They say they won’t help because the Islamic State is holding Turkish hostages — which shows yet again why jihadis take hostages: because in doing so they get what they want. It is possible, however, that the Turks are using these hostages as an excuse when actually they don’t want to put themselves into the position of fighting a self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate, even one that has threatened a jihad attack against Istanbul and presents a rival to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s own caliphate dreams.
In any case, their refusal here shows again how outdated NATO is, and urgently the U.S. needs to reconfigure its alliances in light of the jihad threat. But we are nearing the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 jihad attacks, and that reconfiguring is not remotely on the horizon.
“Turkey dismisses support for US airstrike on IS, cites hostage crisis,” Today’s Zaman, August 10, 2014 (thanks to Joshua):
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has ruled out any support from Turkey for the US military airstrike that began on Friday targeting artillery belonging to the al-Qaeda splinter group, the terrorist “Islamic State” (IS), near Arbil, in Iraq.
Speaking to journalists on Saturday in the province of Sivas, Yılmaz said: “We are not providing any kind of support [to the US military strikes on the IS in Iraq]. The US, using its own means, with its military aircraft launched from warships [in the Gulf area], is bombing IS positions that the US sees as a threat.”
Turkey is sensitive about becoming involved in the US military hitting IS targets in Iraq due to a hostage crisis.
The IS kidnapped 49 people from the Turkish consulate general in Mosul on June 11, including Consul-General Öztürk Yılmaz, diplomatic staff, special forces members and children. There is still no word on the release of the hostages two months later. The government has imposed a gag order on reporting about the hostage issue, claiming that news stories may provoke the IS militants and put the hostages’ lives in danger.
“Our consulate general staff, 49 of them, is still in the hands of the IS. Therefore, what we can do is limited due to our obligations to the well-being of these people,” said Yılmaz. He added: “We are hopeful now. There are no problems. We hope they [Turkish hostages] will return to Turkey in good health.”
US military aircraft hit artillery belonging to the IS on Friday, one day after US President Barack Obama announced that he had authorized limited airstrikes against the IS to avert the seizure of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby also said on Friday that two F/A-18 fighters flying from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf fired two laser-guided 500-pound missiles on an IS artillery piece and the truck towing it. The militants were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil, the Pentagon said.
“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama told New York Times in an interview published on Saturday. “This is going to be a long-term project,” he added.
Turkish military sources speaking to Today’s Zaman on Friday said that no military aircraft, either Turkish or American, had launched attacks against Iraq from inside Turkey. He confirmed that the US airstrikes had not been conducted via Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base. Yılmaz also said that the US airstrike could continue until the IS is no longer a threat to American interests in the region.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu complained on Saturday about the opposition in Turkey, accusing the opposition parties of raising the tension on the hostage issue and risking the lives of the hostages.
“If we rescue the hostages, they will say: ‘Oh, this is the government showing off,’ and, God forbid, if something bad happens to the hostages, then the opposition will question the government once again,” said Davutoğlu, speaking to a group of journalists.
The deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Mehmet Ali Şahin, speaking to journalists on Saturday said that “the health and fate of the hostages are far more important than anything else” for Turkey and expressed hope that the US airstrikes would not cause any harm to the hostages.
Criticizing the US for invading Iraq during the regime of former President Saddam Hussein and causing problems in the region, Şahin said: “If the US thinks that they can fix things by bombing the area now, it is impossible. They have the majority of the responsibility for all the problems we are experiencing there. We have 49 people in the hands of the IS.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has remained largely silent on the US attacks. Immediately after the Turks in Mosul were taken hostage by the IS militants, the prime minister had a phone call with the US Vice President Joe Biden, and asked the US not to carry out a military operation against the IS in Mosul, the daily Sabah reported on June 14. “Neither the US nor the Iraqi government should conduct an operation that would put the lives of our citizens taken hostage in danger,” Erdoğan reportedly told Biden.
According to the daily, Biden has called Erdoğan twice recently to get information about what Turkey plans to do to secure the release of Turkish hostages. Reportedly, Biden asked Erdoğan whether Turkey was planning to launch a military operation to free the hostages. Erdoğan then told Biden that Turkey was getting information about the situation from various sources in the region and that Turkey would not take any action that would risk Turkish citizens’ lives. According to the report, Erdoğan emphasized that any act that would put Turkish citizens’ lives in danger was a line that Turkey would not cross, and he asked that the US act in coordination with Turkey on any move it may make against the IS in the Mosul area.
IS threatens to attack İstanbul
In the meantime, in a recently released video, an IS militant has threatened to attack İstanbul if the government refuses to increase the water flow from the Euphrates River.
“I pray to God that the apostate [Turkish] government reconsiders its decisions. Because if they do not reconsider it now, we will reconsider it for them by liberating İstanbul,” a militant says in the video, the second part of a five-episode documentary on the IS by Vice News, from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.
“God willing, if they don’t open it [the dam], we will open it from İstanbul,” says the militant, identified as Abu Mosa, the IS press officer. When asked if this is a threat, he says, “Yes, it is a clear threat.”
The IS claims that Turkey has closed the dam on the Euphrates river, a move that significantly reduced the water supplies for both Syria and Iraq. The Turkish government has been criticized for contributing to the IS expansion in the region by turning a blind eye to militants traveling to Syria via Turkish territory to join the group against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sunday that Turkish hostages are not with the IS militants anymore but under the control of a local Sunni-Arab tribe in Iraq. According to sources only identified as “officials” in the story, the hostages are in Mosul and they are in good health. Cumhuriyet claimed that Turkish government has tried to convince this tribe to release the hostages but the tribe has refused this request, due to their fear of the IS militants.