BERIL – Reconquering Iraq and Syria

Reconquering Iraq and SyriaThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has proven to be a successful military machine as its militants have conquered large territories in quite a short time and pushed tens of thousands people — Kurds, Turkmens, Chaldeans, Shiites and Yazidis — to leave their homes and seek refuge in neighboring areas. It seems that this jihadist group and self-proclaimed caliphate has many different and complicated goals.

They have already declared their intention to construct an Islamist state in Sunni-dominated Syria and Iraq, and they have already applied a strict interpretation of Islamic law in the regions they govern. They seem determined to attain their goals very quickly and use any instrument to put pressure on the people who live in their territory.

It is an undeniable fact that they are progressively reinforcing their authority and consolidating their position.ISIL’s actions and rapid progress have forced many other players to reassess their policies.

For example, Syrian and Iraqi Kurds are now cooperating. That was likely one of the goals of those third players who support ISIL.

Looking from a different perspective, we can try to guess which countries in the region are annoyed by this cooperation: Turkey and Iran, of course. In other words, ISIL has contributed to the implementation of a scenario Turkey has long tried to prevent.

To expel Yazidis, thus precipitating the humanitarian crisis taking place in the searing summer heat of the border zones, is also a way of putting pressure on Turkey and Iran. The same is true of the situation with the Turkmens, as their suffering is also a source of pressure on Turkey.

Both at domestic and international levels, people are questioning whether Turkey is sufficiently assisting those imperiled civilian populations.Some people claim that Turkey at one point supported ISIL, and that it is for this reason Ankara has turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq.

It is impossible to deny that Turkey helped a number of groups at the beginning of the Syrian civil war and that some of these groups have now joined ISIL. However, their relationship with Ankara has changed, and, as a consequence, they have kidnapped our diplomats and their families in Mosul.

Because a Turkish consul’s life is at stake, Turkey can’t openly support those who are fighting against ISIL. In other words, ISIL has managed to significantly limit Turkey’s room to maneuver in Iraq and SyriaTurkey and Iran’s relations have been affected by ISIL’s progress as well.

The two countries now have to cooperate on a number of issues as they face a common threat, but Turkey remains in a difficult position as it has to first think about the well-being and liberation of the Turkish hostages.ISIL has put Turkey in a very difficult position in many regards.

We should ask why. It is obvious that when Turkey loses influence in the region, other players will benefit from this vacuum A number of countries, perhaps Saudi Arabia, would welcome such a development.

Besides, because of the current situation, Turkey will probably have to develop friendly relations with Syrian Kurds, which means, in the long run, Turkish foreign policy will not be able to reinforce its religious priorities. Cooperation between Turkey and the Kurdish federation will thus be reinforced.

If Turkey builds a strong, cooperative relationship with Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, Iran will be disturbed, Saudi Arabia will be pleased — as it will believe it has no challengers in the region’s Sunni leadership — and Israel will be comforted.If this scenario is correct, then ISIL will play a major role in normalizing Turkish-Israeli relations in the long run.

Perhaps a number of players feel Israel has resisted normalization too much and have decided to create compelling reasons for reconciliation.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman