Turkey Just Might Have Changed It's Policy Regarding The Islamic State
28 July 2015
By Pieter van Ostaeyen
Turkey vs. The Islamic State. A Possible Game Changer
Turkey's border with Syria, as is well known, is the transit zone for foreign
fighters and supplies of any kind, being it food or ammunition and weapons.
The Islamic State controlled a long stretch of this borderzone. Thousands of
foreign fighters found their way in to Syria or Iraq through the fragile
Turkish border. Foreign fighters, currently in Syria or Iraq, even described
how Turkish officials accepted bribes to allow foreign fighter convoys pass.
Some media even claimed that the Turkish government was allowing this "free
transit" to The Islamic State.
In a way Turkey gains by The Islamic State's presence in Northern Syria. The
fierce battle waging in Northern Syria between Kurds and The Islamic State
slows down the steady building of an independent Rojava at the Turkish
border, a serious threat to Turkey. The Turks most likely fear more Kurds
might join this strife for independence. When Northern Syria would eventually
become Kurdish territory, why would the Turkish border matter ? Kurds in
southern Turkey will most likely join in for an independent Rojava. And so
Kurdish nationalism is the red rag to the Turkish bull, it might be one
reason why Turkey wasn't really doing what the other NATO members expected.
For more than two years the border issue was neglected.
On July 20 a bomb exploded during a mass meeting of young socialist Kurds in
the southern border town of Suruç. Around thirty people were killed and over
a hundred wounded in this brutal attack. The attack was immediately
attributed to The Islamic State, although the group never even claimed the
attack. The next day the PKK killed two Turkish police officers in what was
described as revenge for the bombing. The Islamic State would indeed not gain
by attacking Turkey, hereby opening a new front. On the other hand attacks
like these spread unrest and chaos in southern Turkey, something that fits
the overall strategy of The Islamic State. Whoever was responsible for the
attack, it led to a chain of events that wasn't expected.
Firstly Turkey banned Twitter for a couple of hours forcing the company to
remove all pictues and videos of the Suruç attack. On July 23 it was reported
that the Turks would increase their efforts in stopping foreign fighters
crossing its border with Syria. Shortly after the news came out that the
Turkish border was to be fortified with heavy deployments, drones, walls and
even zeppelins. And then the situation quickly escalated. After a reported
attack by Islamic State militants on a Turkish border point the Turks briefly
invaded Syrian territory and drove back the insurgents. One Turkish soldier
was killed and two wounded. The Turks even deployed tanks and artillery to
fight The Islamic State. This attack was just the beginning as in the
following night Turkish fighter jets bombed several IS targets inside Syria,
killing around 30 fighters. It was also announced that Turkey would open up
the strategic airport of Incirlik for American fighter jets, hereby providing
the American led coalition with an airbase close to Syria. The distance the
American jets would have to fly to attack The Islamic State hence decreased
from about 1900 km to only 400 km. During the night of the 23rd Turkish
security forces arrested 251 militants, not only IS militants but also PKK
militants and even DHKP-C members were arrested during the nationwide raids.
On the 24th it was also announced that, included in the deal between Turkey
and the USA, a partial no-fly zone will be covered. Stretching over the
Turkish-Syrian border from Marea to Jarabulus the no-fly zone would be around
90 km wide and 40 to 50 km deep.
This quote from Erdoğan kind of wraps up the current situation:
#BREAKING Turkish President Erdoğan: Considering the recent developments in
#Syria and by the PKK, #Turkey needed to take a very dif step.
CNN Türk ENG (@CNNTURK_ENG) 24 juli 2015
This all could turn out as a game changer in the war with The Islamic State;
as Turkey, a NATO-member, could cut of all northern supply lines to The
Islamic State. This would mean the steady influx of foreign fighters but also
material support passing through the Turkish border would come to an end. If
the no-fly zone is imposed over the area, described above, it would mean an
important part of The Islamic State's currently controlled terrain is an open
target for the US led international coalition. Another major gain for Turkey
lies within the fact that by controlling this area it can thwart the Kurdish
dream of creating one big independent state on the Turkish border, a state
that would join the two already existing Kurdish cantons in Northern Syria.
However, another, more grim, scenario would be that The Islamic State starts
attacking soft targets in Turkey, most likely targetting the tourism. It, for
now, remains unclear how this sudden turn of events will evolve, but it is
safe to say the war on The Islamic State entered a new phase.