Turkey Headed For War With Islamic State After Terrorist Attacks? ‘We Can’t Afford To Let This Go,’ Official Says

Turkey has plunged into a spiral of violence after the terrorist attacks on Istanbul’s international airport that killed dozens of people, and now it appears the country may be headed for an all-out war with the Islamic State. Speaking with reporters, Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that “if the Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war.”

“This attack is different: the scope, impact and deaths of dozens in the heart of the country’s economic capital,” the Washington Post quoted Cagaptay as saying. “It will have widespread ramifications,” he said, before adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “cannot afford to let this go.”

Thus far, Turkey has avoided engaging ISIS in full war, but this will change if it is confirmed that the terrorist organization is behind the recent attacks. As reported by BBC News, just days after the brazen attack on Europe’s third busiest airport, there still has been no claim of responsibility. Although the Islamic State (IS) has never claimed any of the attacks in Turkey that it is believed to have committed, the Turkish government and the CIA both say the assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport bears all the hallmarks of the jihadist group.

President Erdogan has spent months trying to sell his country’s successful fight against terrorism after promising to strike extremists with “with an iron fist.” But the latest terror attack does not corroborate his promises, and the people of Ankara and Istanbul are demanding leaders to take stronger action against jihadists.

According to the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy, “Turkey has become a prime target for the Islamic State in the last year. It has been mentioned several times in the group’s English-language magazine, Dabiq; President Erdogan was featured on the cover of issue 11.”

As usual, when these sort of attacks occur, the government imposed a news blackout, which is something that irritates many citizens as well as the opposition parties. The country observed yesterday a day of national mourning, but Turkey’s leaders want to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, beginning with the reopening of the airport.

The identities of the dead and wounded are still emerging, but reports say most of the victims are Turks. The deadliest attack in Turkey’s modern history left at least 41 dead and more than 200 were wounded. Of the 239 injured, 130 remain hospitalized. As previously mentioned, no group has claimed responsibility for the slaughter, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced shortly after the attack that all indications point to the Islamic State.

“Our thoughts on those responsible for the attack lean toward Islamic State,” Yildirim told a news conference in the capital Ankara, adding that investigations should be completed in the coming days and the identities of the bombers revealed.

Although Kurdish groups have committed bombings in recent months, primary investigations suggest ISIS is behind the brazen assault by three suicide bombers.

“It’s unclear why IS doesn’t claim credit, but it appears to be part of a broader strategy to exacerbate internal Turkish tensions, ranging from political polarisation to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict,” said Aron Stein of the Atlantic Council think-tank.

Authorities say the objective of the Syrian-Iraqi terrorist group is to damage the economy, especially tourism, which brings the country’s economy more than $30 billion annually.

Ege Seckin of IHS Country Risk says that “the attack was most likely conducted by the Islamic State to undermine the Turkish economy by attacking the airport ahead of the summer months, when tourism peaks.”

[Photo by Stringer/Getty Images]