And now Turkey declares war on ISIL

And now Turkey declares war on ISIL

This column on July 22 cited the deadly suicide bomb attack that killed 32 youngsters in the town of Suruç in the province of Şanlıurfa on the Syrian border as a declaration of war by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Turkey. 

That followed with the killing of a Turkish non-commissioned officer and wounding of two troops on July 23 as a result of fire opened by some ISIL militants after their attempt to cross the border into Turkey was prevented by Turkish border patrols. 

With the escalation of tension along the border, the Turkish government instructed the army to carry out attacks against any terrorist organization that potentially posed a threat to Turkey at a security summit late July 23. As a result of security assessments, Turkish jets pounded ISIL positions on the Turkish border in the early hours of July 24. 

“We are observing activity in Syria and on the border at every moment. Turkey will show the strongest reaction to the slightest movement that threatens it,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters July 24, in a bid to show Turkey’s determination in clearing its border of terrorist units. 

Turkey’s attack on ISIL coincided with a serious and comprehensive agreement between Ankara and Washington over the use of the former’s strategic military base, İncirlik, by U.S. warplanes as well as deepening cooperation in the fight against ISIL. 

The agreement, on the one hand, will allow the United States to use İncirlik and Turkish airspace to hit ISIL but on the other hand it will allow Turkey to establish secure zones inside Syria. Beyond this, as an anonymous U.S. official told the New York Times, this move of Turkey’s would be a game-changer in the Syrian theater and would surely re-balance all parameters in the region. 

As the Suruç massacre has shown, however, ISIL is no longer an external threat. Simultaneously with the aerial campaign, Turkish security forces launched an extensive raid against ISIL which also included other terror organizations like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) in more than dozen towns. As the main transit country for foreign fighters who had joined ISIL in the last one-and-half-years, Turkey unfortunately has become a ground for the world’s bloodiest terrorist organization with cells operating across the country. 

These cells were claimed to have helped foreign fighters cross into Syria as well as provided some logistic support to the organization. There is no solid intelligence on how many ISIL members and sympathizers are in Turkey and how many of them are planning terror acts. This unfortunately makes ISIL an important internal threat that needs to be immediately dealt with and eliminated before it hits civilian targets. 
But as Davutoğlu suggested yesterday, Turkish security believes these three terror organizations are committing their terrorist acts simultaneously and in coordination, thus creating a sort of terrorist bloc, despite having totally different world views and political objectives. 

These statements are interpreted that the struggle against these groups will be intensified in all of Turkey and in an open-ended way. One of the concerns in this process is that Turkey still has no permanent government and that the two main political parties are conducting coalition talks with predictions that these will only bring about early elections this fall. The question in people’s minds now is whether this attack on ISIL would facilitate the formation of a government between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

In such a fragile situation, Turkey declaring war on ISIL both domestically and in Syria is of vital importance and the beginning of a new era. The failure of these two parties in making a government will only increase Turkey’s vulnerability towards growing external and internal threats.