Turkey and the Challenge of Insecurity in 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mohammad Ali Dastmali
Expert on Turkey Affairs

A recent bomb attack in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, with a population of 14 million, claimed the lives of 10 people all of whom were German tourists. Of course, during recent weeks, Istanbul has been witness to other terrorist incidents such as setting people’s cars and government’s buses on fire by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The agent behind the latest terrorist attack in the port city was affiliated with Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and it has been announced that he was a citizens of Saudi Arabia, who had entered Turkey through the Syrian border under the cover of refugees.

The following points must be taken into account when assessing political and security importance of this attack:

1. The terror attack in Istanbul is, in fact, a security threat against the most important political, cultural and economic city in Turkey and a direct attack on the country’s tourism industry. If such measures are repeated in the form of a chain event and include other cities like Antalya, Turkey’s economy will come under increasing pressure.

2. It seems that German tourists have not been random target of this suicide attack, because through this measure, Daesh has been in fact trying to send a message to Germany from Turkish soil as well. The reason is that Germany has put up serious and obvious presence in the fight against Daesh during recent days.

3. Daesh started its terror attacks in Turkey from two Kurdish cities of Diyarbakir and Suruç, before targeting the capital city, Ankara, and Istanbul. However, the important point that can be mentioned with regard to these four terrorist attacks is that Daesh members have not targeted Turkish citizens in any of their attacks yet. During the first three attacks, Kurds as well as students and political and media activists supporting PKK were targeted, while in the fourth attack, German tourists fell victim to the group’s terrorist measures. One of the indirect messages of the latest Daesh attack was that the group is still issuing warning to Turkey and seeks to send a threatening message about a bigger attack through such attacks.

4. Turkey is seriously and easily exposed to terrorist attacks by Daesh and given its 900-km border with Syria, repetition of such attacks is a high possibility.

5. Therefore, we must have a clear understanding of Turkish officials’ fear and security concerns with regard to the existence of Daesh and it is natural for Turkey to move with caution vis–à–vis Daesh. Although Turkey is now part of the US-led coalition, which also includes European countries, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and aims to fight Daesh, nobody can expect Turkey’s measures against this Takfiri group to be rapid, decisive and firm, because in its military and security equations, Turkey has to consider possible reactions that Daesh may show on its soil.

Three important factors of insecurity in Turkey in 2016

Russia’s military presence in Syria and subsequent shooting down of a Russian bomber plane by Turkey’s jet fighters over Syria triggered rapid developments in Syria’s equations. In reaction to Ankara’s measure, Russia took important measures, which included imposing economic sanctions against Turkey and mounting economic pressure in energy-related fields as well as expelling Turkish workers and managers of Turkish companies in Russia. Moscow also moved to rescind a contract it had signed with Ankara to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Attacking the positions of Turkmen groups in northern Syria as well as targeting some important commanders of opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who were directly or indirectly supported by Turkey, were other steps taken by Russia in this regard. As a result, the interests of Turkey and its political investment in future of Syria have been made subject to serious threats and apart from that, Turkey’s economy is experiencing more difficult and less secure conditions.

Within its borders, Turkey is also grappling with the major problem of conflict with PKK militants, and in some cities in Turkey’s Kurdish region, including Sur, Nusaybin, and Cizre, the war has been taken into cities as well.

According to official figures announced by Turkey’s military and security officials, more than 2,000 members of PKK have lost their lives in bombardments of the group’s positions along Turkey’s border as well as deep inside the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. On the other hand, about 500 members of the military branch of PKK and armed youths supporting the group have been killed in urban conflicts in five Kurdish towns during the past few weeks. Such heavy casualties will provide social grounds for continuation of insecurity in Kurdish regions of Turkey and, in addition, will pave the way for ethnic conflicts between Turks and Kurds in certain regions.

Through its measures, Daesh has shown that it has many hidden branches in Turkey. In addition to the fact that many members of Daesh have infiltrated into Turkey from Syria under the cover of refugees, some Turkish youths have also joined Daesh and their activities in hidden safe houses in most Turkish provinces can lay grounds for more terrorist attacks and insecurity in Turkey.

In view of the above facts, one may say that Turkey will be facing difficult days in security areas in 2016. If the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party fails to find a way to reach an agreement with PKK and also fails to find a way to remain immune to and reduce the costs of the terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be in for major problems during the current year.

Key WordsTurkey, Challenge, Insecurity, 2016, Bomb Attack, Istanbul, German Tourists, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Daesh, Saudi Arabia, Economy, Diyarbakir, Syria, Russia, Justice and Development Party, Dastmali

More By Mohammad Ali Dastmali:

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