These views are his own.