Analysts of Turkey’s foreign policy say that Ankara’s often contradictory measures and messages come from two main sources: pockets of Islamic State sympathizers within the leadership, and the broader alarm over Kurdish land grabs as a result of the Syrian conflict. Ankara’s mission is ensuring that the Kurds next door don’t gain ground for a future autonomous state that could affect Turkey’s own conflict with its large Kurdish population. The Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, with U.S. assistance, has scored several recent military victories over the Islamic State, a situation that has drawn criticism, not praise, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey reacted angrily, recalling its ambassador to the Vatican and accusing Francis of distorting history and spreading prejudice. On Twitter, the Turkish foreign minister denounced the pope for fueling “hatred and animosity” with his “unfounded allegations.” That was no surprise, given the government’s vehement history of denialism on the subject. To this day, the use of the word “genocide” to describe the killing of the Armenians is a criminal offense in Turkey, and Turkish diplomats labor mightily to defeat genocide-recognition efforts worldwide.
Talaat Pasha, the powerful Ottoman interior minister during World War I, certainly didn’t disguise his objective. “The Government . . . has decided to destroy completely all the indicated [Armenians] persons living in Turkey,” he brusquely reminded officials in Aleppo in a September 1915 dispatch. “An end must be put to their existence . . . and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples.”
Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Farouq Qaimagja, said in a meeting with Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has nothing in common with Islamic doctrine.
During Wednesday’s meeting in Baghdad, Qaimagja reaffirmed his country’s support for Iraq in its war against terrorism, pointing out that terrorism is a danger that threatens all people.
Mehmet Aşkar, one of the 11 suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) currently being tried by the Niğde High Criminal Court, has said that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) helped them smuggle arms to opposition groups in Syria during the early stages of the country’s civil war, a Turkish daily has reported.
According to a story published in the Cumhuriyet daily on Monday, Turkish authorities are trying to divert public attention from the case because the prosecutor’s dossier has details which reveal the involvement of MİT in arms smuggling.
The 11 suspects in the case include a Syrian Turkmen who is allegedly linked with the anti-regime Free Syrian Army (FSA) and radical groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates. Haisam Toubaljeh, also known as Heysem Topalca and who is also a suspect in the Reyhanlı attack case, according to Hürriyet, is believed to have been involved in numerous cases of smuggling as well as a transfer of rocket warheads to Syria that was intercepted in November 2013 by security forces in the southern city of Adana.
For months, ISIS leaders have been sending the group’s fighters across the Syrian border to Turkish port cities where, posing as refugees, they use boats to enter into Europe. Once there, these fighters have been tasked with establishing covert cells to conduct attacks on targets in Europe.
In interviews with BuzzFeed News, leading members of the House and Senate slammed the Turkish government’s handling of its borders, insisting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government must begin taking the threat from the terrorist group more seriously.
“I think the Turks have a lot of work to do, in terms of the level of their cooperation. This is a war. And they certainly aren’t treating it that way,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr told BuzzFeed News.
Update XVI: Turkey and the West Part Ways on ‘Charlie Hebdo’
Even more ominously, pro-government Twitter accounts, which are believed to have links to officials, used the Charlie Hebdo attack to threaten their Turkish counterparts. One tweeted that Leman, a satirical magazine that opposes the government, “doesn’t recognize any limits in its impertinence to President Erdogan” and “should draw a lesson from the Charlie Hebdo attack.” Unidentified people rented billboards in the city Bitlis that they used to salute the Kouachi brothers for having “avenged the prophet of Allah.”
The President of Turkey has suggested French security forces are to blame for the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week, since the culprits had recently served prison sentences. Erdoğan accused the West of ‘playing games with the Islamic world’, warning fellow Muslims to be ‘aware’. Erdogan said Muslims are ‘paying the price’ for the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish kosher supermarket in Paris last week.
The money shot:
‘The West’s hypocrisy is obvious. As Muslims, we’ve never taken part in terrorist massacres. Behind these lie racism, hatespeech and Islamophobia,’ Erdogan added.
Update XIV: Turkey: Hamas chief is free to come
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, says that a senior Hamas official who was reportedly expelled from Qatar [Khaled Mashaal] is free to come to Turkey.
Many of the around 500 Britons who the authorities believe have traveled to the region have used Turkey as a transit destination. Around half that number are already believed to have returned to Britain.
Is Turkey really a member of the anti-Islamic State coalition?
“It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh,” Bali said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
Update VII: US, Turkey still not in sync on Syria
Update V: Turkey and U.S., at odds over Syria
Update III: Turkey: No new deal with US on using air base
Washington has been pushing Turkey to play a more active role in the broad anti-IS coalition it assembled in Paris last month with little success. However, officials told the Associated Press that Ankara had agreed to allow coalition aircraft to operate from its bases, including Incirlik, around 100 miles from the Syrian border.
The Turkish parliament has passed legislation allowing military operations against IS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, but so far it has not taken action itself.
Turkey’s absence is conspicuous. It’s the only NATO ally among these Muslim world partners. To be clear, the fight against the Islamic State is not a NATO mission, but it serves as a reminder of how little Erdogan’s regime has done to help preserve order in the Middle East.
In many ways, Turkey has made the fight against the Islamic State more difficult. Apart from permitting some unarmed American drones to fly out of its territory, Ankara has refused to allow the West to operate from Turkish airbases. This has forced strike aircraft to fly their sorties from the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, Shaheed Mwaffaq in Jordan or Al Dhafra in the UAE. As for the Incirlik air base that NATO operates in Eastern Turkey, Ankara has made it clear that for the time being, it is currently off limits for armed operations.
Politico is just now figuring this out?