Turkey Faces Growing Terrorist Threat

The series of attacks across Turkey yesterday, including at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, highlights the growing threat of domestic terrorism since it launched airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq on July 24. It is interesting to note that the sustained Turkish air campaign began just hours after Ankara announced that it had finally agreed to cooperate militarily with the U.S.-led effort to confront the threat of ISIS.

Most of the terrorist incidents in Turkey since then have involved the PKK and the DHKP-C, a far left organization implicated in the bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara in February 2013. However, Turkey is now also on alert for attacks by ISIS, which had used a suicide bomber to kill 33 Turkish citizens at Suruc near the Turkish-Syrian border on July 20 prompting the major change in Turkey’s policy. U.S. warplanes have now been moved to Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey and are expected to begin operations against ISIS in Syria in the coming days.

All of this has occurred against a backdrop of continuing political impasse. Turkey has been run by a caretaker government since the June 7 elections in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002. Prolonged talks between the AKP and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) have so far not produced an agreement on a coalition government. Consequently, there is intense speculation that the AKP would prefer early elections in which it would attempt to try to regain its majority by weakening the predominantly Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) through association with the PKK.

For more on the terrorist threat in Turkey see Bulent Aliriza’s interviews with BBC World News and CCTV .

Bulent Aliriza is a senior associate and director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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Bulent Aliriza
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program