Global guerilla war can infect Turkey

Global guerilla war can infect Turkey

Two Turkish Airlines (THY) pilots were abducted by militants in Lebanon in the early hours of August 9.
Anonymous callers to Al Jedid TV claimed responsibility on behalf of an organization called the “Pilgrims of Imam Ali Reza” which had never been heard of publicly before, but from the name it is possible to deduct that they could either be Shiite militants with possible links to Hezbollah or pretending to be. The callers said the Turkish pilots would be freed if nine Lebanese Shiite pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria in May 2012 were freed; Hezbollah has been accusing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime of the abduction. Hezbollah, which is actively fighting in the Syrian civil war on behalf of al-Assad against the rebels, mostly consisting of Sunni Muslims, also criticizes Turkey because of its support to the FSA.

Things start to get complicated here. The core of the Syrian rebels are indeed Sunni Muslims, mostly supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan-i Muslimin), a political Islam movement sourcing from Egypt but widespread across the “greater” Middle East. A more radical group called al-Nusra Front split from Ikhwan, as announced by leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani in January 2012. Shortly after, the group became the Syria branch of al-Qaeda, as acknowledged (in May 2013) by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda after U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a safe house in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

The rise of al-Nusra has weakened the FSA and Syrian opposition. Al-Nusra’s rise also brought a power struggle within al-Qaeda to the surface; between the headquarters and al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was formed in 2009 with the merger of the Saudi Arabia and Yemen branches lead by Naser al-Wuhayshi. Serving as private secretary for bin Laden in earlier years, al-Wuhayshi had been arrested by Iran in 2001 and extradited to Yemen, where he was put in prison. He broke out of the prison in 2006 to lead the regional activities, including the piracy in the Indian Ocean and al-Shabbab in Somalia. (Perhaps it should be noted here that Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu was attacked by al-Shabbab on July 28, 2013, killing one police officer and wounding three.) The main discrepancy between the al-Qaeda HQ in Afghanistan and the AQAP is that the HQ insists on hitting global blows to the U.S. and its allies, whereas al-Wuhayshi and followers want to focus on their national problems such as overthrowing the regimes in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. No longer resisting to the popularity of al-Wuhayshi among the organization, al-Zawahiri reportedly appointed recently him as “general manager,” which practically means number two of al-Qaeda.

U.S. intelligence apparently intercepted the communications between them and deducted that al-Wuhayshi was going to do something big in order to prove himself as eligible for the important post. Another piece of intelligence, according to U.S. media are the reports on the possible use of a liquid explosive, developed by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the assumed bomber of al-Wuhayshi that could be soaked into clothes, like underwear, and not easy to detect. Plus, al-Qaeda raided prisons in Iraq, Pakistan and Libya in late July and let hundreds of militants free. All those things lead the U.S. government to put many embassies on alert on Aug. 5, evacuate some of them, including the one in Sanaa, Yemen, and then start launching pre-emptive strikes at al-Qaeda.

This is a new stage of the global guerilla war that started with the al-Qaeda hit of 9/11 in 2011. Turkey was hit by al-Qaeda twice in 2003 in bloody attacks. But because of the deteriorating situations in Syria and Iraq, Turkey can be further infected by this poisonous atmosphere, which means more problems for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan in the near future.