Turkey gearing up fight against ‘barbaric’ ISIL

Turkey gearing up fight against ‘barbaric’ ISIL

Turkey gearing up fight against ‘barbaric’ ISIL

Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoğlu delivers a lecture on the occasion of the opening of the academic year at the 19 Mayıs University in Samsun, Sept. 29. AA Photo

Turkey’s top leaders have begun deploying sharper rhetoric against extremist jihadists in Iraq and Syria, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu calling them “barbaric” and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan underlining “the obligation to fight” against them.

“We must make this struggle against all terrorist organizations in the region and against this understanding targeting Iraq and Syria,” Erdoğan said in an address to the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul Sept. 28, in an apparent reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The comments by Erdoğan, who held intense meetings with world leaders last week, including U.S. President Barack Obama, echo what he said earlier that “Turkey will do whatever needed” in the fight against ISIL.

Davutoğlu also decried the organization yesterday. “The common point of those who link ISIL to Islam is their ignorance. On the one hand, the barbarism ISIL is now committing today is the product of its own ignorance. The civilizations Islam and Islamic communities have developed cannot be linked with ISIL,” Davutoğlu said in a lengthy lecture he delivered on the occasion of the opening of the academic year at 19 Mayıs University in Samsun. “ISIL cannot be linked to Islam.”  

Despite its apparent opposition to ISIL, Turkey’s government has frequently been accused of supporting the group, especially after manifestly obstructing the Kurdish defense of Kobane against a jihadist onslaught.

Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s remarks came as Turkey is mulling its potential contribution to a U.S.-led military campaign against ISIL. Parliament will meet on Oct. 2 to discuss motions that authorize the Turkish army to conduct cross-border operations into Syria and Iraq. But before that, the country’s top civilian and military officials are expected to come together under Erdoğan’s leadership to revise Turkey’s road map in participating in the military campaign, as well as its ambitions to establish safe havens inside Syria and no-fly zones over Syrian airspace. Recalling that Turkey succeeded in safely freeing 49 hostages from the hands of ISIL, Erdoğan said: “We had said we would have a different road map once we save our hostages. Now a different road map is being put in place, it will Inshallah begin [to be implemented].”  

‘Turkey should be in’

Erdoğan also touched on his discussions with leaders at the U.N. last week when he met leaders of prominent countries dealing with the ISIL problem. “All leaders, either in private talks or bilateral meetings, have all said ‘Turkey must be in’ and ‘We can only handle this by leading a team that includes Turkey,” he said. “There is a [worldwide] need for Turkey and its views, warnings and particularly its power for the resolution of this regional crisis.”

One other reason why Turkey should be engaged in the struggle, Erdoğan said, was the unending refugee influx from Syria into Turkey. “[Dealing with the problem] is a necessity. People keep on migrating,” Erdoğan said, recalling that the number of refugees seeking shelter in Turkey had already exceeded 1.5 million.

Turkey is calling on Western partners to establish safe havens inside Syrian territory to provide humanitarian assistance to them in their own country.

Such a move also requires the establishment of no-fly zones with international approval for the “protection of Syrians,” he said, although Kurdish leaders have questioned Turkey’s insistence on a no-fly zone given that ISIL does not have planes.