Does it make any difference if Turkish hostages were released by the heinous Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists as part of a swap, or because of the outstanding diplomatic capabilities of the Turkish intelligence? What is important ought to be the fact that, as of Saturday morning, Turkish hostages are no longer held captive and threatened to be killed by terrorists notorious for their ruthless beheadings.
Irrespective how the release was achieved, everyone involved in that successful operation must be congratulated; indeed, that’s what the entire country has been doing since. Still, from the remarks of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, we understand that “a local element” helping out Turkish agents lost his life during the operation. Did not the same Davutoğlu say that not a bullet was fired? Why this contradiction? The “local element” probably lost his life in an earlier effort. In any case, if a foreign national lost his life while trying to help Turks win their liberty, he deserves to be remembered with his name and hopefully the time will come when that is released as well.
It was first President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who implied that while there was no gunshot, no ransom paid or any compromise or concession to win the liberty of the hostages, but some sort of “diplomacy and political bargain” was quite possible. He even suggested implicitly that there might have even been a swap of some sort by saying “what if there was a swap?”
The president, his aides and the government back in Ankara were quick to make the “correction” that there was no swap. However, a talented journalist friend, Deniz Zeyrek of Hürriyet, examined scores of tweets and other electronic messages of pro-ISIL personalities and came up with a brilliant report revealing that Turkey helped release some 50 ISIL prisoners held by a Syrian Islamist opposition group in exchange for the freedom of the Turkish hostages. Among the 50 people released were reported to be family members of Semir Abdulhamed el-Abidi el-Deliymi, or Hadji Bekir, one of the founding “commanders” of ISIL who lost his life during a fight in Syria.
According to repeated assurances from various Turkish officials, there has not been any release of ISIL members or pro-ISIL Islamists held in Turkish prisons. With regards the release of some ISIL members by Syrian “friends” as part of a deal to win the freedom of the Turkish hostages, so far, Turkish officials are mum. Silence sometimes might well mean approval.
Would it make any difference should some people from Turkish prisons be released as part of a deal? It would not mean much for this writer and for many people perhaps, but such a development definitely might have a political price in the international arena. A swap is now obvious, but it was not Turkey who did it. Still, that’s not a big deal. What will Turkey do now, since the main impediment of it partaking in U.S. President Barrack Obama’s international coalition against the evil ISIL has now been eradicated? Can Turkey still say it is a member of the Western defense alliance, but refuse to participate actively in the operation against ISIL?
The number of refugees crossing into Turkey since the weekend has exceeded 130,000 and if ISIL is not stopped from advancing in the Kurdish areas along the Turkish border with Syria, hundreds of thousands more might seek refuge within the next few days. Can Turkey have the luxury of staying away? On the other hand, who knows how many sleeping cells ISIL has in Turkey – thanks to the lax border security since the start of the Syrian quagmire – and what might be the price of Turkey joining aerial bombardments, or worse, a land operation on ISIL?
Is is possible to swap Turkey with France or Germany?