End-game approaching for al-Qaeda in Syria but…

End-game approaching for al-Qaeda in Syria but…

The topic of the talk between journalists and President Abdullah Gül in the plane on the way to New York and at the Turkish House in New York was Syria and radical Islamist organizations such as al-Qaida and the like that are effective in the civil war in that country. 

It is significant that Gül has defined these groups as, “a major threat to Turkey’s national security,” and that he has emphasized that the state did not and will not show any tolerance in that respect. Because the official statements issued up until this day on this matter have not been so open, clear and harsh. Moreover, for this reason, both the Bashar al-Assad/Baath regime and its supporters, and Kurdish groups clashing with al-Qaeda in the north of Syria have been engaged and still are engaged in propaganda claiming that Ankara was supporting these radical groups, at least it was turning a blind eye to their existence. I am guessing that Gül’s statements will end the speculations on this matter. 

Three critical developments 

The presence of al-Qaeda-like groups in Syria has been a controversial issue since the beginning. Because the al-Assad regime claiming to be “fighting with terror” wanted to keep this issue of al-Qaeda constantly warm, the opposition and their external supporters always avoided discussing it. However, with al-Qaeda seeing the Syrian civil war as an opportunity for propaganda and with its recording of its savage activities and globally sharing them, this truth emerged in a plain way. 

Even though al-Qaeda seems to have become strengthened in the past two months, their strengthening somehow accelerates their inevitable defeat. There are three notable developments: 

1) Al-Qaeda and similar groups becoming engaged in clashes in the north with Kurdish groups who were trying to remain neutral in the civil war; 

2) The fact that the military option was withdrawn, which aimed to punish the al-Assad regime, caused concerns to grow seriously that this way al-Qaeda-like groups would feel encouraged; 

3) Also, the fact that al-Qaeda and their ilk started clashing, after the Kurds, with the Free Syrian Army which has a certain legitimacy in the international community. 

When viewed roughly, the existence of those al-Qaeda-like groups in Syria harms the legitimacy of the opposition in Syria, at least its armed factions, so much so that several global and regional powers seem to be prioritizing the elimination of such groups more than the al-Assad regime. 

This is not impossible but very difficult. Even if the elimination of al-Qaeda today from Syria (and the region) is somewhat possible, the al-Qaeda threat will remain in the medium and long term as a Damocles’ sword over those actors; because one of the most typical features of al-Qaeda is that it is in no rush; it is extremely patient. 

Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this abridged piece was published on Sept. 24. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.