LALE – Time to repair damage inflicted on foreign policy, too

Time to repair damage inflicted on foreign policy, tooTurkey’s long-time Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, who has polarized the nation with his highly authoritarian policies, became the country’s new president in the first direct elections held on Aug. 10.

Under his premiership, Turkish foreign policy entered a period of disarray at a time when Ankara’s ability to find peaceful resolutions to conflicts, mainly in the Middle East, is much needed by fellow NATO member countries.Ankara’s priority now is to ensure the safe release of 49 Turkish hostages, including Turkish Consul General zturk YIlmaz from the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which recently renamed itself the Islamic State (IS), who took the hostages from the Iraqi city of Mosul in early June.

The US began tactical air strikes against the IS targets in Iraq to prevent it from aancing into the provincial capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region, which has jeopardized the safety of the Turkish hostages whose exact whereabouts are unknown.The hostage crisis is the result of Turkey’s ill-conceived policies on Syria in particular and the Middle East in general.

In the words of a well-informed Western source of mine, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have much to answer for regarding the creation of the IS, the real culprit is Turkey.“Turkey has directly and indirectly provided support to the IS and related groups and most foreign fighters have passed through Turkey on their way to Syria and Iraq.

These foreign fighters are the backbone of the IS,” he argued.Ankara has tied its own hands through its ill-conceived policies on SyriaThe rapid aance of the IS took the region by surprise.

Many observers had thought the Iraqi military and Kurdish forces were fairly capable, but that has been proven wrong. Only the Syrian military proved able to stop the IS in northern Syria, but they did lose ground in eastern SyriaMy well-informed Western source says, however, that the IS forces, seemingly drunk on a series of initial successes, are more than likely to experience a significant hangover very soon.

Indeed, the IS has committed a very basic strategic error by attempting to fight on several fronts simultaneously. Instead of consolidating earlier gains, the IS leadership launched attacks on Syrian government forces, the Kurdish autonomous region and Iraqi forces indiscriminately.

A strategically focused leadership would not have done this. Rather, a strategically oriented leadership would have attempted to gain public support by bringing security and services to its new citizens before launching new campaigns.

By failing to gain public support, a fourth front has begun to appear behind the IS lines, a disgruntled population. More importantly, in response to the IS’s poor leadership, a fifth front opened as the US struck their positions from the airThus, it would appear to be just a matter of time before mounting pressure causes the caliphate’s self-declared borders to dissolve as quickly as they appeared.

As for Turkey, the government should be under no illusions about the detrimental role they have played in the region. The cost, for Ankara, may become much higher What fate awaits the 49 hostages? And once the foreign fighters have their backs to the wall (in this case the Turkish border), what will spill over into Turkey now and in the future? Perhaps, inaertently, Ankara has also created a future military problem for itself, in particular if the Kurdish peace process falters.

For example, there can be little doubt in the future that if the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) falters and a military campaign restarts its fighters will have benefited from the combat training received in SyriaNow that ErdoIan has attained his long-standing goal of becoming president of Turkey, it is time for some much needed damage control. Ankara, if it can, must repair the damage it has inflicted on Turkey’s foreign policy.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman