By Emre Uslu
April 29, 2015
The international community is closely monitoring developments in Turkey.
Attention is especially being paid to three points. The first is the transformation by which the judiciary is stripped of its independence and turned into a weapon wielded by the government, and in connection with it, the suspension of freedom of expression. The second is the support Turkey lends to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Third, the efforts to rig the election in Turkey have begun to be discussed in recent months. Turkey experts are not sure whether the results in the upcoming election will be tampered with.
It seems that the West no longer considers Turkey to be acting within the realm of its values; it is no longer seen as a country where Western values are respected. As a result, the West has cut back its ties to Turkey, and is now only interested in strategic relations. In other words, Western countries are asking themselves: "What can we get from Turkey? What should the level of our engagement with Turkey be so that our interests are not damaged?”
Consequently, most countries are letting Turkey become increasingly isolated. They are taking steps that anger Turkey, in respect to the allegations of genocide, because Turkey is no longer a country that shares the same values as the international community.
Even the minimal level of democracy in Turkey is acceptable to the West. For this reason, they are watching the efforts to rig Turkish elections with interest. But despite the fact that it is pretty obvious the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will win the elections by fraud, I don't think that Western heads of state will do anything more than condemn it in a number of statements.
The most critical issue for the West is Turkey's support for organizations like ISIL. The West is very sensitive to this and sees Turkey's policies as threatening to their own security.
Turkey officially claims that it is combating al-Qaeda, ISIL and similar organizations. However, Western countries have noticed that Turkey hasn't launched a crackdown on ISIL's units within its borders, though thousands of people joined the ranks of the organization from within Turkey over the last three years.
It was recently reported that, according to an intelligence report allegedly prepared by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), 200 active ISIL militants have infiltrated Turkey, and that the country has approximately 5,000 sympathizers. Despite this horrifying news, the government-controlled Turkish judiciary, police and gendarmerie have been unable to catch a single suicide bomber.
Turkey not only avoids cracking down on ISIL branches within its borders, but also tries to block all journalistic inquiries into the matter. There is a gag order in place concerning all lawsuits against ISIL members, as journalists are effectively prevented from reporting about them. Any journalist who dares to write about ISIL is monitored and threatened by intelligence units. Recently, journalist Ahmet Şık announced that an intelligence officer called to threaten him for publishing evidential documents about ISIL. Since then, Şık has carefully avoided any mention of ISIL.
Turkish officials claim to regard ISIL and al-Qaeda as terrorist organizations but Western countries know very well that this is not the case. Turkey not only fails to launch a single operation against al-Qaeda, but also imprisons police chiefs who have launched such operations. They are interrogated, asked the question, "Why did you intercept the communication of members of al-Qaeda?” Recently, 12 of the 19 police chiefs who had launched an operation against al-Qaeda members in Van were arrested.
Western countries are watching these developments with concern. One question asked during the Bipartisan Policy Center's meeting on Turkey held recently in Washington was, “How does the crackdown on Turkish police affect Turkey's domestic security as well as the West's security?”
As Turkey is isolated, it is moving desperately closer to terrorist organizations like ISIL and al-Qaeda. Let me ask once again: if ISIL is a threat to Turkey and if Turkish intelligence units know how many ISIL militants are in Turkey, why isn't an operation launched against them?