CATF Reports Jun. 29, 2016, 2:49pm


Last night, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed that ISIS was behind the terrorist attack that killed 41 and injured over 239 at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, the third busiest airport in Europe turned desolating theater of Turkey’s most recent bloodshed. Armed with AK-47 rifles, three attackers opened gunfire before blowing themselves up at the entry of the international terminal, outside the security checkpoints.

All signs point to ISIS, although the group has not claimed responsibility for the gun and suicide bomb attack which is not surprising, given ISIS’ track record of unclaimed attacks in Turkey. However, the timing of Yildirim’s statements appears to be significant. The rapidity with which Turkish authorities blamed ISIS hours after the explosions and based the accusation only on preliminary, scattered reports, seems to suggest that Turkey may be determined to abandon its reluctant approach to take ISIS head on both on Turkish soil and in Syria.

Contrary to its initial condescendence for ISIS operatives moving fighters and weapons across Turkish territory and to its commitment to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria over directly confronting ISIS, since 2015 Turkey has become increasingly active in targeting and dismantling ISIS cells within its borders and has taken the field alongside the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. Therefore, behind the attack could be an act of retaliation for Turkey’s tightening grip over ISIS networks, or an effort from ISIS to project power and show its enduring effectiveness after its recent major losses in Falluja. As an alternative, the most recent suicide attempt – the fourth in Istanbul alone this year – could be interpreted as a symbolic attack at the heart of a supposedly “un-Islamic” government who yesterday officially agreed to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel. The most realistic scenario in the near future envisions Turkey dramatically escalating its efforts to clamp down on ISIS both within and outside its territory, and likely working with the U.S. to restore a shared vision in Syria.

From CNN, Soner Cagaptay:

“Turkey will continue to crack down on ISIS, as well as increase cooperation with the U.S. and Western intelligence agencies against the group. 

ISIS, though, will continue to play its nefarious game of creating an environment of fog and suspicion through attacks, this time in Turkey. The group, which did not take responsibility for past attacks in Turkey, will likely also not assume responsibility for the Istanbul airport attack. This is because ISIS wants to create an environment of suspicion in Turkish politics. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the mothership jihadi organization from which ISIS was spawned, carried out a number of suicide attacks in Iraq after 2005, and yet the group claimed responsibility for none of these attacks.

This led to an environment of suspicion in which the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq blamed each other for the attacks, starting retribution-style attacks. Subsequently, Iraq descended into civil war.

By not taking responsibility for its attacks in Turkey, ISIS wants to do the same, triggering societal fault lines, this time between supporters and opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leftists and rightists, Turks and Kurds, seculars and conservatives.

Turks of all political persuasions and backgrounds ought to learn from Iraq and unite in the face of the ISIS threat. At the same time, the Turkish government needs to use its full force to combat the ISIS threat to prevent Turkey's potential catastrophic descent into chaos as a result of ISIS attacks.

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