Turkish President opens ISIL to debate

Turkish President opens ISIL to debate

Is Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) one of the most frightening terror organizations which is creating a serious threat on the field today in Syria and Iraq; or a structure limited to “some small gangs and remnants,” used by some powers to stir up the region?

With President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements during his address on Nov. 27 to Justice and Development Party’s parliamentary group meeting which points to the latter option, these questions are now part of the discussions on ISIL and Syria.

Acutally Erdoğan’s views that ISIL is being intentionally exaggerated are not new.

At a statement made on October 30; the president had said that “ISIL was being resurrected though members who are trained again by certain circles, spreading to the region.” He talked about a “focal point” which uses all terror organizations as a tool to reach its targets in the region. He had not clarified which country or countries he meant while referring to them as certain circles.

Interestingly Erdoğan has taken his views on ISIL a step ahead and said a serious blow was dealt to ISIL during the Euphrates Shield operation that started on August 2016, ending on March 2017.

The striking point in this statement made Nov 27, was his reference to ISIL as “a balloon,” and his definition of ISIL as a project that is being intentionally exaggerated to frighten the world.

The following are important to take note of the president’s view on ISIL.

“We are destroying this organization which has been a real trouble for Islam. But those saying they are against ISIL unfortunately have not shown the slightest struggle against it. The reason why ISIL looks as if it continues its presence in certain areas of Syria is the wish to put the same play on stage again. I am making a call to the whole world from here and say: there is no ISIL in Syria. Under the disguise of ISIL there are some small number of gangs who are trained and equipped, tolerated to exist in order to stir the country and the region. If the terror organizations which continue their occupation to operate the oil wells using the ISIL alibi were to leave from the places they are, the whole issue will be solved.”

Erdoğan ended his call to the world by a surprising proposal:

“We as Turkey are committed to finish the remnants of this organization in a few months. Let’s join our hands, and let’s show how this can happen.”

What is the address that President Erdoğan proposes to cooperate; sends the message of joining hands?

Looking to the field; we need to assume that the main address is United States.

The president had made a similar call on ISIL to the United States in 2016 but no positive reply had come from Washington to this proposal.

At any rate we need to underline that Erdoğan’s approach to ISIL is diverging to a great degree from the arguments of the Western countries starting with United States.

One dimension that needs to be underlined at this stage is the fact that Turkey is a member of the international coalition formed against ISIL in 2014 and that it opened later İncirlik Airbase for the use of the coalitions’ air operations against ISIL.

When Turkish government stopped these flights after the 15 July 2016 coup attempt; this had led to some problems, and the government gave its consent two days later to resume the flights.

This is very clear: Turkey and America’s priorities and threat evaluations on Syria are diverging significantly.

The statement made public following the Nov. 27 National Security Council meeting is striking evidence to this situation. The statement underlined that the “biggest threat to the political solution comes from the terrorist structures in the East of Euphrates.” Reference to ISIL was made only within the framework of Iraq in the document.

The Syrian issue is going to a breaking point that will seriously put Turkey and United States against each other.