Since the advent of the Syrian Conflict in March 2011, the Turkish Government has played a proactive role in destabilizing Syria with its deregulation of border security and through channels of military intelligence provided to militants fighting in the country. In fact, the large presence of opposition fighters in northern Syria is a direct result of the Turkish Government’s political agenda.
Turkish President, Recep Erdogan, was one of the most outspoken critics of Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, going as far as chastising the Syrian President and issuing public statements of condemnation for the Syrian Government. Perhaps, President Erdogan’s role as the Middle East “peacekeeper” has allowed him to form relationships with extremist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. However, all of these relationships have a strikingly odd and antithetical predicament with one another: Erdogan maintains regular correspondence with the groups and countries that oppose them – except for Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq.
For a man who prides himself on delivering aide to destroyed neighborhoods in Gaza, Erdogan’s behavior is quite the paradox; after all, Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) revealed that the Turkish Government sold 1,584 tons of jet fuel to the Israeli Government in June 2014. Ironically, the Israeli Air Force bombarded Gaza daily in July 2014 with multiple airstrikes, killing over 2,000 civilians in the process. Yet, the political wing of Hamas offered its gratitude and sincerest “thank you” to the country that likely succored Israeli F-16s in destroying their already dilapidated residential areas – Turkey was making money, while Gaza burned. It should likely come as no surprise then that the Turkish Government – a NATO partner – has actively assisted the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) militants crossing into the neighboring countries of Syria and Iraq
The belabored claim that the Turkish Government cannot control its border with Syria and Iraq would be easily comprehensible if Turkish civilians were illegally entering the countries; this is the not the case. A wide variety of ethnically diverse ISIS fighters have entered Syria and Iraq through Turkey, likely receiving their visas from the Turkish Government. How can the Turkish Government claim to have proof that war crimes were committed in Syria, but not have any clue that thousands of ISIS fighters are traveling through your border? How did foreign ISIS fighters arrive in the Nineveh Province of Iraq? Why were foreign ISIS fighters that were wounded in Iraq and Syria treated in Turkish hospitals?
ISIS’ biggest supporter is the Turkish Government and they are not afraid to hide their support. The Turkish Government has stated that it will not comply with the request by the U.S. Government to allow NATO airstrikes to be conducted from their airbases. Furthermore, during a meeting in Jeddeh, Saudi Arabia, the Turkish Government refused to sign a joint declaration to combat ISIS inside their territory, stating that they will take a “passive” approach to deal with terrorism. Turkey has not been a victim of ISIS terrorism; however, their neighbors in Syria and Iraq are committed to an all-out war against the ISIS militants that Erdogan supports.
The Turkish Government’s complex relationships with extremist groups and those who oppose them have further complicated matters. In truth, the Turkish Government’s role in supporting ISIS is clear; but, their reasoning is hidden beneath the surface. Many political analysts will offer their opinion on ISIS’ creation, but most refrain from mentioning the state that has given the militants a safe-haven and undoubtedly consistent support. ISIS itself remains a foreign concept to those around the world: how can a group so large, manifest inside countries with the most vigilant and prudent intelligence agencies? This remains inexplicable.