ISIL conducting one-way bargaining
Why has the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) never taken responsibility for any of the mass attacks it has conducted in Turkey? Considering their past attacks and the suicide attack on Istanbul Airport, it is possible to say this: ISIL is not only hitting to kill and spread fear. These are all calculated massacres with an aim. With these attacks, it is trying to affect Turkey’s policies; it is conducting one-way bargaining.
According to a report by the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors radical organizations such as ISIL and the like, ISIL has taken responsibility for only three actions: three individual murders of a teacher in Kahramanmaraş, an activist in Şanlıurfa and even though the United States says it was an accident, an American personnel member at İncirlik base in Adana.
Why, then, does ISIL not take responsibility for any of the mass actions in Turkey whereas they claimed responsibility for the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt in less than six hours and the Paris attacks after less than 12?
SITE explains it with two accounts. One is the fact that because Turkey is a Muslim country, they are driven to act differently before the eyes of their followers. They do not want to give the impression that they have deliberately killed Muslims. The second one is the geographic closeness of ISIL to Turkey. SITE says it is a “complicated relationship” where Turkey is a transit point for ISIL fighters, while noting that the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria are the “joint enemy” for both sides. However, after Turkey opened the İncirlik base for anti-ISIL operations in July 2015, pro-ISIL social media accounts spread messages about how Turkey was waging war against the caliphate.
As a matter of fact, with the effect of this complicated relationship, ISIL is sending a message to Ankara with every action. With the July 2015 Suruç attack, it demonstrated its capacity to attack in Turkey. When the İncirlik base began being used actively by the U.S., the October Ankara bombing carried matters to the next level. But in both actions, it targeted opposition segments in Turkey, leaving some kind of space.
When coalition attacks intensified and they started losing land; and when Ramadi fell in December, it went one step further. It reached out to Sultanahmet, the central tourism district in Istanbul. It attacked the Tourism Directorate at Sultanahmet and then a group of tourists, killing 12 people.
The Istanbul Airport attack is the extension of this line because ISIL is now faced with major problems. It is about to lose Manbij, which could represent a turning point for the civil war in Syria and the fight against ISIL. The issue is not only losing the road to Raqqa and the center through which they conduct wheat smuggling to Turkey. From the view of ISIL, the most critical dimension of the issue is that Turkey is supporting the groups that are warring side by side with the “common enemy,” the YPG. Just as how Suruç and Ankara were calculated attacks, the Istanbul act is also a product of this thought. It is to make Turkey abandon its plans to change its Syria policy.
I have been visiting the ISIL fronts in Iraq for a week. When they hit Istanbul Airport, I was at Fallujah; the place that was recovered from ISIL on Monday. At Mahmur, Bashiqa, the situation is more complicated than we assumed. The Iraqi Army is advancing but it is suffering major problems. The Peshmarga cannot receive their pay. The Americans are desperate at the center of the chaos they have created. What the Turks are doing in Bashiqa, on the other hand, is totally unknown. Governments are involved in political fights instead of adopting a united stance to protect you.
ISIL is in trouble. It is strained. Just as it lost Fallujah, it will lose Manbij as well. But it is so good at reading the conflicts in the international arena and is so good at taking advantage of the chaos… That’s what they tried in Istanbul; one last time before Manbij…