Why is ISIS Attacking Turkey? Perhaps Retaliation For Turkey Blocking Its Funding
23 May 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Turkish authorities confirmed that the perpetrators of the suicide attack on
Istanbul airport are members of ISIS and came from the Syrian province of
Raqqa, the headquarters of the ''caliphate''.
If ISIS was really the mastermind, what was its motive? If Assad loyalists
were behind the attacks, what do they want? And what are Turkey's options in
Perhaps ISIS' motive is retaliation for Turkey blocking its funding routes and
stopping its fighters from crossing through Turkish territory. Other possible
reasons are that Turkey is engaged in a war against ISIS in cooperation with
the United States, and its reconciliation with Russia and Israel. They may
also demand that their prisoners are released.
In the past, Turkey turned a blind eye to ISIS actions, and therefore the
country was used as a main crossing. This has now changed. However, ISIS'
anger at Erdogan's government does not justify the attack, and there is a long
list of enemies that are more important as ISIS targets. Nevertheless, ISIS'
attack on Turkey will double its determination to hunt down its fighters and
regard it as an enemy.
It is most likely that the terrorist organisation has been infiltrated. The
evidence for this is that many of its activities are contrary to its ideology.
ISIS carried out two attacks on two political units that are at odds with the
Syrian regime. The first attack was carried out by eight suicide bombers on
the Lebanese village of Al-Qaa on the Syrian border which is controlled by the
Lebanese Forces party, an opponent of Assad's regime. The second attack was
carried out by three suicide bombers on Istanbul airport. ISIS attacking the
Lebanese Forces is a contradiction as the organisation says it targets Assad
and Hezbollah forces in that region. The involvement of eight suicide bombers
in the Al-Qaa attacks, an area of limited relevance in the conflict, is odd
and has not happened before.
The fact that Turkey has been targeted repeatedly promotes the narrative that
ISIS has been infiltrated. Al-Qaeda used to work with the Assad regime when it
was in Syria during its war against US forces in Iraq during the occupation
period, and the organisation used to work with the Iraqi opposition and in
coordination with Syrian regime agencies to target US forces in Iraq. When
ISIS was born during the Syrian uprising, it came as an extension of Al-Qaeda.
It fought different groups including the armed Syrian opposition like the Free
Syrian Army (FSA) and a number of Islamic organisations engaged in combat. It
also carried out attacks on the Syrian regime and its allies.
Despite the organisation's ideological fanaticism, it does not mind
cooperating with its opponents on the ground. Currently, it is working with
the Assad regime against Turkey as part of the game to survive. It did this in
Iraq where it collaborated with Baathist groups despite it accusing them of
infidelity. It has also previously made trade deals with the Assad regime in
Syria and sold oil to it after gaining control of the wells in Raqqa.
There are those who point the finger at the Russians and say that they are
using terrorists to attack Turkey, but there is no convincing evidence for
this. Perhaps Russia has the biggest interest in weakening Turkey. It has
already threatened Erdogan's government because it shot down a Russian plane
and demanded that Turkey halt its cooperation with ''terrorist organisations''
(what it calls all armed groups fighting against its ally, the Assad regime).
However, the Russians are not known to be skilful when it comes to
infiltrating and using Islamic groups, as opposed to the Syrian regime which
has thirty years of experience through its intelligence services which manage
Palestinian, Lebanese and Islamic extremist religious groups.
There is no doubt that Turkish investigators are better able to determine who
was behind the attack on Istanbul airport. Whether the mastermind behind the
attacks is ISIS, the Assad regime's intelligence services or its allies, it is
in the Erdogan government's interests not to abandon the Syrian Revolution.
Rather, it should review its policy of separating from the FSA.
With the passing of time, the FSA has proven that in spite of the losses that
it has experienced, it is the only Syrian group that deserves to be supported
as it does not have a foreign agenda, unlike the rest of the opposition
groups, such as Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham whose ideology does not
differ greatly from that of ISIS, although they have not yet been involved in
operations against Turkey and its allies.
It is in the interest of the Turks to pursue a military solution against Assad
in order to reach an appropriate political solution between the regime and the
opposition. Without military success, the chaos will continue because Assad's
broken regime is beyond repair.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is
currently based in Dubai.