As the vicious struggle for domination between Turkey’s Justice and Development Party government and its one-time ally Fethullah Gulen camp intensifies, the serious consequences for the national security of this enmity is becoming clear to everyone, except the two squabbling sides.
In recent days, the deep mistrust between Turkish state institutions turned into a publicly fought battle for supremacy over the security forces and the judiciary.
The fall-out for the border security has become obvious on the 3rd of January, when the police stopped a vehicle suspected of carrying weapons and ammunitions to Syria. The intelligence officers with the backing of the government then prevented the search. The load, claimed to be blankets on their way to Syrian Turkmen civilians, was later declared a state secret, with the new Interior minister telling everyone to mind their own business.
On 14th of January, again in the Syrian border area, the Turkish anti-terrorist police raided the Kilis offices of the Islamist aid agency of the Mavi Marmara -fame, the IHH, looking for individuals suspected of links to al-Qaeda.
Within hours, the head of the anti-terrorism unit in Kilis was removed from office by the government-appointed governor.
As both sides exchanged strong accusations of treachery and lawless behavior, a government deputy, Şamil Tayyar chipped in with the extra-ordinary Twitter claim that Israel had sent an operation team that took off from the Turkish city of Van in order to raid the IHH offices in Kilis.
An astute observer responding on Twitter asked him what his government was doing while Israelis were raiding.
If it wasn’t so serious, one could joke about it.
What has been happening in Turkey right now is mind-boggling. In their mutual effort to reveal each other’s corrupt and illegal actions, both the government and the Gulen supporters are digging a hole for themselves while shaking the earth the country stands on.
The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to blame “outside forces” for undermining Turkey.
His own ministers and some members of his party are doing a much better job to ridicule Turkey than any hostile outside power or the malicious world media could ever manage to do.
All of this is happening when the situation on the ground in Syria, especially close to the Turkish border areas is getting worse. The threat to regional and international security is growing to unprecedented levels.
The Geneva II peace negotiations beginning in Montreux on 22nd January have concentrated the world’s minds on the appalling situation in Syria with the death toll of already over 125,000 people.
It is no surprise that the world attention has also turned to what goes on in Turkey.
Since the beginning of the year, the fighting among Syrian opposition groups across northern Syria have become intensified.
Al-Qaeda linked jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS has swept across northern Syria.
Turkey’s covert manipulation of another jihadist group, Jabhat el Nusra against the Syrian Kurdish forces is also well documented.
But in recent weeks, there have been more and more articles appearing in the western media, accusing Turkey of playing a role in the ISIS’ growth by allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Syria.
Unlike many Turkish media commentators, these articles are written by prominent journalists visiting the region, investigating various claims for themselves. Sarah Birke’s http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/27/how-al-qaeda-changed-syrian-war/?insrc=wbll How al-Qaed Changed Syrian-war? is a good recent example.
Washington-based journalist Mutlu Çiviroğlu also wrote this week about the battle going on between Syrian Kurds and the extremist groups and the need to involve Syrian Kurds in the Geneva-II talks
Turkey denies any covert links or support to Syrian fighters and claims that it provides purely a humanitarian backing.
When Turkey’s own police force raids one of the country’s leading players in the aid effort with suspicion of helping al-Qaeda and when the government immediately puts a stop to it , these flat denials become harder to take seriously.
Who can credibly argue that the claims of Turkey being turned into a staging post for foreign fighters or the plane from Istanbul is now known as the jihadi express are all lies, damn lies?
Perhaps, we should ask the ruling party’s Israel -expert deputy Samil Tayyar to enlighten us on that one, too.
This post is also available in: Turkish