JOOST – Turkey’s ambiguity over ISIL has to stop

Turkey’s ambiguity over ISIL has to stopA broad international coalition against the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) is building up rapidly, with countries ranging from the US to Iran temporarily joining forces to crush the merciless barbarians bringing havoc to the region. That also means Turkey will be put under growing pressure to make up its mind: Will Ankara join the anti-ISIL alliance, or will Turkey remain on the sidelines and let others do the dirty job?Till now, the Turkish government used the 49 Turkish hostages taken by ISIL as a good excuse to be extremely discrete about ISIL.

Many in Turkey and abroad understood very well that bringing the hostages home safely was the most important responsibility of the Turkish authorities. The problem, however, is that the current position of carefully avoiding any position on ISIL is becoming unsustainable.

One reason is the increasing perception in Turkey and elsewhere that in the past, the Turkish authorities have assisted Islamist militants, including those that set up ISIL in Syria Although these alleged ties between Turkey and ISIL have become a favorite subject for conspiracy theorists and Islamophobes all over the world, there are some real and genuine questions the new Turkish government will have to answer sooner than later Why could jihadists use the Turkish town of ReyhanlI as their own personal shopping mall for such a long time? Why were wounded militants treated in hospitals in Hatay? Why was it so easy to bring weapons and other supplies from Turkey into Syria and Iraq? Did Turkey really allow ISIL fighters to move in and out of Turkey and even train there?Hiding behind the hostages is not going to work much longer because in the run-up to the new offensive, the anti-ISIL coalition will want to be sure Turkey is firmly on their side. Being silent wonand#39t be accepted anymore, especially when incriminating reports start appearing in the German and American press, based on leaked information from the security services of those countries that, as we know now for sure, have been monitoring Turkeyand#39s actions closely.

In coming clear on its past relations with ISIL and its current position, it will not be very helpful if the new Turkish prime minister sticks to his ambivalent appreciation of ISIL. Only two weeks ago, Ahmet DavutoIlu went out of his way not to label ISIL as a andldquoterroristandrdquo group and blamed the Syrian and Iraqi governments for having created fertile soil for ISIL to grow on.

The point here is not that DavutoIlu got it wrong on the dismal performance of Damascus and Baghdad but that he openly refused to unconditionally condemn the atrocities committed by ISIL fighters against Yazidi, Christian and Shiite civilians in the region.In that sense, Mehmet Grmez, the head of Turkeyand#39s Directorate of Religious Affairs, was more brave when he stated last week that ISILand#39s violent actions have no place in Islam, basically referring to the ISIL extremists as traumatized lunatics.

I am sure DavutoIlu and other Ankara insiders realize the moment of truth is approaching. When US Secretary of State John Kerry says ISIL andldquowill be crushedandrdquo and influential American military figures call on the White House andldquoto break it up and destroy the pieces,andrdquo you can be sure Barack Obama will allow more targeted bombings and will expect Turkey to play its part in the attack on ISIL.

For the moment, the US is pressuring Qatar and Turkey to help cut flows of financing and foreign fighters to ISIL. But because of its proximity to the battlefield and its membership of NATO, the demands on Turkey will grow, including offering military assistance and sharing intelligence.

Hoping the problems will soon be over or somehow disappear will not work. Thinking that helping the anti-ISIL forces secretly behind the scenes will not be noticed by ISIL is an illusion.

Ideally, Turkey, with the help of others, will first get the hostages back and will then fully commit itself to the fight against ISIL. If Ankara is not capable of doing so, the first major crisis for the new government will be out in the open soon.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman