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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 51 New Delhi December 12, 2015

Erdogan’s Game and Turkey’s Western Allies

Sunday 13 December 2015

by Hasan Hamidullah

By now it is getting increasingly clear by the day that the Turkish Government of President Recip Tayyap Erodogan is doing everything possible to help the Islamic State in every way thereby exposing the double-standards of a key member of the NATO military grouping that is pledged to fight the IS tooth and nail, especially after the deadly arrest attacks in Paris master-minded by the IS.

Recently Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fiden made a startling statement. On October 25, Fidan, while addressing a press conference in Istanbul, said: “ISIS ia a reality and we have to accept that we cannot eradicate a well-organised and popular establishment such as the Islamic State; therefore I urge my Western colleagues to revise their mindset about Islamic political currents and not be cynical at all.” What he was suggesting to Turkey’s Western allies was a cynical re-evaluation of the Islamic State. That came out from the Turkish proposal that he gave thereafter: in order to deal with the vast number of foreign jihadists craving to travel to Syria, it is imperative that the ISIS must set up a consulate or at least a political office in Istanbul. Furthermore he pointed to Turkey’s firm belief that medicine must be provided for all the injured persons fleeing Syria without looking into their political or religious affiliation.

It needs to be pointed out that as a consequence of the fierce clashes which took place of late between the Kurdish forces and the ISIS terrorists in the besieged strategic Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, countless injured ISIS fighters have entered the Turkish territory and are being admitted in the military hospital in Hatay province bordering on Syria and undergoing treatment there. Inci-dentally the Kurdish guarillas were able to fend off the ISIS forces striving to capture Kobani, which is located only a few kilometres away from the border with Turkey.

A senior Kurdish official based in Kobani, Hemin Hawrami, spilled the beans so to say when he reportedly asserted that Erdogan and his oil-rich Arab allies have a dual agenda in the war on terror: they were, as a matter of fact, supplying the ISIS militants with weapons and money. Actually, as disclosed by a veteran Indian journalist, Prem Shankar Jha, “oil tankers... daily carried thousands of barrels of Iraqi and Syrian oil (under ISIS control) to refineries in Turkey”. However, the Russian bombings that began after the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian aircraft on November 24 near a place called Yayladag, north of Syria’s Bayir-Bucak area, a region domi-nated by Turkman (who in Iraq, Syria and Iran are linguistically and ethnically Turkish) are learnt to have destroyed, in five days, according to Moscow’s estimates mentioned in Jha’s write-up in Hindustan Times, 3000 tankers. Jha notes that this “single act has not only destroyed the IS’ financial base but also exposed Turkey’s complicity in ensuring its survival”. Indeed Erdogan’s attempts to oust Syria’s secular regime and impose Turkey’s control over the country, through a handpicked Sunni surrogate, besides realising the current Turkish leadership’s dreams of reviving the old Ottoman empire by regaining its lost territories, have been frustrated, at least for the present, on account of Russia’s entry into the anti-IS war. Obviously the Turkish President is furious.

But as of now it is unlikely that the US-led Western alliance in the NATO would oblige Erdogan and ensure the success of his efforts to compel the grouping to enter into a military conflict with Moscow in his defence. Rather, the NATO members are counselling the Turkish President to take a cool-headed course, de-escalate tensions with Russia and establish further contacts between Ankara and Moscow. They know they have to tread with utmost caution fully conscious of Erdogan’s proximtiy to the IS.