The Middle East is aflame. The rapid march of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, from Syria into Iraq has rattled Washington and Brussels. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is also heating up, as the Jewish state searches frantically for three teens kidnapped in the West Bank. And the world powers continue to wrangle with Iran over its nuclear-weapons program.
None of these crises are easy to solve, and all three have been exacerbated by policies crafted in Europe’s backyard by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.
The ISIS crisis in Iraq is inextricably tied to the dangerous and permissive border policies of Mr. Erdogan’s government in Turkey over the past two years. It was only last year that U.S. President Barack Obama chided Mr. Erdogan for “letting arms and fighters flow into Syria indiscriminately and sometimes to the wrong rebels, including anti-Western jihadists.”
Mr. Obama wasn’t alone in that assessment. As Human Rights Watch noted in an October report, “Many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment.”
Mr. Erdogan has denied these allegations and vowed to prevent aid from flowing to jihadists in Syria. But media and law-enforcement reports contradict his statements. “The relative accessibility of the Syrian-Turkish border explains” why so many jihadists have made their way to Syria, the Journal reported earlier this month, citing Europol.
ISIS has found other transit points into Syria. But it’s clear that this group, and other violent factions, have benefited from Turkey’s Wild Wild East. As Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment told the website Syria Deeply in December, “Turkey is to Syria now what Pakistan was to Afghanistan in the 1990s.”
Ankara may also be serving as a remote headquarters for the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Senior Hamas figure Saleh al-Aruri “operates out of Turkey, with the backing of the Turkish government,” Ynet reported in October. And a high-ranking Israeli intelligence official confirmed his presence there to me, adding that al-Aruri is “one of the most important leaders of Hamas” and is “involved in a lot of things including finance and logistics.”
More specifically, al-Aruri is in charge of Hamas’s portfolio in the West Bank, according to the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. As with other Hamas leaders, his violent proclamations are publicized on the English-language website of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military arm. “Hamas will be at the forefront of the resistance work in the West Bank,” the site quotes him as saying in October.
Aruri has been based in Turkey since 2012, according to the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, after Hamas abandoned its Damascus headquarters in protest over the Assad regime’s slaughter of fellow Sunnis. He joined a Hamas delegation in March 2012 that took part in …read more