Turkey has spent years allowing jihadist groups to flourish - so beware its real reasons for shooting down a Russian plane
Turkey is getting desperate. Under President Recep Tayip Erdogan and his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), its policies toward the conflict in Syria over the past four years have been misguided and costly. When conflict broke out in 2011, Ankara mistakenly under-estimated the strength of the Assad regime and supported hardline Islamist groups seeking its downfall. In the process, Turkey also marginalised the Kurds and alienated regional powers like Iran.
Four years on, Assad looks set to hold onto power and his regime will be a central part of a transition plan, one that foreign powers were negotiating last weekend. Turkey’s regional rival, Iran, is a key player which can no longer be ignored by the West. Not only does the pro-Assad alliance now have Russian support firmly on its side, but the international community is no longer focused on defeating the regime – instead, it is concerned with defeating jihadist groups like Isis.
The shift in focus is a significant drawback for Erdogan. Years of support for, and investment in, Islamic fundamentalist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham are about to go to waste. Ankara has played a significant role in allowing Isis and other jihadists to flourish in Syria and the region. Turkey has acquiesced to jihadist groups entering Syria via Turkey as well as their use of Turkey as a transit point for smuggling arms and funds into Syria.
The Kurds in Syria, meanwhile, have established themselves as a reliable Western ally and have created, in the process, an autonomous Kurdish region that has reinvigorated Kurdish nationalism in Turkey and across the region - much to Turkey’s dismay as it continues a brutal military campaign to repress the Kurds. ...