Not a shot fired, no ransom paid, no prisoners exchanged, but somehow Turkish intelligence (MİT) agents managed to escort 49 captives out of Syria and back to Turkey earlier today.
So far, the only clue on how Turkey managed to pull off this operation comes from Hurriyet Daily News reporting this: “there are indications of a kind of false flag, or deception operation by MİT. In answering such a question one ranking official said MİT ‘has tried every possible method and left no stone unturned’ to get the hostages alive.”
But the same report also describes ways in which the operation was coordinated with ISIS:
It was ISIL’s condition to give the hostages to Turkey at the border with Syria, “Because of their own security concerns due to their heavy clashes with Kurdish forces. They did not want to make the handover through the Kurdish region,” a security source told HDN.
The report also says: “One official source said ISIL might have ‘not wanted to get into a clash with Turkey’.”
As has widely been reported, a reluctance to put the lives of these hostages in jeopardy was one of Turkey’s main reasons for declining to join the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS — all the more reason to assume that ISIS must have believed that its interests would in some other way be served by releasing the hostages.
The PKK has called on Kurds in Turkey to join their comrades in Kobane, northern Syria, where they are fighting alone against ISIS. Perhaps Turkey threatened ISIS that if it did not free the hostages, Turkey would do nothing to prevent the flow of Kurdish recruits into Syria.
In spite of the suggestion that ISIS was deceived in some way, I’m inclined to believe that the group had reason to expect that it had more to gain by releasing its Turkish hostages than it could by holding on to them.
Slemani Times, an independent English language news publication, covering the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the Middle East, in an unsourced tweet offers this explanation for how Turkey successfully negotiated the release of the hostages:
— Slemani Times (@SlemaniTimes) September 20, 2014