Monday, 6 October 2014

The Turkey Connection

Reports that UK jihadists were involved in a prisoner swap between Islamic State (IS) and Turkey are "credible", Whitehall officials have told the media.

The Times alleges that Shabazz Suleman, 18, and Hisham Folkard, 26, were among as many as 180 IS fighters traded for 46 Turkish hostages.

The Turks were taken prisoner from their country's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June and released last month.

Officials confirmed Mr Suleman, from High Wycombe, disappeared in Turkey.

The Foreign Office is providing consular assistance to his family but there has been no confirmation that he was one of the Turkish government-held prisoners.

"We are aware that a British national was reported missing in Turkey in 2014," a spokesman said.
The Times said it was passed a leaked list of those handed over to IS and the two Britons were among the names.

The newspaper alleges the list also includes three French citizens, two Swedes, two Macedonians, one Swiss and one Belgian.

It also suggests the prisoner agreement included IS fighters held in Turkish hospitals and prisons, as well as those in the hands of moderate Syrian rebels.

University place
Mr Suleman had been a student at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe.
In a statement dated 3 October, the school said it had been approached by the "relevant authorities" a few weeks ago and it had fully co-operated.
It said Mr Suleman had worked hard to build on his AS grades to achieve a "solid set" of A-levels and had gained a place at university.

The school described him as "a very engaging and amiable student who fitted in well, forming good relationships with his peers and staff".

The statement also said Mr Suleman had travelled to Syria as part of an aid convoy for a Turkish charity last summer.

The Times spoke to Mr Folkard's father, who is described as a devout Roman Catholic.
He asked to remain anonymous and is quoted as saying he hardly knew either of his two sons as their mother "took them away".

He told the newspaper she had let them go to Yemen to study Islam and at that point he "cut them off completely".

The release of the Turkish hostages hit the headlines at the end of September. There were 49 in total - 46 Turkish citizens and three Iraqis - and included the Turkish consul, diplomats, special forces police and children.

The 49 hostages were a huge "bargaining chip" and IS must have got something in return!

Little explanation was given for their release but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's MIT intelligence agency had led the operation.

At the time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not deny reports there had been a prisoner swap and stressed no ransom had been paid.

The hostage release paved the way for Turkey, which shares a long and vulnerable border with Syria, to allegedly play a more active role in the US-led fight against IS.

Should or can one take this statement at a face value ?

Old reports from Turkey reporters the following (Daily News)

Two lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have accused the government of protecting and cooperating with jihadist militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front, while the Turkish government quickly denied the claim.

CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Head Muharrem İnce has asked for explanations of a photograph showing ISIL commander Abu Muhammad allegedly receiving free treatment in Hatay State Hospital on April 16, 2014, after being injured during fighting in Idlib, Syria. The photograph circulated widely on the Internet following ISIL’s assault on Mosul June 9. 

“If we keep silent now, it is to let the government work more comfortably in this situation and prevent our people, our flag and our country from being harmed. But we will talk about the point to where wrong policies have dragged our country and what kind of trouble have all those whom they have fed, treated and assisted brought us,” İnce said at Parliament in Ankara on June 12.

He also said the visits carried out on the same day by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to opposition leaders were not enough. “He should also come and inform Parliament,” İnce said.

The Daily News also reports in another report.
The Turkish government is trying to present its “policy shift” concerning the “struggle against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” in “different terms” than those of the Western-Arab coalition. 

Now, it has become a “national strategy” to prepare for “military intervention” in the region if necessary. That is why the government called on Parliament to approve a motion to authorize the government to undertake “military action in Iraq and Syria” against all sorts of potential threats rather than focusing on the struggle against ISIL. 

The government succeeded in passing the bill with the support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but the wording and scope of the motion is open to debate. 

The opposition argues that the motion may pave the way to the government’s adventurous foreign policy by granting it the right to start military operations and even a war.

The other claim of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is that the government has been, and still is, covertly supporting ISIL, even though the claim may sound contradictory or confusing. If the government is supporting ISIL, why has it also sought an excuse to start military operations against them? 

First of all, it is still difficult to prove that the Turkish government has had any sort of link with ISIL, despite all the claims and some evidence. 
Nevertheless, we may better argue that Turkey has vested interests in the expansion of Sunni radical movements in the region. In the beginning, it was Turkey’s ambition to remove the Bashar al-Assad regime which led it to support all sorts of armed groups, something that was no secret.

it sounds rather “surreal,” but in the end Turkish foreign policy is being shaped on “great ambitions” and “wild dreams” which are equally surreal. As for the government’s Kurdish policy, it is still being mostly handled by the intelligence service’s negotiations with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and still nobody knows about “the terms of the deal,” if they exist. 

Therefore, I think that ambitions and fantasies in search of “greatness” may help us better understand Turkey’s politics than the realities.