Has Erdoğan left Turkey vulnerable to attacks?

The hunt for the perpetrator of the attack on a nightclub in Istanbul continues. The Turkish police have released a photo of the man suspected of killing 39 people on New Year's Eve. IS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Commentators see not just Erdoğan's Syria policy but also the wave of arrests in the aftermath of the failed coup as causes for the terrorism in Turkey.

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Večer (SI) /

Erdoğan has lost control over IS

For too long now President Erdoğan has been using the IS militia in neighbouring Syria for his own ends and this is now backfiring on him, Večer believes:

“He turned a blind eye when foreign fighters joined IS. He allowed IS to smuggle stolen oil and archaeological artefacts. He naively calculated that the extremist Sunni group would settle accounts for him with the regime of the Alawite Bashar al-Assad and with the Kurdish rebels on Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq. As has happened so often in history, the lesser evil has got out of control. The terrorist militia IS is making him pay for his mistakes with terrorist attacks on his own soil. The situation is similar with the Kurds. In order to achieve his goal of seizing all the powers of the office of president for himself, for which he needs national unity, he has broken off negotiations with the country’s largest minority. ”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Political purges have weakened Turkey

The attacks in Turkey also show the extent to which the country's security forces have been weakened by the wave of arrests after the failed coup, El Periódico de Catalunya surmises:

“Many of the attacks carried out in Turkey in 2016 were the work of Kurdish militias that are proving very efficient at recapturing land from the jihadists in Syria. But Erdoğan fears that these highly capable fighters will reach the autonomous Kurdish zone in Iraq and create a union there that Ankara is not willing to tolerate under any circumstances. The recent wave of attacks carried out by both sides is also an indication of some serious security problems. The repercussions of the purges of the military and other security forces decreed by Erdogan after the failed coup are making themselves felt, as demonstrated by the ease with which the Russian ambassador to Ankara was murdered on December 19.”

The Independent (GB) /

Powerless against attacks

Turkey needs to recognise that military operations in Syria cannot prevent terrorist attacks, the Independent stresses:

“It is also clear that the Turkish government does not know what to do to stop the attacks. These are likely to continue with unrelenting savagery ... Erdogan makes threats to crush Isis and the Syrian Kurds by advancing further into northern Syria. Turkish forces are close to the Isis stronghold at al-Bab, North-east of Aleppo, but are meeting stiff resistance and suffering significant casualties. For all Erdogan’s tough talk, it is not at all clear what the Turkish army and its local allies hope to achieve in northern Syria where they have few real friends and many dangerous enemies. They are being sucked into a battle which they cannot hope to win decisively.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Muslims must defend themselves against jihadism

In response to the numerous Internet commentaries in which ultra-religious Turks celebrated the attack on the Istanbul nightclub, the Turkish government announced on Monday that it would make it a criminal offence to write discriminating commentaries on lifestyle or confession. This was a sorely needed move, Hürriyet believes:

“Societies that are split over lifestyle and values and that brand different lifestyles not as freedom but as 'blasphemy' raise tensions and increase the potential for violence. ... As long as Muslims do not distance themselves with virtue and wisdom from notions like blasphemy and jihad, they will continue to be the world’s most problematic social group. ... Muslims must not only condemn terrorist attacks but also the jihad ideas that trigger such attacks.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Turks' celebrations discouraged for years

With its campaign against a liberal lifestyle the Turkish government has itself prepared the ground for terrorism, columnist Tayfun Atay laments in the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet:

“As I take pen in hand to write this text, I hear television commentators trotting out the same old mantras about the 'Syria factor', a 'game played by foreign forces', 'international terrorism', an 'imperialist plot' and other similar pieces of rhetoric in connection with the massacre in the Reina nightclub. ... One wishes grace for the dead and a speedy recovery for the wounded. As if the witches' cauldron had not been bubbling for days for those who wanted to welcome the New Year with gaiety, joy and fun! As if New Year’s Eve, associated as it is with Christmas, had not been declared a sin, anathema, impure, a curse and even 'illegitimate' by the most official voices for many days! ... What more encouragement does jihadist-Salafist terrorism require in such a 'fertile' climate?”

Der Standard (AT) /

Erdoğan is destabilising his country

The repressive policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are responsible for the growing insecurity in his country, Der Standard believes:

“Turkey has been in a state of emergency for five months now and its security apparatus is on permanent high alert. Yet the spate of terrorist attacks continues. The police and intelligence services may be able to prevent many things but the fact remains that Turkey is unstable and there is no security even though the rule of the one 'strong' man who leads Turkey should be able to guarantee precisely that. Swift decisions, a united people, strength and self-confidence. Since Tayyip Erdoğan became president in 2014 things have, however, gone downhill. The war in neighbouring Syria and Iraq explains a lot, but not everything. Erdoğan's strategy of securing more and more power for himself while deepening the rifts in society is proving fatal for Turkey's citizens.”

The Times (GB) /

The West must support Turkey

After the latest attack, Turkey needs all the help it can get from the West, The Times argues:

“A first signal of support would be for the West to share more extensively whatever intelligence it has on Isis and other Islamist terrorist groups who are excluded from the ceasefire. The West is right to warn Mr Erdogan that his indiscriminate crack-down may prove counter-effective, and that alienating the liberal middle class will not ensure greater security. But it must take care with its language when handling this prickly and sometimes paranoid president. Turkey is a vital ally; it needs all our sympathy and help in this hour of tragedy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Defend our way of life

Terrorism must not be allowed to destroy our lifestyle, Corriere della Sera warns:

“In this act of tragic continuity with the year that has just ended, the will to attack and to silence everything that in the eyes of the terrorists represents our way of living together becomes evident. Celebrating, having fun, religious and secular festivals, the rituals of Christmas and New Year, freedom of movement, everyday rituals, especially in the world of young people, meeting up, listening to music, dancing. 'Being together' has simply become a moving target that is easy to hit, easier than so-called sensitive or institutional targets. ... Given the perfidious nature of the enemy, the legitimate defence of humanity, with which the international community is entrusted, must be possible and unanimous. We must defend our way of life with the same spirit that the Londoners did under Hitler’s bombs: keep calm and carry on.”