Turkish government poised to open three fronts

Turkish government poised to open three fronts

The inspection visit by Gen. Hulusi Akar, the Chief of Turkish General Staff, to Incirlik and Diyarbakır on Nov. 6-7 might be a strong indication of a new wave of air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in Syria and Iraq. But when considered together with police operations inside Turkey, one can add the police and judiciary probes against the sympathizers of the Fethullah Gülen group within the state, or the “Parallel State” as the government calls them, as a third front.

It may not be the case if the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) had not won the elections on Nov. 1 with a clear win, but now both President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu feel the circumstances are ripe to open three fronts at one time to consolidate their power.

Actually, the government is already active on all those fronts, and especially after a security meeting in the prime minister’s office on Nov. 4, it is possible to talk about a coordinated and combined move which is likely to continue through the winter months.

Now the focus of Turkey’s security forces is on the G-20 Summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, where world leaders are going to be hosted from Nov. 14-16. On the other hand, because ISIL and the PKK are seen as two threats to the summit as well, it would not be wrong to say the operation is waiting for a go. 

Turkey’s efforts against ISIL are in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition, after the opening up of its strategic Incirlik airbase for joint flights last July. Turkey is in the core group of four (including the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia - all G-20 countries) discussing the future of Syria, which is directly related with the struggle against ISIL. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu is expected to join the other three ministers in Vienna probably before the G-20 Summit in preparation to further contacts in Antalya at the leaders’ level.

The campaign against the PKK is an ambitious one after the PKK’s breaking last July the de facto non-aggression period of three-years during with there was dialogue with the government for a political solution.

With the help of aerial intelligence the military is aiming at the logistical positions of the PKK, including their shelters for the winter months and weapon and ammunition depots. The reaction from Ankara to the U.S. upon reports of providing weapons and ammunitions to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK’s extension in Syria, in the framework of their resistance to ISIL was mainly because of the PKK’s plans to cover their losses from the Turkish air strikes with the material to be provided to the PYD by the U.S. and other Western countries. When U.S. officials announced last week that “as of now” the PYD was not to be given any military material, Ankara was relieved. The Iraq dimension of the fight again the PKK was discussed in details during Sinirlioğlu’s visit to Arbil, where he met with Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, as a proactive move.

Neither Erdoğan nor Davutoğlu separate the campaigns against ISIL and the PKK from the struggle against the Fethullah Gülen group, or the “Parallels.” Being a close ally of Erdoğan up until 2013, Islamist ideologue Gülen, who lives in the U.S., is now a major foe, labelled a terrorist in the indictments against sympathizers of the group in business, the media, administration, the judiciary, the police and elsewhere. There are indications that the campaign against Gülenists is going to be stepped up in parallel with the campaigns against ISIL and the PKK. 

The government is likely to take advantage of the election victory and also the international conjuncture when there is a need for Turkey’s cooperation (like the one with the European Union regarding the Syrian refugee crisis) to act quickly and effectively.