For the better part of a year, Turkey remained on the sidelines in the “fight” against ISIS.
Then, on July 20, a powerful explosion ripped through the town of Suruc. 33 people were killed including a number of Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF) members who planned to assist in the rebuilding of Kobani.
The attack was promptly attributed to Islamic State who took “credit” for the tragedy the next day.
To be sure, the attack came at a rather convenient time for President Tayyip Erdogan. A little over a month earlier, the ruling AKP party lost its absolute parliamentary majority in part due to a strong showing at the ballot box for the pro-Kurdish (and PKK-aligned) HDP. What happened in the wake of the Suruc bombing was nothing short of a largely successful attempt on Erdogan’s part to use fear and violence to scare the electorate into restoring AKP’s dominance in snap elections that took place earlier this month.
In short, Erdogan used Suruc as an excuse to begin a “war on terror.” Part and parcel of the new campaign was an invite from Ankara for Washington to use Turkey’s Incirlik air base. Subsequently, Erdogan reminded the world that the PKK is also considered a terrorist organization and as such, the anti-ISIS campaign would also include a crackdown on Kurdish militants operating in Turkey. Erdogan proceeded to focus squarely on the PKK, all but ignoring ISIS while simultaneously undercutting the coalition building process on the way to calling for new elections. Unsurprisingly, AKP put on a much better showing in the electoral redo, and with that, Erdogan had succeeded in using ISIS as a smokescreen to start a civil war with the PKK, in the process frightening voters into restoring his party’s grip on power.