Why is ISIS attacking Turkey?
ISIS has most probably been infiltrated, as many of its activities go against its ideology
Turkish authorities have confirmed that the perpetrators of the suicide attack on Istanbul airport are members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), from the Syrian province of Raqqa, the headquarters of the “caliphate.”
Its motives are perhaps to retaliate against Ankara for blocking crossings to money and fighters. Also, Turkey is engaged in a war against ISIS in cooperation with the United States, and has reconciled with Russia and Israel. The organization may also have demands such as the release of prisoners.
What has changed is that Turkey used to refuse to see ISIS trafficking, so the country was used as a main crossing. However, the organization’s anger against Ankara does not justify the attack. There is a long list of enemies that are more important as ISIS targets. Furthermore, the attack will double Turkey’s determination against it.
ISIS has most probably been infiltrated, as many of its activities go against its ideology. In two consecutive days, it carried out attacks against two enemies of the Syrian regime: the Lebanese Forces party, and Turkey.
The attacks on the Lebanese Forces contradict what ISIS says about targeting the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. The involvement of eight suicide bombers in the Lebanese Forces-controlled town of Qaa, which has limited influence on the conflict zone, is strange, larger than expected and unprecedented.
ISIS has most probably been infiltrated, as many of its activities go against its ideologyAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The repeated targeting of Turkey promotes the idea that ISIS has been infiltrated. Al-Qaeda used to cooperate with the Syrian regime and the Iraqi opposition against U.S. forces in Iraq. When ISIS rose during the Syrian uprising, it was an extension of Al-Qaeda. It fought against different factions, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Islamist groups, the Syrian regime and its allies.
Despite its ideological fanaticism, ISIS does not mind cooperating with its opponents. It is working with the Syrian regime against Turkey. It has cooperated with Baathist groups in Iraq, although it defames them. It has traded with the Syrian regime and sold oil to it.
Some blame Russia for terrorism in Turkey, but there is no evidence for this. Maybe Moscow has the biggest interest in weakening Turkey, especially since threatening Ankara after it shot down a Russian warplane over the border with Syria, and asking Turkey to stop cooperating with armed groups against the Syrian regime.
However, the Russians were never known to be skilled in infiltrating and using Islamist groups, as opposed to the Syrian regime, which has 30 years of such experience via its intelligence services, which run Palestinian and Lebanese extremist groups.
Whether the mastermind of the attack on Istanbul airport was ISIS or the intelligence services of the Syrian regime and its allies, it is in Ankara’s interests not to abandon the Syrian revolution.
The FSA has proven with time, despite all its weakness and losses, that it is the only Syrian group that deserves support as it does not have a foreign agenda, unlike other opposition groups such as Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, which are not so different from ISIS, even if they are not yet involved in operations against Turkey and its allies.
Ankara’s interest lies in a military solution against the Syrian regime to reach an appropriate political solution between the regime and the opposition. Without military success, chaos will continue because the regime is broken and cannot be repaired.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 2, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed