Ken Berwitz

Is Turkey\’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at least tacitly supporting ISIS – not because he loves the group, but because he sees it as the lesser of two evils for his own purposes?

Michael Burleigh of London\’s Daily Mail thinks this might be the case.  And he presents a compelling argument in his latest commentary – excerpts of which I am posting below:

The clash between Russia\’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey\’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian fighter, is one which has set the entire world on edge as diplomats desperately work overtime to reduce the tension.

Putin is not blameless in this affair. His air force has been probing Western air spaces provocatively in a number of different locations in recent months. But was the Russian president right, after the downing of the jet, to accuse \’back-stabbing\’ Turkey of being the accomplices of ISIS terrorists?

And was there any truth in Putin\’s accusation yesterday – made just as Moscow was expelling 39 Turkish businessmen attending a conference in Russia – that Turkey is propping up ISIS by buying oil from them?

This latest claim inevitably prompted a furious response from Erdogan, who accused Putin of slander. But the fact is that Erdogan\’s regime has on many occasions turned a blind eye to ISIS activity in Turkey, as well as to Turkish businessmen and smugglers doing trade deals with the jihadist butchers.

To be fair, on the surface, Turkey\’s president is fully involved in the fight against ISIS. In October he allowed U.S. jets to use Turkey\’s Incirlik air base for operations against ISIS, pledging that his forces, too, would join the fight.

But the truth is that Turkey\’s planes have aimed their missiles almost exclusively at the one army which poses a real threat to ISIS, and has won countless battlefield victories against them – the Kurdish PKK forces inside Syria. 

The trouble is that Erdogan, who has spent years ruthlessly concentrating power into his own hands, considers the Kurds an even greater threat to his nation than ISIS.

This is a mess.  And a potentially disastrous one for what passes for world peace these days.

In Russia we have a KGB-trained thug who relishes opportunities to use his country\’s military might.  One who, through a combination of bullying and deft gunboat diplomacy has, to much of the world, become the strongest player on the international scene – certainly stronger than what many of us see as a feckless, spineless United States President.

In Turkey, we have a hardline Islamist who has taken what once was a shining light of the Muslim word – almost a century of democracy and tolerance – and regressed it to an intolerant, increasingly fundamentalist state (much to the delight of enough Turkish people to make me wonder if, under the surface, it always was that way).

The good news:  it is not inevitable that there will be a military clash between these two countries.  

The bad news:  it is a serious likelihood.  Neither Putin nor Erdogan are about to back down – at least not as of now.

So what we have to hope for is that one or both of two very bad people, each spoiling for a showdown, decide that peace is more important than their personal egos and what they view as national honor.

Keep your fingers crossed.  This could go either way.

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