With 1.208 km total borders to Syria (877 km) and Iraq (331 km), it is Turkey who is left in the middle of an ever-flaming regional conflict. At this stage Turkey needs allies and the truth is, the world needs a sane, stable, prosperous Turkey in the middle of this mayhem.
A decade after the American troops occupied Mosul, the city fell to the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants (ISIS). Even the rumors of ISIS in the city, were enough to scare the Iraqi military away, to the extent of making them leave all their weapons and ammunition behind. Running away when they are needed most is not new to the Iraqi army. We remember the same scene from when the U.S. troops invaded the country. The scene was as if the Arab deserts swallowed the whole army. On Tuesday, June 10, ISIS took 32 Turkish truck drivers hostage. Following this event, the radical group attacked the Turkish Embassy and took the diplomats hostage. ISIS then declared that the diplomats are safe and will be returned to Turkey and released the 32 truck drivers already.
Turkey doesn’t seem to be preparing for a military operation in Iraq. First of all, the Parliament has to pass a resolution, a permit for the Turkish military to perform operations against ISIS in the Iraqi soil. Even though there is already a resolution allowing military operations against PKK in Iraq, it has to be renewed for ISIS. However, there has been no such attempt in the Turkish Parliament since June 10th; not even for precautionary reasons.
Turkey summoned an emergency meeting for NATO members, however did not request a military operation. On the other hand, United Nations Security Council also held a meeting and expressed their full support to Turkey, once again Turkey did not signal the need of a military operation. Iraqi Kurdistan security forces, the peshmerge was the only force fighting the radical elements in Iraq since day one, this time backed by the YPG fighters from Syria. As Turkey had very good relations with the Iraqi Kurdish region from the very beginning of American occupation, and with the Sunni tribal leaders, this week was the time to reap all that Turkey saw in the last decade.
Turkey’s good relations with the Iraqi Kurds have been helpful
When the George W. Bush administration wanted to begin a war in Iraq, they asked of Turkey to use their bases, airspace, and land to open a northern front in the conflict. The Turks saw a different picture when considering the vital interests of the entire region. Yes, Saddam was a dictator and he had to go. But this wasn’t the way to do it. The Turkish Parliament voted “NO.” An invasion of Iraq from the north would have left a vulnerable Kurdish population in the path of a steamroller. Kurdish populations in Iraq, but also in Syria and especially in Turkey, would have been livid. This move would have restarted a conflict within Turkey that might well have lasted another several decades and cost the lives of many more thousands. This action in return brought Turkey not only oil deals with the Northern Iraq, but also a trusting alliance when needed.
Turkey summoned an emergency meeting for NATO members, however did not request a military operation in IraqCeylan Ozbudak
The Turks also proved to be right about being hesitant to leave Iraq to Maliki administration, which is known to be in dispute with the rest of the ethnic elements despite the American push. Years later, just this week we started to see the reports coming out of various think tanks stating the Maliki was not the best choice for Iraq. Earlier this year, unlike the narrative in the U.S. media, Baghdad’s offensive towards the radical camps in Iraq was not conducted as a state fighting al-Qaeda militants. The campaign was heavily tainted by sectarian language without promises of reform that could help to find a resolution to Sunni grievances. Many Sunni tribal leaders supported the campaign not because they supported Maliki, but because everyone wanted to avoid al-Qaeda advancing in Iraq.
Even if the hostage crisis will have been solved by the time you are reading this, there is and will be an ISIS problem. Like a plague, this problem cannot be tackled alone. The regional powers and the powers that have interests in the region need to unite on solving this maleficent issue. Not with bombs and tanks, but with ideology. I have seen reports from various U.S. and British sources claiming that it is a good idea to reoccupy Iraq. Can they help? Definitely not if their understanding of ‘help’ is a few billion Dollars in the form of arms, bombs, rifles and helicopters, along with scary boots on the ground. Always ready to lend a hand, those Americans… No matter how good intentioned some of these sources are, I want to remind them that our region is not going to change by repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It's only going to give us a headache (not much different from the ones we already have now). New ideas are required.
ISIS is not a fixed number of people nor is it a mafia gang. ISIS is an ideology, a way of looking at life. We cannot defeat al-Qaeda or ISIS by taking out its members one by one, just like the U.S. couldn’t stop communist ideology in Vietnam by bombing the coastline of Vietnam by B-52 planes day and night. No land in the history of men experienced a stable democracy at gunpoint.
Majority of the world can be watching the executions of ISIS in horror but we cannot deny the fact that many young Muslims are lured by their discourse and willingly join ranks. Even in the European continent, Muslims are radicalized to the point where they find more similarities with ISIS than differences. In the simplest terms, if you normalize oppressing women, segregating fellow Muslims, denouncing civil liberties in the eyes of a Muslim youth, among them will rise some, who will find the claims of ISIS or al-Qaeda fully logical.
It is no secret that the Sykes-Picot borders, which seem to have been drawn over tea and scones on a rainy London afternoon, hold little meaning for the majority of the Middle Eastern people. We cannot let radical groups like ISIS hold the idea of uniting the region, and opening the borders. We need to take the wheel and come up with a plan, which will appeal to the people of the Middle East as well as the West, educate the youth with the ideals of a moral unity rather than trying to balance the conflicts by arming the both sides in different times. The regional powers need to unite on this necessity with the Western powers, and should defeat the nemesis of radicalism with a new ideal.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak