Turkish hostages freed by ISIS

When ISIS seized the Turkish Consulate in Mousl, Iraq after overrunning the second largest city in that country (and grabbing half a billion dollars in the central bank branch there) in June, 49 Turks were taken hostage. Those hostages are now back in Ankara. The BBC reports:

Dozens of hostages seized by Islamic State (IS) from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have been freed and are back in Turkey.

The 49 were greeted by flag-waving crowds in Ankara after arriving in southern Turkey early on Saturday.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's intelligence agency had led the operation, but gave few details.

The fate of those hostages has been cited as one reason Turkey has refused to permit use of the giant Incirlik Airbase for bombing ISIS targets. But the release is unlikely to change Turkey’s position. Mark Lowen of the BBC writes:

Now that the group has been released, will it change Ankara's stance? Unlikely. Turkey was reluctant to get too involved in the fight against IS. It shares long, vulnerable borders with Iraq and Syria, there is some recruitment of militants on its territory and it has large commercial interests in the region, which it fears could be targeted.

Critics say Turkey's decision is because it has supported the militants against Syria's President Assad, something Ankara denies. There is a precedent. In 2003, Turkey also refused the use of its base for the Iraq invasion. This vital western ally is wary of the fights it picks.

Lowen is too polite to mention that Turkey’s government under Erdogan is rather cozy with Sunni extremists, and is very anti-Israel. While still a member of NATO, Turkey is hardly an ally of the United States or the West these days. Thanks to its strategic position, large size, and huge diaspora in Europe, especially Germany, Turkey has a lot of cards to play in any showdown with the West.

There is a very large split in Turkish society between the modernizing urbanites, especially in Istanbul (one of the world’s largest cities), and the conservative, increasingly militantly Islamic hinterland. Thanks to the differential birth rates, with modern urban elites refusing to procreate at the same rate as religious folk – a universal phenomenon in today’s world – the balance of power in democratic Turkey has fallen into the hands of the Islamist-leaning public.

Turkey’s pandering to ISIS has just paid off. This does not augur well for the future, though I am glad the hostages are safe.

When ISIS seized the Turkish Consulate in Mousl, Iraq after overrunning the second largest city in that country (and grabbing half a billion dollars in the central bank branch there) in June, 49 Turks were taken hostage. Those hostages are now back in Ankara. The BBC reports:

Dozens of hostages seized by Islamic State (IS) from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have been freed and are back in Turkey.

The 49 were greeted by flag-waving crowds in Ankara after arriving in southern Turkey early on Saturday.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's intelligence agency had led the operation, but gave few details.

The fate of those hostages has been cited as one reason Turkey has refused to permit use of the giant Incirlik Airbase for bombing ISIS targets. But the release is unlikely to change Turkey’s position. Mark Lowen of the BBC writes:

Now that the group has been released, will it change Ankara's stance? Unlikely. Turkey was reluctant to get too involved in the fight against IS. It shares long, vulnerable borders with Iraq and Syria, there is some recruitment of militants on its territory and it has large commercial interests in the region, which it fears could be targeted.

Critics say Turkey's decision is because it has supported the militants against Syria's President Assad, something Ankara denies. There is a precedent. In 2003, Turkey also refused the use of its base for the Iraq invasion. This vital western ally is wary of the fights it picks.

Lowen is too polite to mention that Turkey’s government under Erdogan is rather cozy with Sunni extremists, and is very anti-Israel. While still a member of NATO, Turkey is hardly an ally of the United States or the West these days. Thanks to its strategic position, large size, and huge diaspora in Europe, especially Germany, Turkey has a lot of cards to play in any showdown with the West.

There is a very large split in Turkish society between the modernizing urbanites, especially in Istanbul (one of the world’s largest cities), and the conservative, increasingly militantly Islamic hinterland. Thanks to the differential birth rates, with modern urban elites refusing to procreate at the same rate as religious folk – a universal phenomenon in today’s world – the balance of power in democratic Turkey has fallen into the hands of the Islamist-leaning public.

Turkey’s pandering to ISIS has just paid off. This does not augur well for the future, though I am glad the hostages are safe.