Three reasons why Turkey misunderstands ISIS

Mustafa Akyol writes: Many Turkish opinion leaders, especially those in the pro-government media, cannot accept ISIS, or its ilk, as extremist Islamist actors with genuinely held beliefs and self-defined goals. Rather they take it for granted that these terror groups are merely the pawns of a great game designed by none other than the Western powers.

For example, Abdulkadir Selvi, a senior journalist who has been quite vocal in the press and on television generally espousing a pro-government stance, wrote a piece last week titled “Who is ISIS working for?” This was his answer: “Al-Qaeda was a useful instrument for the US. To put it in an analogy, ISIS was born from al-Qaeda’s relationship with [the] CIA. The West gave its manners to al-Qaeda and now it designs our region through the hands of ISIS.” In short, al-Qaeda and its offshoot ISIS are both creations of the US Central Intelligence Agency and serve American interests.

Writing in the same pro-government daily, Yeni Şafak, the prominent columnist Yusuf Kaplan took a similar position. His culprit, however, was not the United States, but the United Kingdom. He wrote, “There is no such thing as ISIS. There is rather a heinous power called England … al-Qaeda was an instrument of the Americans, whereas ISIS is an instrument of the English.”

Yet another writer with strong pro-government views, Cemil Ertem, advanced a conspiratorial line in his column in the daily Star, but added a crucial element. ISIS, he argued, is “the product of the same center that also orchestrated Dec. 17” — referring to the day the corruption investigation, or “coup attempt,” against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became public. Accordingly, that conspiratorial “center” first tried to topple Erdogan with a bogus corruption investigation, and when that failed, it reignited Kurdish tensions in the country and finally ordered ISIS to attack “Turkey’s political and economic assets in Iraq.”

I quoted just three writers, but there are many similar examples. It would not be unfair to say that this conspiratorial understanding of ISIS is a powerful, if not dominant, narrative within Turkey’s pro-government media. [Continue reading…]

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