The Turkey Analyst
Vol. 6 no. 10, 22 May 2013
Turkey and Syria's Jihadis: More than Safe Passage?
Murad Batal al-Shishani
On February 20, 2013, Syrian rebels and the Kurdish militia—which had fought each other for months in a town near the Turkish border—agreed to a ceasefire. Ras al-Ain is an ethnically mixed town of Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Chechens, and so on. In the past few months, the town has become a theatre playing out Turkey’s fears concerning the ongoing crisis in Syria, its role and the relationship with various armed groups there, including jihadists. In addition to its close relations with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Turkey has supported local jihadist groups in Ras al-Ain, while it appears to have proven unable to control or open links with the most influential jihadist group, al-Nusra.
Erdogan-Obama Differences over Syria Downplayed at Washington Summit
At their joint White House news conference, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Barack Obama stressed their common desire to avert the use of chemical weapons in Syria, end the fighting through a peaceful transition to a post-Assad government, and prevent Syria from becoming a terrorist haven or the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish or threat to Syria’s territorial integrity. Yet, neither Turkey nor the United States is prepared to make substantial exertions to achieve these objectives, making it more likely that the Syrian civil war will continue to threaten regional stability, their relationship, and their other interests. Although analogies are never perfect, the Syrian situation resembles several similarly bad situations of recent years, with extremely negative implications for Ankara and Washington
What the Columnists Say
The terrorist attack in the town of Reyhanlı on May 11, which left over fifty dead, making it the deadliest terror attack ever in Turkey, has generally been interpreted as being a consequence of Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, and the Syrian regime is assumed to have been responsible for it. However, there is nonetheless a divergence of views among the columnists in the Turkish press as to what Turkey’s response to Syria should be. While a “hawk” like Cengiz Candar advocates retaliation against Syria in order to deter it from repeating the attack in Reyhanlı, a more “dovish”, reasoned, attitude in fact dominates, with the government invited to recognize that things in Syrian are neither black nor white. Many columnists express concern that sectarian tensions will be inflamed in Turkey, and it is also pointed out that the old habits of engaging in a designation of “internal enemies” has returned, poisoning the societal atmosphere.
From the 8 May 2013 issue
A Special Kind of Awful: The State of the Turkish Media
International organizations have again questioned the Turkish government’s commitment to enshrine freedom of expression as a basic right. Yet however well directed such criticism may be, it does not highlight a culture of complicity whereby press organizations are themselves instrumental in imposing restrictions on the range and depth of public debate.
Calculating Ambivalence: The Imrali Process and the Balance between Kurdish and Turkish Nationalist Violence
The imperative to secure energy supplies and the prospect of continued economic growth entice the Turkish state to seek a democratic resolution of the country’s ethnic conflict. Turkey remains determined to deepen the economic integration with the self governing, oil-rich Kurdish region in northern Iraq, and that in turn makes it necessary to seek reconciliation with the Kurds of Turkey.
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The Turkey Analyst
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It is published bi-weekly, and includes topical analysis, as well asa summary of the Turkish media debate. It is edited and compiled under the supervision of Svante E. Cornell and Halil M. Karaveli.
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