Can The Djin Go Back in the Bottle?
Earlier this week it was interesting to see Turkish policies
regarding ISIL, be exposed for the world, and specifically her NATO allies to
see. There’s been some question in Western capitals about who’s side exactly
Turkey is on in the fight against these militants. Up until yesterday it
certainly looked like they were doing the unthinkable and supporting the
Turks were not allowing the US or her Arab
allies to use forward Turkish airbases to attack ISIL targets in Syria and
Turkish Kurds were being kept from entering
Syria to help defend Kobani from ISIL.
ISIL has realeased 49 Turkish hostages, Turkey
claims no ransoms were paid, a covert operation was launched. That doesn’t
really explain how 49 people, including men, women and children were released
from the center of ISIL territory, transported to Mosul and brought home with
not a shot fired. By hey, it’s their story, their sticking too it. Reality is there was probably an exchange of
There have been pro-ISIL demonstrations in
Ankara an Istanbul in recent weeks, fundamentalist Islam is not dead in Turkey.
Now we hear the Turks have “changed” their mind and are allowing
the Kurds in move into Iraq. For sure securing Turkish nationals changes the
Turkish calculus in this engagement; it frees their hands a little bit. I’m
also guessing that Edrogan and his Islamic AKP party is has realized that
Islamic Fundamentalists on their southern borders are far worse than the
Kurdish state they’ve been fighing against for the last 40 years.
Edrogan came to power in Turkey 2003, as many moderate
Islamic politicians do, by promising to clean up corruption. Religious folks
seem to have the monopoly on that argument. He maintains his power base in
rural Turkey away from the secular cities. During the Arab Spring he spent a
lot of time flying around the Middle East promoting pan Islamic cooperation and
a new alliance of Middle Eastern countries that would be self-reliant and not
dependent on the West.
Along the way he’s consolidated power, removed the
opposition where ever he can and introduced more restrictions on the press and social
media/internet usage. He’s led a shift towards Islamic law in Turkey, which
traditionally has been a non starter in Turkey due her 80 year tradition of
secular reforms introduced after the fall of the Ottoman Empire by the modern
state of Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk.
Now I have to wonder if Edrogan’s Islamic genie is starting
to have concerns. It’s one thing to leverage nationalism and religious fervor
to make political gain, but what happens when you can’t controls the fervor?
Clearly the Turks are trying to choose between two realities, supporting the
Kurds, with whom they’ve fought an on again, off again low grade war for 40
years or more. Or do they hold back the Kurds and in doing so, give tacit
support to ISIL.
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It would appear that they’ve chosen to support the Kurds,
pragmatically kicking the Kurdish issue down the road to deal with a more ominous
reality. A fundamentalist Sunni state on Turkey’s southern border would have
serious implications on Turkey’s internal politics. A rise of Islamic Fundamentalism
in Turkey would be a fire that even Edrogan would have trouble putting out.