Commentary, Politics

Turkey’s Campaign Leads to Desperate Daesh Attacks

3 min read

Daesh and the PKK terror groups are jointly attacking Turkey and the main reason is nothing more than Turkey’s fight against terrorism.

On New Year’s Eve, terror hit Turkey one more time and one more time innocent civilians were killed in Istanbul by a terrorist organization. It demonstrated one more time that Turkey has become one of the biggest targets for terrorist organizations of different ideologies and political backgrounds, mainly due to Turkey’s fight against these organizations in northern Syria. The fight against Daesh in Syria and the fight against the PKK in Turkey and beyond has resulted in a series of terrorist attacks in “retaliation” by these terrorist organizations. Although no organization claimed responsibility for the attack, so far in terms of the location of the attack it resembles the Paris and Orlando attacks that happened over the last two years and thus Daesh is the primary suspect according to many analysts.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, people on Twitter began spreading unconfirmed information as if it were reality and even claimed the attack was perpetrated as a reaction to the New Year’s Eve celebrations by some radical groups. Every observer in Turkey should know by now that the reason for a terrorist attack in Istanbul can be ignorance at best. This was not the first attack to take place in Turkey. In the last 18 months more than 30 attacks by different organizations, including the PKK and Daesh, have taken place in Turkey. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands have been wounded in this wave of terrorism.

One does not need to be an expert on Turkey to understand that when two terrorist organizations that are fighting tooth and nail in Syria are jointly attacking Turkey, the main reason is nothing more than Turkey’s fight against terrorism. These terrorist attacks are intended to destabilize Turkey, to terrorize its society and to break the political will to fight against the terrorist threat in its all forms. It has been the only country with troops on the ground that is fighting Daesh in northern Syria and has been threatened numerous times by Daesh because of its operations against the terrorist group.

In different attacks terrorists also targeted the country’s social fabric and economy. All segments of society have become the target of terrorism. Terrorist groups attacked a mosque in Bursa, a political rally in Ankara, a bus stop in Kızılay, Ankara, tourists in Taksim and Sultanahmet, police in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, military personnel in Kayseri and finally to a nightclub in Ortaköy, Istanbul. People from all segments of society have experienced the pain and trauma of these terrorist attacks. The violence that was spurred by these attacks hurt the hearts and minds of everybody in Turkey regardless of their ethnicity or religiosity. However, this collective pain and trauma has not led to the disintegration of Turkish society as the terrorist groups intended. Turkish people after every attack were well informed about the attackers and acted prudently and did not let the terrorists get what they want from society.

However in terms of the international support received after each attack, the international community has failed to sufficiently support its member and its partner in the fight against terrorism. Multiple times in this column it has been stated that the best antidote for the terrorist threat is international cooperation and commitments from every member of the international community to fight and support the fight against terrorism. This lack of support and cooperation is in part what provided opportunities for terrorist groups to continue their attacks against the Turkish targets. However turning a blind eye to the terrorist attacks and refraining from taking responsibility in acting against terrorism will lead to significant problems for international security, which will be harder to fix in the future.

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Kılıç Buğra Kanat is the Research Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington DC. He is also an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Penn State University, Erie. Dr. Kanat received his PhD in Political Science from Syracuse University; a Master’s degree in Political Science from Syracuse University; and a Master’s in International Affairs from Marquette University. He was awarded the Outstanding Research Award and Council of Fellows Faculty Research Award at Penn State, Erie in 2015. He previously participated in the Future Leaders program of Foreign Policy Initiative. Dr. Kanat’s writings have appeared in Foreign Policy, Insight Turkey, The Diplomat, Middle East Policy, Arab Studies Quarterly, Mediterranean Quarterly, Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, and Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. He is a columnist at Daily Sabah. He is the author of A Tale of Four Augusts: Obama’s Syria Policy. He is also co-editor of edited volumes History, Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey, Change and Adaptation in Turkish Foreign Policy, and Politics and Foreign Policy in Turkey: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.