From offense to defense in fighting with terror

From offense to defense in fighting with terror

President Abdullah Gül, at the end of his speech at the United Nations General Assembly the other day, said, “Another important issue that affects us all is terrorism. It is real, extremely dangerous, a crime against humanity, and must be defeated. We can only defeat it once we get rid of ‘my terrorist/your terrorist’ distinctions. Effective international partnership against terrorism remains a key priority for Turkey.” 

These are words Turkey has been repeating at every international platform for years; in other words, they are not new. However, there is a new situation: Turkey used to mean PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) when it mentioned terrorism. When it called on the international community for cooperation against terror, it meant, in an implied way, that it was accusing certain countries of supporting the PKK, or at least turning a blind eye to its activities. With the last resolution process and with the PKK stopping its attacks, there was no need for Turkey, or no functional reason, to repeat its calls. As a matter of fact, Turkey started being accused of supporting certain radical Islamist groups in Syria. 

In the Washington Post interview by Lally Weymouth published two days ago, she first asked Gül, “People here [in the United States] are saying that the opposition is dominated by extremists. They’re blaming Qatar, they’re even blaming Turkey for allowing arms to go through Turkey to get to extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra. Is that fair?” 

Despite Gül’s answer, “People who say this are wrong and they lack foresight and they don’t know us. I would not accept such an accusation and I would actually see it as a pretext – an excuse – to move away from the events and to not do something;” Weymouth insisted, “One argument that was made throughout the congressional hearings was that the Saudis and Qataris are aiding the radical groups in Syria and that Turkey was allowing aid and radicals to pass through its borders.”

Gül’s answer to this has been this: “These extremists don’t come to Turkey. But the moderates – the ones who are working for democracy – meet in Turkey. We have exposed ourselves so much in helping the moderates. So if this is not appreciated for what it is and, on the contrary, we are blamed for doing something exactly opposite to what we’re doing, I see this as a pretext for people who are trying to move away from the Syrian situation.”

Other American journalists asked similar questions to President Gül; and also questions on the Gezi incidents. There is nothing surprising about this. We, the journalists accompanying President Abdullah Gül in this trip have also asked him these questions. 

The main reason that these questions of “Whether or not Turkey has any relationship with radical groups in Syria” and “if it does, to what extent is this relationship” are brought up so frequently must be Ankara’s failure in “perception management.” 

For example, before Gül explained it to us, we had not witnessed any such clear and open rejections to the accusations as his. Probably, this situation will probably change from now on. 

However, it looks as if the situation of Turkey transforming from an offensive position in international platforms on fighting with terror to a defensive position will continue for a while. 

Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on Sept. 26. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.