Turkey’s Double Game with ISIS

Turkey’s Islamist government has had rational reasons to support discreetly its own Frankenstein monster: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The jihadists who have conquered large swathes of Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014 may have the habit of beheading every infidel they catch, Muslim or non-Muslim. But they are merely the excessively savage next of kin to Turkish Islamists, who pursue similar political goals in Western-style suits and neckties instead of Arab gowns imitating the Prophet Muhammad’s attire.

Their kinship diverges over methodology rather than objectives. But there is also a pragmatic attachment built on a shared obsession with common enemies. The Shiites whom ISIS militants love to slaughter are privately viewed by Turkey’s Sunni supremacists as heretics (therefore, infidels). Likewise, Ankara views Syria’s Kurds as a major security threat. The Turkish government believed that investing in ISIS (and its brothers in arms such as Ahrar ash-Sham and an-Nusra Front) would facilitate the downfall of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s friend-turned-nemesis. They miscalculated, and thus began Turkey’s own Frankenstein story.

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