[This analysis was written for the Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, by Yossi Melman, co-author of a history of Israeli security and espionage agencies, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.]
Turkey is the victim of a boomerang effect. The most recent terrorist attack – when a gunman opened fire on party-goers, killing 39 including an Israeli woman at an Istanbul night club Sunday morning – is just one more manifestation of the terrorism plaguing the nation.
The attack was most likely carried out by a member of Islamic State, or an avid supporter of the radical terrorist group. The gunman, armed with an automatic weapon, disappeared from the scene after the massacre and is now being hunted by the authorities.
This attack further proves that unfortunately, despite the alerts, warnings, careful surveillance and the extra security measures taken by the Turkish security services and police, it is almost impossible to stop a determined murderer unless there is precise early warning and accurate intelligence about his intentions.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is paying a heavy price for his manipulative and short-sighted policies.
Driven by its hatred of the Syrian regime when the civil war broke out nearly six years ago, it’s becoming evident that Erdogan either secretly collaborated with Islamic State, or at least turned a blind eye to its actions.
For him as well as for his regime, Islamic State was utilized as a tool to defeat Bashar Assad and stir chaos in Syria, which has a strong Kurdish minority sympathizing with Turkish-Kurds.
Erdogan was also motivated in punishing Assad personally, who in the past gave shelter to members of the PKK, the organization – listed as a terrorist group by NATO and the EU – which aims to establish Kurdish independence.
The Turkish government and its security services allowed individuals from across the world to use Turkey as a stopover on their way to crossing the border into Syria, where they later joined Islamic State.
Turkey has supplied weapons to Islamic State and purchased oil from them, thus providing the murderous group with the funds they needed in order to consolidate their horrific “state” in Iraq and Syria.
Some 18 months ago, Erdogan changed his policy. There are several reasons for this: After initially coming under pressure from the US, he then weighed the effect of Russian forces deploying in Syria. Then, the EU handed over billions to his administration under the condition that he stop allowing Syrian war refugees – among them hundreds of would-be terrorists – to enter Europe.
At that point, Islamic State added Turkey to its black list.
Since June 2015, Turkey has been the focus for terrorist attacks from both Sunni extremists and the PKK.
While the Kurdish fighters largely attempt to target the Turkish army, police and security forces, as they did a few weeks ago near Besiktas Stadium in Istanbul after a soccer game, Islamic State works indiscriminately, aiming to maim and murder as many civilians as possible.
In the last year and a half, more than 400 Turks and foreigners have been killed in various terrorist attacks. The biggest single incident took place in October 2015, in the Turkish capital of Ankara, where 100 people were killed by two suicide bombers. In fact, it was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Turkey. No group claimed responsibility, however, Turkish authorities suspect it was the work of Islamic State.
The group is also responsible for the terrorist attacks in the southeastern city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria, where 50 people who attended a wedding ceremony were killed in August 2016.
Istanbul was also the target of a few attacks by Islamic State terrorists, including the attack at Ataturk International Airport in June, which resulted in the death of 44 people, and the March 2016 attack in which terrorists killed three Israeli tourists.
On the eve of the World War I in 1914, the Turkish Ottoman Empire was known as “the Sick Man of Europe.” Nowadays, modern Turkey has become the soft spot for terrorist attacks at the Asian-European crossroads.