News / Europe

Turkey's Erdogan May Be Changing His Attitude Toward Jihadists

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 14, 2014.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 14, 2014.
Dorian Jones

As prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign policy toward jihadist groups like the Islamic State has strained relations with his Western allies. And once again the issue is being raised as Erdogan ascends to his new role as president of Turkey, though it appears a change may be in the offing.

Erdogan bellowed to his supporters last month that Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip dwarfs the atrocities Hitler committed during World War II.

Despite condemnation from both Europe and Washington, Erdogan has continued to repeat these explosive remarks to rapturous applause from his conservative Muslim base.

Turkey's allies increasingly have been concerned about Erdogan's outbursts since last year's brutal crackdown on anti-government protests over plans to build on Gezi Park next to Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Signs of change

Sinan Ulgen, an analyst for the Carnegie Institute in Brussels, said that with Erdogan's ascension to the presidency, however, he may be ready to change course.

"He will try and improve his international image, an image that was tarnished over the past year, especially since Gezi," said Ulgen. "He will certainly have the opportunity to win back some of the trust that he lost in the last year in terms of his international standing."

The raging conflicts in Iraq and Syria, heightened by the sweeping gains of the radical group Islamic State, could offer President-elect Erdogan an opportunity to improve relations with his Western allies.

Turkey shares borders with both Iraq and Syria, so it's seen by Western intelligence agencies as key to keeping tabs on jihadists, especially when they return home.

Competing loyalties

But where Ankara's loyalties lie regarding radical Islamist groups like Islamic State is far from clear, according to international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University.

"We have enough stories and evidence that Turkey played a role in the grooming of IS. They thought 'the more the merrier,' that is, the more groups attacking Bashar al-Assad regime [the better]," said Ozel. "We've heard from people in the regime and IS people themselves, how easily they can cross the border and now how it is finally becoming more difficult. Because in words, and I guess in deeds too, it's changing its policy. Because it can't sustain its dialogue with its Western allies, which after all Turkey understood it needs."

Analysts say cooperation between Turkey and Western intelligence agencies has improved in terms of monitoring Islamic State. They say the reason could be partly because Turkey is concerned about the repercussions of having backed jihadists.

Also adding to Erdogan's apparent change in policy is concern over the 49 diplomats that the Islamist group took hostage when it seized the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Ozel contends Ankara cannot fully move against Islamic State, though, for a few reasons.

"IS basically holds Turkey hostage by holding 49 hostages. We don't know the fate of the hostages. [And], if the reports are correct, 10 percent of IS fighters are Turkish," said Ozel. "That means there are lots of sympathizers. You never know where there are sleeper cells that may actually decide to commit a violent act in a major city."

Last month many Turkish TV channels broadcast footage of scores of Islamic State members and supporters holding a gathering just outside Istanbul. Such an event sends a powerful message to Erdogan that if he does move against the jihadist group, he will have to reckon with the threat of retaliation and the fate of the Turkish hostages. But the reward could be an important step in rebuilding relations with Turkey's Western allies.
 
 

 

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: hmp49 from: Asheville, NC
August 15, 2014 4:42 PM
How comical is it that the head of the country that massacred 1.2 million Armenians, an act that lead to the creation of the word "genocide" accuses Israel of being "worse than the Nazis"

More recently, Turkey has killed 40,000 Turkish Kurds, 90% of whom were fellow Muslims. Yet this NATO "ally" has 1600 troops in Afghanistan as non-combatants because they refuse to lift a weapon against "other Muslims."

Erdogan is a terrorist and a hypocrite.
In Response

by: Ali baba from: new york
August 16, 2014 10:27 AM
I totally agree with you. I need to add if Turkish group refuse to combat mission, NATO should remove Turkey as a member Of NATO .Beside , they killed Armani on , they several million in several country such Bulgaria, Egypt. The history of Turkey is So dark and the president say it straight that he supported Muslim brotherhood which I terrorist organization. Today he said he will not supported Jihadist whom killed at least hindered of thousand. He let them use turkey as a base for them

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 15, 2014 10:51 AM
I have been wondering where ISIS has been getting its funds from. Now I know. Erdogan has had outbursts that only a terrorist can exhibit. He is fundamentally raw; he is largely brutish. No wonder he hates civilization despite his leaning west. If Erdogan is mellowing down now, it is not because he has had a change of heart, it does not even mean he is ready to change his position or attitude to anything that is not extremist in islamist nature, it is because his noisemakers - his praise singers, maybe mercenaries - are at work to see how they can make him what he is not.

I don't even think he's going to like it either. This is because he likes to see himself as a toughie and a hard man of islamist thinking. He thinks that brings him respect from his fellow islamist hardliners in Asia and Middle East, and may be also put fear into Israel. Even though these were not the primordial reasons he is the way he is, but he enjoys it and wants to remain so, because it may have truly fagged a few muslim states within his region, but I do not know if Israel regards him more than they are prepared to take on him any time he played into their 18yard box. Which he has not done so far, even though he's always ranting like boxing/wrestling contestants before they enter the ring.

In Response

by: Ali Baba from: New york
August 16, 2014 10:38 AM
Do not wonder please ,t hey got the money from Arab countries and from their relative who live in Us and Europe. Radical Muslim can immigrate to US .There is lottery immigrant program . Their radical group can arrange phony marriage . once in Us they able to get rich . doctors cam make !0 million/year and contribute money for them . I believe that the richest person in England is A Egyptian. ,there some Egyptian can earn over 100,million and supported them by giving money

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs