The Islamic State (formerly known as ISIL) is approaching the tomb of Suleiman Shah in Syria, who is a grandfather of Ataturk the founder of the Turkish republic. Thus, the threat is not only getting closer to Turkey, but actually violates Turkish sovereignty over its territories, and I mean specifically the tomb.
Under those circumstances, the Turkish parliament had to back a move authorising military intervention in Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State, but it is a non-binding decision.
Turkey used to turn a blind eye to the Islamic State and other groups’ moves and actions as long as they fight its arch enemy, Bashar Al-Assad. It always refused to embroil itself with the Islamic State because it views the terrorist group as a direct threat. Turkey had a false sense of security that Islamic State fighters are having their hands full with Iraq and Syria, and its interference may imperil its porous borders.
On the other hand, there is a number of Islamic State sympathizers in Turkey who bear the group’s slogans and have them on store-fronts and cars. On top of all this, the Islamic State has managed to recruit many people from Turkey.
The Turkish participation in the air strikes will not only be a chance to topple Al-Assad, but it is also a way out of its temporary isolation. Turkey is experiencing this isolation after the West refused its advice about the military solution in the region and after it insisted on supporting the Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi in spite of the fact that the West has relatively abandoned him. Moreover, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruined the relations with Egypt and many countries in the region.
The feeling of isolation stems from this big illusion. Erdogan is eagerly entertaining the illusion of the new Ottoman caliphate that he wants to impose on the region and then announce himself the caliph. This illusion seems to be vanishing into thin air for many reasons. First, Erdogan is now focusing on the crisis of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq which is actually starting to hang over him. Second, Kurds are threatening the Turkish borders. Third, despite everything, Al-Assad is still in power and the US-led air raids seem to support him unintentionally. The fourth reason is related to the Gulf States’ anger with Turkey’s support to the Brotherhood. Finally, there are one and a half million Syrian refugees on the Turkish borders causing problems.
However, because of the stubbornness of the Turkish character, Ankara is insisting that the real flaw is in the international community, not in its political views. Turkey is now paying a dear price for its mistakes and its lack of appreciation for Egypt and other countries in the region, not to mention its support for the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now the question that needs a precise answer is: Will Turkey come to its senses and stop this hallucination?
Salwa Habib is a senior columnist and an expert on Egyptian-American relations.