DOIU – The changing neighborhood

The changing neighborhoodWhile Turkey is striving to reconcile itself with its Kurds after three decades of armed conflict, the party that a peace settlement is being negotiated with, the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK), is engaged in another armed conflict with the Salafist jihadi entity called the Islamic State (IS), which is active in Iraq and Syria Trying to carve out a totalitarian Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq to begin with, the IS militants are struggling with the Kurds and Turkmens in both these countries.PKK fighters have taken their place on both battlefield, trying to strengthen the ranks of Kurdish fighters struggling against the IS militia They have already clashed with Turkish soldiers who are under orders to stop them in their quest to bolster the Kurdish defense in northern SyriaAll regional political actors are annoyed about the aances that the IS has already made by occupying large chunks of land in Syria and Iraq alike.

Neither the Iraqi army nor the Kurdish Regional Governmentand#39s (KRG) forces could prevent their onslaught in northern Iraq, as they defeated Kurdish forces last weekend and captured strategic territory close to the Turkish and Syrian borders, including Iraqand#39s biggest dam, the Ain Zalah oilfield and two additional towns of Zumar and Sinjar Hundreds of people fled these towns and nearby villages in fear of persecution by the ISand#39s Sunni militants. The rumor is that (as announced by Iraqi state TV), the Kurdish forces withdrew from the site of the dam without resistance.

The IS does not hide its resolve to bring down Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiand#39s Shiite-led government in Iraq. With the capture of the Mosul Dam and others, they have the ability to flood major Iraqi cities and make their threat stick.

It has been claimed that the IS militants are on the offensive to capture the town of Haditha, the site of another strategic dam These moves expose a sophisticated strategy on the part of the IS to occupy areas where oil is produced and dams that supply water and electricity. Thus they can interrupt the energy and water supplies of vast areas and flood towns, if they see it necessary, in order to topple the government by bringing civilian life to a standstill.

The ISand#39s military strategy of seizing the tri-border area between Turkey, Iraq and Syria is almost complete. In each area they occupy they confiscate large caches of weaponry, ammunition and other equipment that make them even stronger So far neither the US-trained Iraqi army nor the Kurdish Peshmerga have proven to be effective rivals.

Holding the triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey gives the IS a strategic aantage in recruiting from these countries and outside and in holding on to international supply routes.It seems that without US and Turkish involvement, the ISand#39s activities will not be stopped.

The US is hesitant, and Turkeyand#39s initiatives are greatly limited, as its consular staff has been taken hostage in Mosul.The civil war in Syria pulled Turkey into defense of the people under attack by the cruel regime.

But soon enough foreign elements, including al-Qaeda and even more extreme hard-liners, occupied the vacuum The extremists organized themselves under the name of the IS, attracting disillusioned and disempowered Sunnis from all over the Islamic world.With 12 million refugees from Syria in Turkey, the backgrounds of some of whom are obscure, and jihadi extremist networks making their presence known in street demonstrations and in the social media, Middle Eastern conflicts are now a Turkish reality.

In fact, the IS is already being held responsible for a bombing last year in ReyhanlI, Hatay province, that killed 51 people, and the burning down of a Jafari (Turkeyand#39s Shiite Muslim minority) mosque a few weeks ago in Istanbul.It is pathetic to see sectarian tensions being fomented by Machiavellian politicians during the current political campaign for the presidency, as if such tensions have not torn our neighborhood asunder Insensitivity to the demands of equality, respect and representation from Alevis (a sect that is considered to be a derivative of Shiism by radical Sunnis) is further adding to sectarian frictions in Turkey.

Fortunately, these disappointments and tensions are still at a manageable level, but politics and politicians need to be far more moderate and sensitive because the outcome of these tensions could be quite costly, as we see in our neighborhood.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman