Europe’s security begins from Turkey
During his much-anticipated visit to Ankara on Aug. 24, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden likened the coup attempt Turkey suffered on July 15 to the trauma of his country’s 9/11, which changed the course of world history in the early days of the 21st century. However, multiple terror attacks that have hit Turkey in only the last two days are enough to prove that almost every day is like the 9/11 tragedy for Turks.
On Aug. 26, 11 police officers were killed and more than 70 were wounded in a powerful car bomb attack in Cizre in the southeastern province of Şırnak. The attack is believed to have been staged by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has clearly geared up its terrorist campaign in recent days in reaction to the Turkish army’s cross-border operation into northern Syria with the objective of stopping its Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), from reaching its ambitions of increasing its domain in the region.
On Aug. 25, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu narrowly survived a PKK attack in the Şavşat district of the Black Sea province of Artvin, in the terrorist group’s first ever attempt targeting a political leader. On Aug. 24, it also killed six troops in the east by hitting a police headquarters in Elazığ.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) hit the Şahinbey district of Gaziantep with a suicide bomb attack on Aug. 20 that killed 55 people, 29 of whom were under the age of 18. Almost all analysts agree that ISIL’s attack was an early reaction to Turkey’s military offensive into Jarablus to kick the jihadists from the Turkish border. It is also thought that the ramping up of the PKK’s attacks is also linked to the army’s move, as it also targets the PYD.
This is enough to show that the objectives of the PKK and ISIL overlap at some point, particularly after Turkey decided to cross into Syria to keep its border secure. It should be remembered that the operation into Jarablus was planned a year ago but could not be implemented due to disagreements with Washington, and with Russia after the Turkish army downed a Russian warplane.
It’s not hard to see that this recent Turkish operation would disturb both terror groups, which have long been taking advantage of the political and military vacuum in northern Syria and an insecure Turkey-Syria border. That’s why Turkey’s overdue operation into the Mare-Jarablus line, aimed at sealing off this strip of the border from terror groups, is and will be very important. As this operation will be a lasting one, one can expect more of such ISIL- and PKK-led terror attacks inside Turkey, as on Aug. 26 Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım declared “all-out war” on terrorism across the country.
There is no question that Turkey’s wrong Syria policy between 2011 and 2016 is the main reason why we are today suffering from increased terrorist campaigns. It helped cause the Syrian unrest to spillover inside Turkey at the hands of different terror organizations.
Although very late, the Turkish government realized this fact and is now trying to reverse it. It has two factors: Politically, it’s trying to rebuild its leverage on Syria by efforts to normalize its ties with regional countries like Russia and Iran. It has already abandoned its “Bashar al-Assad-must-go-first” condition, signaling that the regime and its leader could still play a role in finding a political solution to the problem. This helped Turkey increase its area for political and even military maneuvers.
Militarily, it has launched a major offensive against ISIL inside Syria, making clear its commitment to fight against jihadists as part of the anti-ISIL coalition. This military move will likely continue in the coming days, although it also targets the PYD’s advance west of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s success in Syria against ISIL will also ease conditions for a larger campaign against jihadists in Raqqa and elsewhere in the country.
Turkey’s fight inside and outside against terror needs to be supported by its allies. Any failure will surely have drastic consequences for European countries and others. It should not be forgotten that just as Turkey’s security begins from Syria, Europe’s security begins from Turkey.