31/07/2015

Turkey faces its demons

000_Par8234954The last attacks perpetrated by ISIS on the Turkish soil have pushed finally Turkey to take action against ISIS and against the PKK, which is still consider by Ankara as a terrorist group. This strategic shift allows Turkish security forces to put an end to hypocrisy and to its complacency toward ISIS, which had enjoyed it until now.

These attacks happened last week in Suruç, 32 were reported dead said the local authorities, and in a village (Elbeyli) close to the Syrian border where deadly clash between Daesh fighters and the Turkish army have killed one soldier.

These attacks located in the border area are the most serious since ISIS took control of a large portion of Syrian and Iraqi territory a year ago. Following these attacks, Turkish authorities announced a strengthening of security measures along the 900 km of border that separate Turkey from Syria. Turkish and American presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Barack Obama have agreed: to fight together against the influx of foreign jihadists in Syria and reinforce as well controls along the Syria border.

Turkey is under pressure after these events and have agreed to allow the United States to conduct air strikes against the jihadists of the Islamic state from several of its air bases, including Incirlik airbase, near the Syrian border.

Until now Turkey, a close ally of the United States and a NATO member since 1952, played in the last Middle East crisis, a minimal role concerning the anti-jihadist operations in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, the Islamic-conservative government of Mr. Erdogan has not intervened militarily due to its complacency towards ISIS that fights both of its archenemies in the region: the government of Bashar al-Assad, and the Syrians and Iraqis Kurds.

During the fighting in Ayn al-Arab (Kobané), located a few kilometers of the Turkish border, ISIS was about to seize the city but Kurdish fighters have opposed a strong resistance and finally won the battle without the help of the Turkish army, which was pre-positioned but have not intervened. Ankara preferred to tacitly support ISIS rather than strengthen the Kurdish cause and the government of Damascus.

A few months ago the Turkish daily newspaper “Cumhuriyet” published on May 29, several photos that have accredited the assumption, vehemently denied by the Islamic-conservative government, that Ankara supplies weapons and ammunitions to the Syrian rebels extremist groups such as Jabhat al Nosra and Islamic State. Following the latest attacks of ISIS in Diyarbakir, which targeted a convoy of the Turkish army, assigned by the authorities to the PKK, the strategic and security situation has evolved rapidly.

These last events have forced Turkish authorities to reassess their strategic position. Thus, they will increase their bombing against EI and the Kurdish rebels of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, banned in Turkey) to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state along their borders and then avoid further fragmentation of the country between Kurds and Turks.

The Kurds are probably the biggest losers of the past dismantle of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed The Treaty of Sèvre in 1920 provided the establishment of an autonomous Kurdistan, but it was never take into account by the mandatory powers at this period. Meanwhile, Turkey while undergoing a transformation from the Ottoman Empire into a “Kemalist” Republic, denied completely the existence and the rights of the Kurdish minority in its territory to create a modern nation-state with a secular republic and one people, the Turks.

The sudden arising of the Kurds in Iraq and Syria after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the arrival of the Islamic State could be a nightmare for the Turkish authorities, which fear that this will stimulate Kurdish nationalism in Turkey as well. The last ISIS destabilization attempts and the growing power of Iraqi and Syrian Kurds could eventually destabilize the eastern part of Turkey, or, in the worst-case scenario, it might gradually fragment Turkish territory.

However, this fragmentation of Turkey might not be feasible, non-state and irredentist groups such as ISIS thrive rather in states characterized by a low centralism, a declining economy sand a segmental society.