The terrorist attack at Istanbul airport yesterday underlines a new dynamic in the wars in Iraq and Syria against the Salafi menace that is DAESH (or ISIS or ISIL).
For years the Turkish government of Erdogan was an accomplice in the creation and growth of ISIS. It allowed the free flow of money, weapons, and Jihadis from the Persian Gulf states and other Arab countries and Western Europe into Syria. Turkey was the main path, the cooperative chief conduit, what I called the Erdogan Trail, into Syria. There have also been credible reports of cooperation in facilitating the flow of ISIS petroleum and weapons across Turkey. Other reports stressed the close ties between ISIS and elements of Turkish intelligence.
As the war in Syria turned against the Jihadis in 2013-2014, Mr. Erdogan seemed to have doubled down on his support for the Jihadis. Airport cameras regularly filmed and showed on TV Jihadis and their Arab and European comfort women (concubines) flowing through Istanbul airport on their way to the killing fields of Syria. Persian Gulf media, tightly controlled by Saudi and Qatari money and ownership, downplayed the ISIS ties with Turkey, focusing instead on a disintegrating and virtually non-existent Free Syrian Army. Allegedly a secular army of liberation that was under control of both Arab Salafis and Arab princes and potentates.
Now Turkey has been subjected to several terrorist attacks (unfortunately I once called it Erdogan’s chickens coming home to roost). Mr. Erdogan has now reportedly succumbed to American pressure to distance his country from the terrorists. Given that they are not winning anymore. Now his country is paying the price that others have been paying: from London to Paris and Brussels to Baghdad and Kuwait and the Shi’a towns of Eastern Saudi Arabia. But I suspect he would rather have ISIS than the newly empowered Kurds as neighbors.
ISIS is on the ropes in the Levant. It lost Fallujah last week to the Iraqis, and the mourning screams of Salafis could be heard all across the social media. It had lost Tikrit and Ramadi before that to the Iraqis and their allies. Even some Western media fell last week for the Jihadi propaganda about ‘massive ethnic abuse’ by militias. That being a highly sectarian-divided Iraq, a recent phenomenon, there probably were some isolated cases of ethnic abuse. But the Salafi cries of mourning were not about the victims: they were/are about the defeat of ISIS. For believers and opportunists alike the true Wahhabi paradise on Earth.
Mosul will probably be next. The “capital” of Raqqa is also close to being threatened by a combination of Syrian and allied forces and Kurdish forces. I predicted two weeks ago here that by the end of 2017 ISIS will lose Mosul and Raqqa. Almost a fatwa, I claimed: “My Fatwa (humble but almost certainly accurate) on the violent gruesome brief reign of the Wahhabis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria“.
ISIS is being squeezed in both Iraq and Syria, and strong pressure on U.S. allies to cooperate has helped. ISIS/DAESH oil revenues have been reduced significantly, and pressure is being seriously applied to cut off the flow of Persian Gulf Salafi money. That is why they are hitting at any soft target they can, not just their usual favorite targets: the Shi’as and Westerners. That is also why they are expanding into Egypt, Yemen, and North Africa.
Remember the old American TV message: it is eleven o’clock, do you know where your children are?
America needs a new message this week and next: It is almost Fourth of July, do you know how safe your airports are?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum