On August 20, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a wedding ceremony attended by supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP. The blast occurred in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep near the restive Syrian border and claimed the lives of at least 54. The death toll will likely rise given that many of those wounded in the bombing were in critical condition. Nearly half of those killed were under the age of 14. The bomber is believed to be a boy between the ages of 12 and 14. Turkish officials initially blamed their traditional nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK but now believe that the bomber was affiliated with ISIS.
Turkey, led by its increasingly unbalanced and unhinged president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a nation teetering on the brink. The country has been wracked by a pandemic of bombings and shootings principally carried out by the PKK, which generally targets the military and security forces, and ISIS, which deliberately seeks out soft targets and aims to maximize civilian carnage. The wedding bombing is typical of its modus operandi.
Last week, the PKK carried out a string of bombings in eastern and southeastern Turkey killing at least 14 and injuring more than 200. The attacks were directed at Turkish military and police forces but civilians were counted among the dead and injured. Under Erdogan’s direction, Turkey is currently waging a vicious counter-insurgency campaign against the guerillas who are seeking greater autonomy. Human rights groups have accused both sides of human rights abuses.
In June, ISIS terrorists attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk airport with bombs and AK-47 assault rifles killing at least 36. ISIS terrorists were responsible for at least two other bombings in Turkey this year that claimed the lives of several foreign nationals including Germans, Israelis and a Peruvian.
On July 15, elements of the Turkish military staged a failed coup in which nearly 300 were killed and some 2,200 were wounded. The coup plotters were frustrated with Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian style and Islamist bent. Erdogan then used the coup attempt to lash out at his enemies (real and imagined) and crush internal dissent. He blamed the coup on followers of the US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Gulen and Erdogan had once been close allies but the two had a falling out and are now bitter rivals.
16,000 people, including soldiers, police officers, journalists, judges, government workers and academics were formally arrested during the post-coup purge while an additional 6,000 were detained. Thousands more are currently under investigation or have been fired from their jobs. Erdogan has called for the death penalty for those involved in the coup and promised that he would “cleanse” Turkey of all Gulen supporters. He has also somewhat bizarrely claimed that Gulen supporters, ISIS and the PKK are working together to harm Turkey. In a speech given in Ankara before the wedding attack, the conspiracy-prone Erdogan stated that these groups are “acting under the same motivations even if they have different names.”
Erdogan’s recent crackdown represents an acceleration of his previous anti-democratic activity and is consistent with the actions of third world despots. Despite muted protests from the European Union and the Obama administration, Erdogan is relentlessly pursuing his purges and is making good on his promise to “cleanse” Turkey of internal dissent.
In recent years, Turkey’s schizophrenic leader has pursued a foreign policy that has alienated his NATO partners, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel.
He has allowed Muslim migrants, some with terrorist affiliations, to flood Europe. His air force shot down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish airspace for a mere 17 seconds. He ordered Turkish forces to occupy the Iraqi town of Bashiqa, a few miles outside of Mosul in a misguided effort to stay relevant. He supported the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that brought chaos and terror to Egypt and sent a ship laden with IHH terrorists to Gaza in a bid to provoke Israel and demonstrate his unwavering support for the genocidal Hamas terrorist group.
Lastly, Erdogan was instrumental in propping up ISIS during its formative years. Turkish intelligence officials assisted ISIS terrorists with arms and logistics and the Turkish government purchased ISIS oil thus providing the terror group with a steady stream of funding to support its activities. The Turks also permitted known ISIS operatives to freely cross their borders and hindered US efforts to support the Kurds against ISIS during the battle of Kobani.
During his tenure as prime minister and now as president, Erdogan has pursued deleterious domestic and foreign policies that have been disastrous for Turkey. His neo-Ottoman imperialistic designs have backfired and he’s embroiled his nation in a full-fledged civil war with restive Kurds. His recent oppressive purges and intent to institute the death penalty against “enemies of the state” will only serve to further alienate Turkey’s NATO partners. And his perfidious effort to support ISIS during its formative years has come back to haunt Turkey in a deadly way. The wedding bombing is the latest manifestation of Erdogan’s ruinous policies.
Last week, a leaked document authored by Germany’s interior ministry accused Ankara of being a breeding ground for Islamic extremism. The document alleged that Turkey actively supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and various extremists Islamist groups in Syria. That assessment is accurate. It is time for NATO to recognize the obvious; that Turkey under Erdogan is not an ally but an enemy from within, privy to all of NATO’s secrets and actively working to support civilization’s enemies.
Turkey has in the past demonstrated a proclivity to betray secrets obtained from ostensible allies. In one particularly egregious incident, Hakan Fidan, Turkey’s chief intelligence officer, exposed the identities of 10 Israeli spies operating in Iran, condemning those exposed to a near certain death. Moral and practical considerations mandate that NATO act now to sever its ties with Turkey. Erdogan has made his bed. Now let him sleep in it.