The conflict in Syria from the very beginning has had the potential to destabilize the neighbors of this country. The call from many experts to "do something" about this crisis was because of this risk. It has now been more than four years in which the world basically watched the evolution of a crisis into a full-blown civil war and emergence of a humanitarian crisis. The displacement of millions of people in the most sensitive region in the world made them easy prey for radicalism, while the emergence of a failed state generated grey areas, which become fertile grounds for the strengthening of the already existing terrorist groups.
The developments that took place last week in Turkey - the bombing in the town of Suruç, which left 32 young people dead and hundreds other wounded, the killing of two police officers by the PKK in Ceylanpınar, the killing of a Turkish soldier in Adıyaman, the killing of a noncommissioned officer in Kilis whose name is also given to the last operation against ISIS and clashes between the Turkish security forces and ISIS members along the Turkish-Syrian border demonstrated that the crisis in Syria reached a serious turning point that needs to be handled in a different way than before. For the last four years despite different provocations, Turkey preferred to act with restraint and tried to prevent any activity that would pull Turkey into the war in Syria. However, this restraint and security measures had to be retuned last week to more actively deal with two different terrorist groups at the same time and took preventive military measures to stop any form of terrorist activity in the country.
As a result of this retuning on Thursday, the Turkish military launched military strikes against ISIS targets, and at the same time a major police operation took place against terrorist groups in 13 different cities around Turkey. These operations demonstrate that Turkey will use different measures against these terrorist groups in and out of its borders.
These developments will impact the domestic and foreign policy of Turkey. In domestic politics, the statements of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) leadership and from the PKK before and after the attacks in Suruç created a major backlash to the resolution process. Those forms of statements triggered violence on the streets of major cities earlier last fall and generated a major threat to public order in the country. Now, after the attacks of the PKK, Turkish security forces started security operations against the PKK, and this wave of operations will likely continue in the coming days. These domestic operations become a must after some members of different terrorist groups, such as Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), showed up with AK-47 and rifles at the funerals of those who died in the Suruç attacks. These domestic operations also targeted potential ISIS members and recruiters.
The foreign policy leg of the operations specifically includes military operations against ISIS. From the very beginning, many experts stated that without a comprehensive strategy about the conflict in Syria it would be impossible to prevent the emergence and spread of organizations like ISIS. The situation on the ground demonstrates that despite the military operations of the international coalition against ISIS for more than one year, ISIS continue to be a threat for the region as a whole. Now, after long negotiations, the U.S. and Turkey reached an understanding in the operational realm. However, on the more strategic level, it should be understood that the situation in Syria would continue to be a major destabilizer for the region and international security as a whole. The operations against ISIS will be short-term solutions for the threat of ISIS, but in the long run a solution will only be possible with a comprehensive strategy.
About the author
Kılıç Buğra Kanat is Research Director at SETA Foundation at Washington, D.C. He is an assistant professor of Political Science at Penn State University, Erie.