Assad and ISIS are two sides of the same coin

Fred Hof writes: The Assad regime and Iran have every reason to applaud strikes on the Islamic State in Raqqa and to the east: it costs them nothing, and airstrikes in the far east of Syria presumably can damage the ability of the Islamic State to sustain operations in Iraq from rear areas in Syria. Yet Tehran and its client will not want to see the US-led coalition hone-in on Islamic State targets in western Syria, where the forces of the self-proclaimed caliph work in tandem with the regime to kill off the nationalist rebels.

It may well be that engaging potential Islamic State targets around Aleppo and elsewhere is problematical in terms of target identification, collateral damage, and the like. Still, left to their own devices, the Islamic State and the Assad regime will work together — either tacitly or explicitly — to remove the anti-Islamic State military ground component identified by President Obama. This would presumably be unacceptable to the United States.

Helping the nationalist opposition survive the combined ministrations of the Assad regime and the Islamic State is table ante for engaging in the ultimate contest: overcoming state failure in Syria so that phenomena like the Islamic State will have no place to grow and prosper. Even as the world averts its gaze from regime barrel bombs, starvation sieges, and mass incarceration and torture, strikes against Islamic State forces in western Syria will hurt the Assad regime and disappoint Iran. In the end, however, what can they say in terms of objection?

If overcoming state failure in Syria is the end game, moving against the Assad regime is unavoidable. Bashar al-Assad is the caliph’s recruiting sergeant. Iran knows this, but thinks it needs Assad in western Syria to keep Hezbollah fit to fight in Lebanon. Russia knows it too, but apparently, President Vladimir Putin has a larger point to make about the survival of Moscow’s clients, no matter how unattractive they are. The West has been feckless with respect to Assad, and regional powers have — in the absence of US leadership — pursued policies of narrow self-interest. All of that must change, and perhaps the requisite change has begun. [Continue reading...]

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Turkey and the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition

Aaron Stein writes: Turkey’s policy vis-à-vis ISIS has always been relatively clear. Ankara has not supported the group and has thought of it as a terror organization for 1.5 years. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, for example, has criticized Sayyid Qutb’s ideology and believes that his understanding of Islam is incorrect. Davutoglu, who is the architect of Turkish foreign policy, argues that Qutb’s understanding of Islam is too heavily influenced by Western political theories. These theories, he argues, are incongruent with the concept of Dar al Islam, which is a better source of political legitimacy in the Arab/Muslim world. Thus, any suggestions that the AKP supports IS because of an overlap in religious points of view, or a shared ideology, is false. The same applies to Al Qaeda. There is no sympathy in the Turkish government for the ideology underpinning either group.

Turkey, however, did give some support to Jabhat al Nusra. Ankara did so for two reasons. First, after Turkey changed its Syria policy in August 2011, Ankara “bet the farm” on Assad falling in 6 months. After Assad was able to hold on to power, Turkey began to support a slew of rebel groups – including Nusra. Ankara felt that it was imperative to put pressure on the regime to force Assad from power. Nusra was/is an effective fighting force and worked with FSA rebel groups to battle the regime. Second, the Turkish government believes that the Assad is the root cause of extremism in Syria. Thus, if he is forced form power, the appeal of the Jihadists would decrease. In turn, Nusra would be devoid of any widespread popular support and eventually be marginalized in the “New Syria.” Turkey wanted this new Syria to be run by the Brotherhood.

These assumptions guided Ankara’s decision-making up until mid-July 2012. At this stage of the conflict, Assad pulled his forces away from the Kurdish controlled areas. This left the three Kurdish cantons, known collectively as Rojava, to the PYD – a group with links to the PKK. Turkey reacted negatively. First, Ankara threatened to intervene and “establish a buffer zone.” After backing down from this threat, Ankara tried to put the PYD under the thumb of the KDP. This also failed. This eventually prompted Ankara to reach out to members of the PYD – most notably, Salih Muslim. The two sides appeared to have reached some sort of agreement to live in quasi-harmony. Turkey, however, was not comfortable with the status quo. Ankara has kept the border gates with Rojava closed since mid-July 2012 and has only recently begun to intermittently open two border gates along the border to accommodate thousands of Kurdish refugees fleeing from Kobane. [Continue reading...]

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Syrian Kurds call for more targeted strikes

The Wall Street Journal reports: The chaos in a town near Turkey’s Syrian border intensified after U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State targets Tuesday, prompting Kurdish leaders to call on Washington to give them a role in coordinating the fight against the jihadists.

Kurdish leaders said that after U.S. warplanes hit Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State, the insurgents redeployed men and heavy weaponry closer to Kurdish areas. The officials said the jihadist onslaught around the Syrian city of Ayn al-Arab, known in Kurdish as Kobani, continued through Tuesday, as shells fell on the city and surrounding villages were seized.

Turkey’s government said on Tuesday that the number of refugees fleeing the jihadist advance rose to 150,000, while the United Nations relief agency warned the number could reach 400,000.

Panic over Islamic State’s advance led to fresh clashes at the border between Turkish security forces and angry Kurdish protesters who cursed the absence of Turkey—a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member with a major U.S. air base—from the Washington-led coalition. Speaking to reporters in New York, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could give military or logistical support to the U.S.-led coalition, but stopped short of offering any firm commitments.

The Syrian Kurdish militia, which fights under the banner of the People’s Defense Units, or YPG, on Tuesday asked to join President Barack Obama’s coalition.

“We welcome the airstrikes but they didn’t help Kobani. The U.S. should coordinate with us,” said Redur Xelil, a YPG spokesman. “We fear that the airstrikes may even push their fighters to concentrate on Kobani, endangering the city even more.” [Continue reading...]

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Does Turkey still remain hostage to ISIS?

Cengiz Candar writes: Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to Washington and an opposition member of parliament, a leading figure in foreign policy issues, sees the “deal with IS” as scandalous, which could place Turkey’s relations with the Western world on a more problematic course. He asked the government: “There are serious allegations that IS has been supplied with tanks and weapons and that these were carried by train to Tell Abyad. The government must respond to these allegations. What is meant by a ‘diplomatic deal’ is the freeing of IS militants detained in Turkey. How many? Why were they detained? For example, on March 25, 2014, three IS terrorists were arrested for killing three citizens at Ulukisla-Nigde. Are they part of the deal?

“Erdogan’s remarks on an exchange are scandalous, showing that he recognizes IS as an interlocutor to make diplomatic deals with. Social media close to IS reported 150 IS militants, 50 of them women, detained in Turkey were released. Sources close to the PKK allege Turkey has supplied IS with tanks and other weapons. Finally, IS could have been assured that Turkey will remain outside the coalition.”

There are many indicators that Turkey, even after the hostage release, does not have a free hand vis-a-vis IS. While it has rescued its hostages, it still remains hostage to IS. [Continue reading...]

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PKK leader calls for mass mobilization of Kurds to fight against ISIS

The Associated Press reports: The imprisoned leader of a Kurdish rebel group fighting Turkey has called for a mass mobilization of all Kurds against the Islamic State militant group which is fighting Kurdish forces in Syria.

In a message relayed through his lawyer late Monday, Abdullah Ocalan said: “I call on all Kurdish people to start an all-out resistance against this high-intensity war.”

“Not only the people of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) but also all people in the north (Turkey) and other parts of Kurdistan should act accordingly,” lawyer Mazlum Dinc quoted Ocalan as saying.

The call came hours before the United States and five Arab countries on Tuesday launched airstrikes against the Islamic militants in Syria. [Continue reading...]

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Press freedom under assault in Turkey

Foreign Policy: “A militant in the guise of a journalist — a shameless woman. Know your place!” This is how three-term Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chose to describe Amberin Zaman, the Economist’s longtime Turkey correspondent, during a campaign rally on Aug. 7, just three days before he won the country’s first-ever direct presidential election. Erdogan lashed out at Zaman for having allegedly “insulted” Muslims in an interview with opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on the 24-hour TV news channel CNN Turk — and she was likewise vilified in the conservative press and aggressively harassed online by Erdogan supporters.

The next day, Enis Berberoglu, editor in chief of Hurriyet, one of the country’s highest-circulating dailies, abruptly resigned. Because Hurriyet is owned by Dogan, the same media group that owns CNN Turk, many doubted that Berberoglu’s move was coincidental. Erdogan went on to win the election with 52 percent of the vote. By the time of his inauguration at the end of August, several journalists at other newspapers had also lost their jobs — for reasons widely regarded as political.

These events followed a pattern that has become disturbingly familiar in recent years. As Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has grown increasingly entrenched since it first came to power in 2002, the space for free expression has narrowed perceptibly. This trend has been particularly evident over the past 15 months, starting with the protests that began in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and which then swept the country in the summer of 2013, when dozens of journalists were fired or forced to resign after expressing critical viewpoints. Most recently, Turkey’s trouble with press freedom made headlines this weekend when Erdogan denounced the New York Times for, he said, implying that the Turkish state was connected with Islamic State (IS) militants.

In 2013, Turkey remained the world’s top jailer of journalists (followed by Iran and China) for the second year in a row. As of the end of the year there were 40 reporters behind bars — one of several factors that led Freedom House to downgrade the country from “partly free” to “not free” in its 2014 press freedom rankings. Turkey came in 134th out of 197 countries. [Continue reading...]

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Turkey prevents PKK fighters from entering Syria to fight ISIS

The Washington Post reports: Hundreds of men from the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have tried to cross into Syria. “Turkey is preventing, not only PKK, but all Kurdish men from entering Syria,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the People’s Protection Units (YGP), one of the Syrian Kurdish groups fighting the Islamic State. “But the men are entering illegally through some crossings.”

The Turkish government says it is illegal for fighters to enter Syria through its borders, but hundreds of foreign combatants have transited through Turkey in the past three years to join the war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Turkey has said must go. That has led to accusations that Turkey has fostered the growth of the Islamic State. Turkey has denied this, but has a long history of conflict with the autonomy-seeking Kurds and has been battling its own Kurdish separatists for decades.

“The reality is that Turkey is siding with ISIS,” said Xelil, using the acronym for the group’s previous name, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish fighters managed to halt the militants’ advance Monday, but fierce fighting continued on several fronts. Kurdish Syrian forces say their weapons are no match for the militants’ arsenal, looted from fleeing Iraqi national troops in June. Kurdish leaders have been calling on the international community for support to defend the border against the militants, as well as for fighters from Turkey to join them and defend the Kurdish villages.

“Turkey does not have a problem with ISIS,” Xelil said. “Sometimes they facilitate the transit of their fighters and even open the hospitals for their injured, while they do not allow [our] injured to cross and use their hospitals.”

As Assad has battled to protect his regime in Damascus, the Syrian Kurds in the country’s north have taken the opportunity to increase their autonomy, much to the dislike of Turkey.

“The Turks are really happy seeing the Islamic State demolishing the political and administrative system, the self-governing system, that the Kurds were in the process of building in Kurdish areas in northern Syria,” said Hoshang Waziri, an Iraqi Kurdish analyst and writer who spent years in Syria. “Turkey much prefers an Islamic State neighbor over a semi-PKK-led Kurdish state.”

While Turkey is getting comfortable with the idea of an independent Iraqi Kurdish state — in part by building economic relations with the enclave — the Turks have seen autonomy for Syrian Kurds as a threat. Unlike the Iraqi Kurdish leadership, Syrian Kurds have a close relationship with the Turkish PKK Kurds who have been fighting Turkey for independence.

That could be changing as Turkey increasingly sees the threat posed by the expansionist Sunni militants of the Islamic State. Those leading the charge for this new caliphate have made it clear that the borders that now govern the Middle East are irrelevant for the caliph and the militants. [Continue reading...]

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200,000 flee in biggest displacement of Syrian conflict

CNN reports: The sudden, massive flood of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is unlike any other displacement in the 3½-year Syrian conflict.

As many as 200,000 people have left the area surrounding the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in just four days as ISIS advances into the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday. Most have gone into Turkey, the London-based monitoring group said.

Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency and the United Nations said 130,000 Syrian refugees have entered Turkey since Friday.

But the unprecedented surge that broke loose Friday has slowed, as Turkey reduced the number of open crossings from eight or nine to just two, said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency. [Continue reading...]

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Kobane Kurds in Syria warn of ‘second Shingal’

Rudaw reports: Syrian Kurds in Kobane warned on Monday they are facing a “second Shingal” at the hands of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) unless the international community intervenes within days.

As the jihadist fighters advanced towards the border city, Adham Basho of the Syrian Kurdish Azadi Party told Rudaw that IS was now within 10 kilometers of Kobane and the residents faced a “very difficult” situation.

He said they faced a similar fate to the Yezidis of Shingal in northern Iraq, who were marooned on mountain tops in their thousands in August before help came to the rescue.

Mahmoud Kalo, the head of the Kurdish National Council, an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish political parties, told Rudaw from inside Kobane that the parties were holding a meeting in the town to discuss the situation.

He said Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have halted the IS advance to the east of the town, would only be able to hold their lines for two more days before they ran out of supplies.

“We want the international community to impose an exclusion zone in and around Kobane to protect it from the ISIS militants. The people of Kobane can only fight IISIS for two more days without the international community’s support,” said Kalo.

“If there is no immediate assistance from the international community there will be a second Sinjar (Shingal).”

A large number of young Kurds want to go to Kobane from the Kurdish region of Turkey but Turkish soldiers and police had blocked their way, he said. [Continue reading...]

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ISIS appears to have released Turkish hostages in swap

Today’s Zaman reports: The terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seemingly set free 46 Turkish hostages in exchange for the release by Turkey of some key figures of the radical Islamist organization.

“A couple of figures who are very, very important for ISIL were traded in the swap [for the hostages],” Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist in the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily, said on Monday.

Selvi, who is a journalist particularly close to Erdoğan and the government, affirmed in his column that he reached such a conclusion after looking into what happened behind the scenes.

ISIL, which calls itself the “Islamic State,” captured 49 people, three of whom were reportedly Iraqis, from the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul when it seized the northern Iraqi city in June.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not deny, at a press meeting he held before leaving for the US on Sunday, that a swap might have been made to set free the Turkish hostages. [Continue reading...]

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100,000 refugees cross into Turkey fleeing ISIS attacks in Syria

The Associated Press reports: The 19-year-old Kurdish militant, who has been fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, brought his family across the border into Turkey to safety Sunday. But in the tranquility of a Turkish tea garden just miles from the frontier, Dalil Boras vowed to head back after nightfall to continue the fight.

Pulling a wad of Syrian bills from his pocket, the young fighter – who has already lost a 17-year-old brother to the Islamic militants’ brutal advance – said that if the Turkish border guards tried to stop him, the money would persuade them.

Boras and his relatives are among some 100,000 Syrians, mostly Kurds, who have flooded into Turkey since Thursday, escaping an Islamic State offensive that has pushed the conflict nearly within eyeshot of the Turkish border.

On Sunday, heavy clashes broke out between the Islamic State militants and Kurdish fighters only miles from the Syrian border town of Kobani, where members of the al-Qaida breakaway group were bombarding villagers with tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers, said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region.

“They are even targeting civilians who are fleeing,” Haj Mansour told The Associated Press.

At a border crossing where Turkish authorities were processing the refugees, Osman Abbas said he and 20 relatives were fleeing a village near Kobani when Islamic State fighters shot one of his sons. The 35-year-old had tried to return to their home to recover valuables while the rest of the family fled.

“They took our village, they took our house, they killed my son,” Abbas said. “I saw it with my own eyes.”

As refugees flooded in, Turkey closed the border crossing at Kucuk Kendirciler to Turkish Kurds in a move aimed at preventing them from joining the fight in Syria. A day earlier, hundreds of Kurdish fighters had poured into Syria through the small Turkish village, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Continue reading...]

Yesterday, AP reported: Some 600 PKK fighters also crossed from Iraq into Syria, heading toward Kobani, said a military official in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. That official also spoke on condition his name not be used because he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists. The PKK have a base in the Qandil mountains in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

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Turkey somehow secures release of 49 hostages held by ISIS

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:

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About 60,000 Syrian Kurds flee to Turkey as ISIS advances

Reuters reports: About 60,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, a deputy prime minister said on Saturday, fleeing an advance by Islamic State militants who have seized dozens of villages close to the border and are advancing on a Syrian town.

Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday after Kurdish civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the border town of Ayn al-Arab, which is also known as Kobani. Islamic State is now within 15 km (9 miles) of the town, a Kurdish commander on the ground said.

Islamic State’s advances in northern Syria have prompted calls for help by the region’s Kurds who fear a massacre in Kobani. The town sits in a strategic position on the border and has prevented the radical Sunni Muslim militants from consolidating their gains across northern Syria.

Lokman Isa, a 34-year-old farmer, said he had fled with his family and about 30 other families after heavily-armed Islamic State militants entered his village of Celebi. He said the Kurdish forces battling them had only light weapons. [Continue reading...]

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The PKK’s strategy for fighting ISIS

Jamil Bayek, the head of the PKK Leadership Committee, says in an interview appearing in As-Safir and translated by Al-Monitor: We have a clear strategy, the most important thing in it is that we do not view IS as an organization, but as a group of mercenaries and murderers who pose a threat to the region’s peoples, cultures and religions, even a threat to all humanity. Since the PKK is a humanitarian movement and in light of this brutal onslaught against the peoples of the region in general and [against] the will of our people in western Kurdistan in particular, we are determined to break the will of those mercenaries. Our directives are clear in this regard: we will attack IS wherever it is found, with all our capabilities. We will not allow it to advance and achieve its goals. And we will be ready to lead a joint struggle alongside all those who resist IS and who have a clear position toward it, in order to defeat these mercenaries, liquidate them, and obliterate them from existence.

As-Safir: What is your position regarding the international coalition led by the United States against the Islamic State?

Bayek: Humanity should be aware what IS is and how it arose. This group did not fall from the sky and did not appear accidentally or suddenly. Many analyses indicate that Middle Eastern and international powers used IS to achieve their interests. At the moment, we see that the US does not want IS to achieve progress that allows it to become a great Middle Eastern power, especially since it has reached a dangerous point.

There are objective and good American attempts to confront this danger. But the problem, in our view, is not limited to IS, as there is a structure upon which these mercenaries stand, launch from, and protect themselves with. Therefore, we see that there is a need to get rid of this structure by establishing a shared democracy and freedom among the peoples of the Middle East on the basis of fraternity and equality as a substitute for the authority of the nation-state. We believe that the basis of the solution starts from here. Regarding the US measures to address IS, they are good steps without a doubt. They may produce certain results at a certain time. As long as IS constitutes a threat, military measures remain necessary. But achieving the desired results requires a radical solution. It involves, as I said earlier, “democratizing” the Middle East and achieving freedom for its all peoples. [Continue reading...]

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How oil is smuggled from Syria into Turkey

Fehim Taştekin reports: From Ezmerin [a village in Syria], about 500 illegal oil pipelines, small-diameter plastic pipes normally used for irrigation, extend to the Turkish side of the Asi River. On the Turkish side, they are buried under agricultural fields to reach the village. Just like the village’s underground water distribution lines, oil pipelines crisscross under streets to reach the back yards of private houses. Diesel fuel pumped from a tanker on the Syrian side fills the private tanks. Simple “pump” and “stop” commands are given over cellular phones.

Consumers come to the houses of sellers and buy the diesel for 1.25 Turkish lira per liter ($0.56). This is how the system worked for a long time.

The state began to intervene only after the international media started to question whether Turkey was supporting IS and whether IS oil was being sold in Turkey. At the end of March, soldiers that had until then been watching the goings on from a hilltop about 100 meters from the river began digging up the pipes from the fields and cutting the ones that lay visible in the streets. Checkpoints were established to prevent the diesel from leaving Hacipasa. But the smugglers always found ways to bypass the gendarmerie, the latest being shipping the fuel in barrels. [Continue reading...]

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Turkey considers buffer zone along its Iraq, Syria border

Daily Sabah reports: Turkey’s military is studying the prospect of establishing a buffer zone along its border with Syria and Iraq amid the escalating threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying yesterday. The government will evaluate the plans and decide whether such a move is necessary, Turkish television stations quoted Erdoğan as telling reporters on his plane as he returned from an official visit to Qatar.

A presidency official confirmed that Erdoğan had made such remarks but did not specify where along the border the zone might be established and gave no further details. “The general staff is carrying out inspections on whether a buffer zone could be viable, but there is nothing concrete yet,” an official said on the condition of anonymity. Turkey, a NATO member and Washington’s key ally in the region, has been reluctant to take part in combat operations against ISIS, or allow the U.S.-led coalition to use its airbases for strikes against the extremists because the group is holding 49 Turkish nationals hostage, including diplomats and children. [Continue reading...]

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ISIS draws a steady stream of recruits from Turkey

The New York Times reports: Hacibayram, a ramshackle neighborhood in the heart of Ankara’s tourist district, has morphed into an ISIS recruitment hub over the past year. Locals say up to 100 residents have gone to fight for the group in Syria.

“It began when a stranger with a long, coarse beard started showing up in the neighborhood,” recalled Arif Akbas, the neighborhood’s elected headman of 30 years, who oversees local affairs. “The next thing we knew, all the drug addicts started going to the mosque.”

One of the first men to join ISIS from the neighborhood was Ozguzhan Gozlemcioglu, known to his ISIS counterparts as Muhammad Salef. In three years, he has risen to the status of a regional commander in Raqqa, and locals say he frequently travels in and out of Ankara, each time making sure to take back new recruits with him.

Mehmet Arabaci, a Hacibayram resident who assists with distributing government aid to the poor, said younger members of the local community found online pictures of Mr. Gozlemcioglu with weapons on the field and immediately took interest. Children have started to spend more time online since the municipality knocked down the only school in the area last year as part of an aggressive urban renewal project.

“There are now seven mosques in the vicinity, but not one school,” Mr. Arabaci said. “The lives of children here are so vacant that they find any excuse to be sucked into action.”

Playing in the rubble of a demolished building on a recent hot day here, two young boys staged a fight with toy guns.

When a young Syrian girl walked past them, they pounced on her, knocking her to the floor and pushing their toy rifles against her head. “I’m going to kill you, whore,” one of the boys shouted before launching into sound effects that imitated a machine gun.

The other boy quickly lost interest and walked away. “Toys are so boring,” he said. “I have real guns upstairs.”

The boy’s father, who owns a nearby market, said he fully supported ISIS’s vision for Islamic governance and hoped to send the boy and his other sons to Raqqa when they are older.

“The diluted form of Islam practiced in Turkey is an insult to the religion,” he said giving only his initials, T.C., to protect his identity. “In the Islamic State you lead a life of discipline as dictated by God, and then you are rewarded. Children there have parks and swimming pools. Here, my children play in the dirt.” [Continue reading...]

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Turkey insists root causes of ISIS must be eliminated

Hürriyet Daily News reports: The international conference to be held under French leadership in Paris on Sept. 15 is unlikely to change Turkey’s position vis a vis the international military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to a Turkish official.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who will represent Turkey at the conference, will underline the need for “absolute elimination of ISIL’s root causes,” citing the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq and the toppling of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria as necessary priorities to achieve this end.

In the event that participants in the Paris conference agree on an action plan outlining the division of labor among the coalition countries, including which country will carry out airstrikes or whose country’s airbases and military facilities will be used, Çavuşoğlu will not make any commitment on behalf of Turkey, according to the Turkish official speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News. [Continue reading...]

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