Hürriyet Daily News
DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin SONMEZ
HDN columnist Nihat Ali Özcan had warned last week that Western interests in Turkey could come under attack.
The following is his column, which was originally published Jan. 24.Nihat Ali Özcan
Many victims lost their lives in last week’s Jihadist attack in Algeria. Everyone, especially the citizens, governments and companies of Western countries situated in isolated regions with compromised security, should be alarmed by this terrorist attack.
The history of radical armed movements in the Middle East does not start with the Arab Spring. However, the Arab Spring
did provide fertile ground for these movements. Information at hand shows that it won’t be a surprise if terrorist attacks like the one in Algeria occur more frequently.
France’s military operation against radical Islamists in Mali reflected an asymmetric struggle that is bound to continue into a new phase. Let’s not forget that the jihadists in Mali gained more power and capacity with the events in Libya, such as the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi.
The dispersal of ideas, arms, militias and combat experience in Libya is likely to repeat in Syria. The target will, of course, be Western interests.
As Assad’s army withdraws and the armed opposition takes control of arsenals, weapons and explosives – probably including chemical weapons – will fall into the hands of militias who will eventually be better at using military equipment. This development will surely boost jihadist motivations and escalate the conflict.
As the civil war in Syria continues, many Jihadist candidates – not only from Turkey but around the world – sign up for fighting. It is possible to observe the speed of this enlistment process and the basic motivation of the candidates on the internet. Certainly they are not going to Syria for democracy-building. It seems that the Western discourse built around the image of the dictator Assad is very different from the Jihadists’ stories on the battlefield.
In the near future, the West and Turkey will have to face a serious Jihadist challenge, regardless of the outcome of the Syrian civil war. Reasons for this are as follows: First, the Turkey-Syria, Syria-Lebanon and Syria-Jordan borders are not being controlled. Arms and armed militants can come and go easily. Secondly, the state authority in Syria is weakening. Thirdly, jihadists are becoming more local. Local network-building continues unfettered and they are more capable of enlisting Turkish citizens. Fourthly, Turkey is full of Western targets of the kind that whets the Jihadist appetite. Remember the 2003 bombings of the HSBC Bank, two synagogues and the British consulate. Finally, the Turkish government’s hatred of Assad causes it to tolerate the radical opposition in Syria.
The real question is this: Will governments, companies and other interested parties learn from the event in Algeria or will they act like nothing happened and wait for similar, new crises?