The end of Turkey’s illusion of an ‘entente cordiale’ with ISIS

Iyad Dakka writes: Interestingly, the Turkish government has not hinted that the attack could be the work of Syrian intelligence as it has done in the past. Instead, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and other Turkish officials have unanimously indicated that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is most likely the culprit.

The attack is the final nail in the coffin for anyone inside the Turkish government still holding on to the illusion that an “entente cordiale” with ISIL can continue. Murmurs of such an agreement with ISIL began in earnest last year when Turkey was able to negotiate the release of 49 citizens taken hostage by ISIL. Turkey’s unwillingness to open its airspace to international airstrikes against ISIL further fueled suspicions that the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government had in fact struck a deal with the devil. None of this means the Turks were “actively” cooperating with ISIL, but it does suggest that the Turkish government was pursuing some form of a “live and let live” policy towards the terrorist group.

The real likelihood that such a policy existed has less to do with any religious affinity between ISIL and the AKP-dominated government — as some voices have suggested in the past — and more to do with cold realpolitik and hard security calculations. The reality is that ISIL kept both the Bashar al-Assad regime and the Syrian Kurds in check, which killed two birds with one stone for Turkey. In addition, Turkey’s geographic exposure to ISIL meant Turkish leaders preferred to avoid antagonizing the group lest it unleash a wave of ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks inside Turkey. [Continue reading…]

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